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Mendez v. Westminster Re-Enactment

This activity is a re-enactment of Mendez v. Westminster and draws a line from this case to the victory in Brown v. Board of Education. Both involved two school girls and the same committed lawyer — Thurgood Marshall.

In 1946 federal courts decided Mendez v. Westminster. The ruling established equal access to public schools for nine-year-old Sylvia Mendez and generations of Hispanic and other children.

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While Brown v. Board of Education is a widely known landmark Supreme Court case, few can trace its origins to the case of nine-year-old Sylvia Mendez in Mendez v. Westminster. Sylvia’s case, which was decided in the federal courts in California, preceded Brown by about eight years. Thurgood Marshall represented Sylvia Mendez and Linda Brown. Marshall used some of the same arguments from Mendez to win Brown v. Board of Education.


Speaker #1: Student Greeter
Speaker #2: Student Narrator
Speaker #3: Sylvia’s Young Mom Mrs. Mendez
Speaker #4:  Young Sylvia Mendez
Speaker #5: Sylvia’s Young Father Mr. Mendez
Speaker #6: Attorney David Marcus
Speaker #7: Federal Judge Paul J. McCormick
Speaker #8: Attorney Thurgood Marshall
Speaker #9: Linda Brown, of Brown v. Board of Education
Speaker #10: California Governor Earl Warren
Speaker #11: 2nd (Older) Mrs. Mendez (different student)
Speaker #12: 2nd (Grown Up) Sylvia Mendez (different student)
Speaker #13: 2nd (Older) Justice Thurgood Marshall (different student)
Speaker #14: 2nd (Older) Chief Justice Earl Warren (different student)


In Advance: Photos of the historic figures in this script can be found on the Internet.

Performance Parts: Twenty-eight students – 14 readers and 14 picture holders re-enact the story. Students in the audience also speak out when their teacher cues them.

Readers: In advance, teachers assign 14 students to each read their scripted part. Note: Each reader holds a tent card with the name of his/her character. Speakers should be comfortable reading in front of a group and should be able to project their voice loudly.

Picture Holders: Teachers assign one student to each reader. This student holds a picture that represents the speaker’s character.

Audience: The students in the audience sit during the reenactment. They say hello to the speaking characters as each character says his/her name. Note: At the re-enactment, a teacher cues the students when it is time for the audience to greet each character.

Where They Stand: The readers and picture holders sit in the front row of the audience. A teacher gives each speaker and picture holder a cue when it is their turn to stand in front of the audience. After the reader finishes, the reader and the picture holder return to their seats in the audience. Readers face the audience and use a microphone, if one is available. If not, they stand close enough to the audience so that everyone can hear them.

DISCLAIMER: These resources are created by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for educational purposes only. They may not reflect the current state of the law, and are not intended to provide legal advice, guidance on litigation, or commentary on any pending case or legislation.