This blog on Texas education contains posts on accountability, testing, postsecondary educational attainment, dropouts, bilingual education, immigration, school finance, environmental issues, and Ethnic Studies at state and national levels. I am also covering COVID in my attempt to get the right information into the right hands.
Delgado v. Bastrop: Mexican Americans' Struggle to Desegregate Schools
Our community is so indebted
to this very important part of our history, namely, the Delgado et al. v.
Bastrop Independent School District (1947) case
litigated by legendary attorney Gus Garcia. It involved the desegregation of Mina Ward Elementary School in Bastrop, Texas, where a long overdue, marker by the Texas Historical Commission now exists to commemorate this important achievement by a disenfranchised, but clearly fierce and determined community.
If we do not know our history, we are less powerful and indeed, less human. Consider reading more about Mexican American history here at the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) Online page under the "Tejano History" tab.
This online guide, I have been told, averages a million page views a month. It IS the authoritative website on Texas history.
Dedication of the Mina Ward School historical marker on Saturday. MARY HUBER/BASTROP
As the sun was blazing midday on Saturday, dozens of people
crowded into a stuffy, yellow school bus to make the short drive to
Bastrop’s Main Street. The bus parked just before a railroad crossing at
Wilhelm Street, near what was once an old three-room schoolhouse known
as Mina Ward. To many, it was known simply as the “Mexican School.”
Gonzalo Flores, who attended classes there in 1942, said the
day was eerily reminiscent of his first as a student, when he rode a
yellow school bus to Mina and took his seat in the classroom, a
Spanish-speaking student who didn’t know a lick of English.
On Saturday, he stood huddled with other former students, now
gray and graced by time, and watched as Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape
pulled a black blanket from a signpost that was erected where the school
once stood. In block letters, it spelled out Mina Ward’s special place
in history, as a battleground for civil rights and the integration of
Mexican-American students into white public schools.
“This plaque will be here for the rest of our lifetimes and the
lifetimes of our children and grandchildren, and every eye that sees it
will be reminded of the sacrifices that were made right here in
Bastrop, Texas, by the Mexican-American children who had to go to a
school that was not equal in any way to the school that their white
friends got to go to,” Pape said. “It was part of the road of progress
that America has been on now for over 200 years toward treating all
people equal not only under the law but also in our hearts.”
The Texas Historical Commission marker was acquired through a
grant program that hails the state’s “undertold stories” — subjects of
special historical and cultural significance that lost breath over time.
Included among them is the tale of Mina Ward, where in 1947 the parents
of 20 Hispanic students sued the Bastrop school district for the right
to send their kids to white schools. Led by civil rights attorney Gus
Garcia and titled Delgado et al v. the Bastrop Independent School
District, the case made history when a federal judge ruled in the
plaintiffs’ favor, calling it a violation of the students’ 14th
Amendment rights to segregate them and ordering the integration of
Hispanics into Texas public schools.
Former state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, who attended Mina Ward in
the first grade, was instrumental in obtaining the plaque for the
former school site, to bring light to its important place in history.
“The marker on Main Street will be a recognition of a time when
Americans were not treated as Americans, a recognition of a time and
place when Mexican-American children’s education, learning and the
opportunity to live the American dream was thwarted and denied,” he
said. “That marker will also be a recognition that our American justice
system can and did work … a recognition that when Americans, a country
of immigrants, join hands, work together to solve the issues, those are
our proudest moments.”
His words flooded the room at the Bastrop Convention Center,
where hundreds amassed Saturday to celebrate the dedication of the
school. They shared in a light brunch and listened as public officials,
historians and former students spoke about the important civil rights
legacy achieved in the small city.
“I am so proud of our town, and I continue to carry a great
deal of pride for our community,” Bastrop City Council Member Bill
Ennis, who organized the event, said. The Bastrop school district and
Bastrop County Historical Society shared in hosting the celebration.
Minerva Delgado, the lead plaintiff for whom the case is named,
took to the podium to share small snippets of her experience at Mina
Ward, before narrowing in on the achievements she obtained after
graduating from the city’s white public school, when she became a
teacher, devoting her life to her students and the goal of making them
feel equal, special and loved.
“Looking back, I realize what a gift it was that my
grandparents gave my brother, my sister and myself a better life,” she
said. “The way to achieve that was to receive a good education. I
consider myself highly blessed and favored that God allowed me to teach
so many children in my 46 years as a teacher.”
The city earlier this year decided to name a park in Delgado’s
honor, which will open later this year at the intersection of Water and
Laurel Streets on the north side. City officials showed the first
renderings on Saturday, which include a basketball court, playscape and
manicured open fields.
Purchasing the parkland was the last action by former Bastrop
City Council Member Kay McAnally and the first for Bastrop Mayor Connie
Schroeder, both of which said on Saturday it will go down as one of
their proudest achievements — a way to recognize Bastrop’s rich
Mexican-American heritage and its special role in civil rights.
“We’ve come a long way in 70 years, and today is a celebration
of that journey,” McAnally said. “It is one of the most rewarding days
of my life.”