Friday, May 22, 2015

Mary Tape & the 1885 Fight to End School Segregation

The Tape Family (c. 1884-85) via NWHM

The National Women's History Museum has highlighted the pioneering story of Mary Tape.

In 1885, nearly 70 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Mary Tape sued the S.F. School District. She sought the right to enroll her daughter in public school. Her child had been excluded because she was Chinese.

Superior Court Judge James Maguire found in favor of Mary Tape, writing: “To deny a child, born of Chinese parents in this state, entrance to the public schools would be a violation of the law of the state and the Constitution of the United States.”

The California Supreme Court agreed: "respondent here has the same right to enter a public school that any other child has."

Despite these rulings, the S.F.S.D. continued to deny access to school, arguing that Mary's daughter did not have the required vaccinations.

For more about the Tape family, check out this article from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. You may also find of interest Mae M. Ngai's article Birthright Citizenship and the Alien Citizen.


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