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Federal Courthouse Offering Unique History Lesson Through Free Exhibit

May 11, 2016

Release Date: May 11, 2016

Public invited to explore history of school segregation & desegregation through exhibit.

Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse

PORTLAND, OR -- GSA and The U.S. District Court of Oregon along with the sponsorship of the Federal Bar Association and the Oregon State Bar, is hosting a traveling art exhibit titled, “A Class Action: The Grassroots Struggle for School Desegregation” in the lobby of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, at 1000 S.W. Third Avenue. A public reception will be held Thursday, May 12 from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. PST offering attendees guided tours. The exhibit will be open through July 18 during regular business hours of 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“As builders and operators of federal buildings, GSA has an obligation to ensure the buildings it creates reflect the importance of serving the public and reaching beyond functionality, to foster a sense of community and instill the trust essential to making our democracy successful,” says George Northcroft, GSA Northwest Arctic Regional Administrator. “It’s an honor when GSA has the opportunity to make federal space available in support of cultural and educational activities.”

The exhibit tells the story of Mendez v. Westminster School District, the first federal class action lawsuit that challenged primary school segregation in the United States. The U.S. District Court in Southern California ruled for the child plaintiffs, and, in 1947, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Two months later, then-California-Governor Earl Warren signed a bill making California the first state to officially desegregate its public schools. Warren, of course, would go on to pen the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

“We are thrilled to host ‘A Class Action’ in Portland,” said Nadia Dahab, an executive board member of the Oregon Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. “We are particularly pleased to do so together with such a large part of Oregon’s legal community. This stop on the exhibit’s tour is the product of a coordinated effort between our organization, the Oregon State Bar, and a number of other organizations, including Oregon Women Lawyers, the Multnomah Bar Association, the Pioneer Courthouse Historical Society, and OAPABA. We’re all hoping that the exhibit will encourage members of the community, of all ages and backgrounds, to visit our courthouse and learn about our judicial history.”

“A Class Action,” created by the Museum of Teaching and Learning, depicts the history of school segregation and desegregation, focusing on the story of Sylvia Mendez and the other child plaintiffs in the Mendez case. It further tells the story of how community organizing and grassroots activism can produce positive change in school and communities across the country.

Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about one of the judiciary’s early reversals of segregation and a decisive move towards equal access to public services.

Last Reviewed: 2017-08-13