Separate is Never Equal

separate is never equalSeparate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

by Duncan Tonatiuh

40 pages; ages 6-9. Abrams, 2014

On the first day of school Sylvia wears her shiny new black shoes and her hair is perfectly parted into two long braids. But when she’s looking for her locker, a boy points at her and yells, “Go back to the Mexican school! You don’t belong here!”

But she does, because the year before her family and others won their lawsuit to stop school segregation in California. And most of the book reflects on those earlier events – which happened nearly a decade before Brown v Board of Education. When her family moved to the town of Westminster, she could not register at the public school near her home. She had to take classes in the school farther away – a shack surrounded by cow pastures, without any playground equipment or tables for eating lunch.

Sylvia’s parents, outraged by the injustice, worked to find a way to make education equal for all children. With friends and neighbors reluctant to sign petitions, lest they lose their jobs, they ended up taking the school system to court.

But it was up to Sylvia to face the realities of going to a newly integrated school. She ignored the whispers and name-calling and focused on making friends and learning her lessons. Author’s notes and other material at the back add context to this important story.

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