1950 November 23

Judge Orders End to Mexican-American School Segregation in Arizona


A federal judge on this day ordered an end to the segregation of Mexican-American students in the town of Tolleson, Arizona. School officials in Tolleson had justified the separate schools on the grounds that Mexican-American students often had limited command of English. It was not clear at this point whether the ruling would apply to other school systems in the state. Some, but not all, school districts in the state also had segregated school systems affecting Mexican-American students. Two weeks earlier, on November 7, Arizona voters rejected a referendum that would have ended segregation by race or ethnicity in the state.

The decision in this case came three years after a decision ruling separate Mexican-American schools in California unconstitutional in Mendez v. Westminster on April 14, 1947, and four years before the historic Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, on May 17, 1954, declaring racially segregated schools unconstitutional.

Read about the California case: Philippa Strum, Mendez v. Westminster: School Desegregation and Mexican-American Rights (2010)

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