This photo is of Alex and Esther Bernal who in 1943 won a historic and precedent-setting lawsuit which challenged long-standing residential segregatiom in Fullerton, California.  Here’s the story behind this photo.

Alex Bernal was born in Corona, California and raised in the Truslow Barrio of Fullerton. When Alex became moderately successful as a produce truck driver, he was ready to purchase a home in the Sunnyside residential track in Fullerton. He found a home at 200 Ash Street which the owners agreed to sell to him and he  secured a loan from the First National Trust Bank of Fullerton. But Alex, his wife Esther and their two children, Irene and Maria Teresa ran into problems when the local Caucasian residents pointed to a deed restriction on all the home deeds of the area which stated that “No portion of the said property shall at any time be used, leased, owned or occupied by any Mexicans or persons other than of the Caucasian race.”

The local Caucasian residents of Sunnyside, including the lead plaintiff Ashley V. Doss,  sued the Bernals demanding they leave their home. Alex and his wife secured the legal services of attorney David C. Marcus to defend their right to live in the neighborhood. Marcus presented a legal argument that the Bernals and other Mexicans were protected by the 14th Amendment. Prior to this time Mexican Americans had been deemed white and not covered by the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Marcus was able to prove otherwise and on September 18, 1943, the judge assigned to the case, Albert F. Ross, ruled in favor of the Bernals.

This precedent was later elaborated on when attorney Marcus undertake the defense of the Mendez family in the celebrated school desegregation case of Mendez vs. Westminister.

A Mexican American couple taking on housing segregation and winning–a MOMENT IN TIME.




  1. Luis F. Fernandez says

    Mendez et. al. v. Westminster et. al. was fought by five families: Mendez, Palomino, Estrada, Guzman and Ramirez's on behalf of 5,000 children who attend segregated "Mexican" schools in Orange County, California.

  2. Michael Ramirez says

    Luis thank you for the correction. Mendez& Estrada (Westminster school district) Guzman (Santa Ana school district ) Palomino ( Garden Grove school district) Ramirez ( El Modena ). Someone had to to be named first for a class action lawsuit. Mendez was chosen. My father had already had contact with Mr. David C. Marcus due to the contracts drawn up for the Bracero program.the Mendez and the Estrada families are inlaws. The Mendez fail to ever mention them as fellow suitors of the Westminster school district which I find as un insult. Yours truly the Ramirez family.

  3. Geri nave says

    I am wondering if you knew my grandparents, Manuel Villareal Aldrete and Jesse Kelly Aldrete?

    They moved from the Tuslow barrio I think in the late 30’s to 139 N Princeton in Fullerton. Some of their siblings continued to live in the barrio. My sister and I were raised by them for nine years. They went to the barrio frequently.

    Thanks, Geri

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