One turning point for the education system in the US was the Tape v. Hurley case in the California Supreme Court (1885). Mamie Tape was a Chinese American girl growing up in San Francisco. Her parents were both Chinese immigrants, but she was born here in California. When Mamie was eight years old in 1884, Spring Valley School refused to admit her because of her race. Her mother, Mary Tape, was outraged and sued the San Francisco Board of Education on the grounds that the state code stated that all students residing in the district were guaranteed a place in school, with the exceptions of extreme misbehavior and disease. The Supreme Court justice decided, and rightly so, that the Board’s actions went against the state law and the US Constitution.
However, even after the Court upheld Mary’s accusations, the school barred Mamie from attending by claiming she did not get her vaccinations on time. To add insult to injury, the school board proceeded to segregate Chinese and white students by creating a “Oriental Public School” in San Francisco. But even though her own daughter’s story was rough and didn’t end as planned, Mary Tape is remembered as one of the first activists for equal education. All the way until the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954 (which desegregated schools for black and white students), Tape v. Hurley was one of the most important cases in civil rights history.
In an effort to keep the story of the struggle for educational equality alive, the Chinese Historical Society of America (based in San Francisco) is putting on a History Alive production of I Want to Go to School (working title), the story of Mamie Tape. They are looking for adult actors to play the role of Mamie and help tell her story. There is currently an open call, so be sure to look into it if you’re interested! It is incredibly important that the stories such as Malala’s and Mamie’s are heard and continue to be told in order to remind us of times and people less fortunate than we are and to encourage us to appreciate seemingly little things.
Article by Maya Roy