The Bastrop County Historical Commission will host the 75th anniversary commemorating the historic Delgado v. Bastrop ISD case from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sept. 30 at the Jerry Fay Wilhelm Center for the Performing Arts.

“Here is a small community that, at one point, kind of became synonymous because of this court case with segregated schools for Mexican Americans. ... Yet, in recent years, the people in Bastrop have turned that around,” said Gene Preuss, associate professor of history at the University of Houston-Downtown, who will speak at the commemoration. “[The Bastrop community is] honoring this kind of a blemish on their community and showing how they have changed.”

According to Preuss, case plaintiff Minerva Delgado will attend the event to discuss her life after the trial.

“It was the beginning [of] a wider desegregation of Mexican Americans and the Anglos,” Bastrop historian Ken Kesselus said. “It allowed us to get to know each other and to play together.”

A deeper look

After former Bastrop ISD Superintendent P.J. Dodson refused to admit Delgado to the town’s public all white school, Delgado’s family sued the school district with the help of The League of United Latin American Citizens in 1948. Attorneys Gus Garcia and John J. Herrera selected the case as the spearhead for outlawing Latino-Anglo segregation in Texas schools.

“[The case decision] was a real tremendous change in education at this time,” Preuss said. “It really brings us into ... our modern educational system.”

The case's ruling found the segregation unlawful, opening the door for desegregation throughout the state. According to Preuss, much of the nation’s English as a Second Language programs can be traced back to the case.

“Teaching English and bilingual education becomes a national thing, and it can really trace its way back to that due to Delgado incentives,” Preuss said.

A personal story

As a child who grew up working in the cotton fields, Gonzalo Barrientos recalled wanting the opportunity to better his state and country for everyone—regardless of color or race. Since that time, Barrientos has worked for the Peace Corps, served 10 years in the Texas House of Representatives and served 20 years in the Texas Senate.

Barrientos began his education at the Mina Ward school in Bastrop ISD. Following the Delgado v. Bastrop ISD decision, Barrientos began to attend school with white children.

During his time at the school, Barrientos became a 130-pound linebacker on the Bastrop Bears football team and participated in interscholastic league debate competitions. Teachers voted Barrientos the best all-around senior boy.

Barrientos said the commemoration is an important way for young people to learn about previous generations.

“There's that old saying about how we stand on the shoulders of our predecessors, ... so I'll try to have strong shoulders,” Barrientos said.

Event details

Preuss will speak at the commemoration, which will also feature interviews with individuals who attended separate schools in Bastrop ISD prior to the court ruling, including Barrientos. The event will also incorporate a student performance depicting the trial and a panel discussion. The event is free to the public and lunch will be provided.