Before Brown v Board of Education, before Ruby Bridges, there was Alice Piper.
1921 Political Code of California, Section 1662:
The governing body of the school district shall have power to exclude children of filthy or vicious habits, or children suffering from contagious or infectious diseases, and also to establish separate schools for Indian children and for children of Chinese, Japanese or Mongolian parentage.
In August, 1923, seven Owens Valley Paiute children turned their backs on the Big Pine grammar school where they were refused admission. Alice Piper and six classmates were told to attend the federal government day school for Indians, a pathetic institution designed to prepare them for a life of manual labor.
But their cry for equality was carried from the sagebrush and cottonwoods of Owens Valley to the California State Supreme Court. The justices cited the 14th amendment and ruled in favor of the Paiute. Alice Piper and her classmates were allowed to attend the local public school.
The ruling echoed off the east face of the Sierra for years. It served as legal precedent for Mexican American children in 1946. As a result, Governor Earl Warren eliminated segregation from the California Education Code. In 1954, Warren, as the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, authored the decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
Alice’s school still stands today: the Big Pine High School. Contribute thru Kickstarter now to contribute toward a statute in commemoration of Alice Piper. Let’s support public art and honor this young indigenous woman.