The 8-year-old Chinese-American Who Helped Desegregate Schools

From the History Channel:

Nearly 70 years before Topeka’s Linda Brown and others challenged restrictive school laws on behalf of African Americans, sparking the legal battle that resulted in the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, 8-year-old Mamie Tape of San Francisco, and her persistent parents, did the same for Chinese-American students.

Their case, Tape v. Hurley, resulted in one of the most important civil-rights decisions you’ve never heard of.

When Joseph and Mary Tape, a prosperous middle-class Chinese-American couple, tried to enroll their eldest daughter, Mamie, at the all-white Spring Valley Primary School in September 1884, Principal Jennie Hurley refused to admit her, citing the existing school-board policy against admitting Chinese children.

At the time, anti-Chinese sentiment ran high in California, as many white Americans blamed Chinese immigrants for taking their jobs during tough economic times. Due to their appearance, customs and religious beliefs, people of Chinese background were assumed at the time to be incapable of assimilating to mainstream American culture.

Faced with this stubborn prejudice, Mamie’s parents, who had come to the United States as children and thoroughly Westernized themselves in language, dress and lifestyle, decided to fight back. They filed a lawsuit on behalf of their daughter against both Hurley and the San Francisco Board of Education—and they won.

Read the whole thing here.

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