Film & Discussion: A Class Apart
There was widespread discrimination toward Latinos in 1950s Texas where Mexican Americans attended separate and unequal schools, were locked out of public parks and pools, and banned from many restaurants and theaters. "A Class Apart" is a documentary about how all this began to change when a Mexican American lawyer appealed a guilty verdict for a Latino man convicted of murder in 1953. He argued that his client was not tried by a jury of his peers. As was the practice, it was an all-Anglo jury that decided the case. Latinos were excluded from serving on a jury. When the case was appealed in a Texas court, the Mexican American attorneys could not use the restrooms in the court building and had to leave town before dark because it was a 'sundown town,' that is, a place where minorities were at physical risk at night. They lost the case and appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1954, they won their case and the Supreme Court ruling changed the status of American Latinos - they became eligible to serve on juries, separate schools and other forms of discrimination became illegal, and it insured other civil rights. "A Class Apart" is a powerful film about a critical event - not well-known - in the civil rights struggle of Mexican Americans and all Latino Americans.