History in the Making

Document Type



This article examines Lopez v. Seccombe, one of the earliest successful desegregation court cases in United States history. The legal challenge was decided in 1944 in the City of San Bernardino, California and desegregated city parks and recreational facilities, specifically the Perris Hill “plunge” or pool. The decision of this case set precedent for other local desegregation challenges, including the much more celebrated Mendez v. Westminster decision in 1947, and eventually had influence on the landmark Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. This study will focus on the Mexican American barrio in San Bernardino’s Westside, the city’s Mexican American Defense Committee, and the city’s discriminatory policies against Mexican Americans that eventually led to the legal challenge. Such an examination contributes to historians’ understanding of segregation and the eventual legal victories in desegregation by situating the social aspects that surrounded Lopez v. Seccombe. More attention should be paid not only to the cases that led to the landmark case of Brown v. Board, but also to the context in which these cases developed. Major Supreme Court decisions rarely come to pass suddenly; they usually arise through a long journey of precedents and legal challenges that force an evolution in legal philosophy. Mexican American communities played a unique role in desegregating their communities and contributed toward the national process of desegregation through legislative and judicial means.