Black L.A., 1947: White Student Refuses to Leave Black School

April 10, 1947, James O. Plinton Jr.

April 10, 1947: James O. Plinton Jr., left, and Sentinel Publisher Leon H. Washington with one of the Grumman planes Plinton bought for his air service.

April 10, 1947: Karla Rosel Galarza, 22, is refusing requests by the Washington, D.C., Board of Education to transfer from Margaret Murray Washington Vocational High School because she is the only white at the all-black school, according to a story in the Sentinel from the Associated Negro Press.

Galarza, formerly of Sacramento, said she doesn’t want to transfer to Burdick Vocational High School, which is for white students, because it doesn’t offer the course in dress design that she’s taking at her current school. Galarza promised a legal fight to remain at the school and she was supported by her father, Ernesto Galarza, a former officer of the Pan American Union.

The request for Galarza to change schools came from school Supt. Hobert M. Corning and Garnet C. Wilkinson, first assistant superintendent in charge of Negro schools.

Karla Galarza, 1947, San Antonio LIght

Wilkinson, in an order supported by three African American members of the Board of Education, barred Galarza from Washington Vocational school, but she still refused to enroll at Burdick.

In May 1947, the Sentinel reported that the case was going to be heard by the Washington, D.C., courts. The Sentinel did not report the resolution of the case, nor did the New York Times or Los Angeles Times.

Material on the Galarza case is at Johns Hopkins University. The case was the subject of a paper by Cecilia Marquez, assistant professor in Latino/a studies at  New York University.

According to a Sept. 26, 1982, feature in the Los Angeles Times, Ernesto Galarza was born in Mexico and as a child, came to Sacramento with his family. An advocate for recent immigrants since he was young, Galarza graduated from Occidental, received a master’s from Stanford and a doctorate in history from Columbia University. He was director of the Pan American Union’s labor division in the 1940s and then returned to California, where he was an organizer for the National Farm Workers Union, a predecessor of the UFW.

April 10, 1947, White Student


About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, African Americans, Education and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Black L.A., 1947: White Student Refuses to Leave Black School

  1. Update, in case anybody’s interested: I found a paper by Jeanne M. Powers that said the NAACP and the ACLU, with some participation from lawyers of the American Jewish Congress, considered taking on the case, but ultimately decided not to; there is no record that the family ever followed through with legal action. (An interesting aside is that the school district actually considered reclassifying Miss Galarza as “Negro” because of her Mexican father.) So I guess we don’t know what happened with Miss Galarza’s dressmaking ambitions.

    Powers, Jeanne M. “On Separate Paths: The Mexican American and African American Legal Campaigns against School Segregation.” American Journal of Education, vol. 121, no. 1, 2014, pp. 29–55. JSTOR, JSTOR,


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