NPR logo

School Integration Pioneer Wins Medal Of Freedom

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/133816024/133816213" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
School Integration Pioneer Wins Medal Of Freedom

Around the Nation

School Integration Pioneer Wins Medal Of Freedom

School Integration Pioneer Wins Medal Of Freedom

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/133816024/133816213" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Hear Mendez's Story

In the 1940s, Sylvia Mendez was one of the first Mexican-Americans to integrate California schools. This week, she and others received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Last year on NPR, Mendez talked about what it was like to integrate a school.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

A famous writer, a basketball star, a former president, last night they all received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. There was also a less familiar honoree.

BARACK OBAMA: For Sylvia Mendez, a lifelong quest for equality began when she was just eight years old.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

In 1947, Sylvia Mendez was one of the first Mexican-Americans to integrate the California schools. That's after a federal court ruled that schools could not be segregated on the basis of national origin. The case was called Mendez versus Westminster.

NORRIS: On NPR last year, for the project StoryCorps, Sylvia Mendez talked about what it was like to integrate a school.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

SYLVIA MENDEZ: This little white boy comes up, and he says: What are you doing here? You don't belong in this school. They shouldn't have Mexicans here. And I started crying because I've always been that way.

NORRIS: I don't want to be in that school. And she says: Don't you realize that this is what we fought for? Of course, you're going to stay in that school and prove that you're just as good as he is.

BLOCK: That's civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez, one of 15 honorees who received the President Medal of Freedom yesterday.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.