Saturnino Alvarado was a major figure in the effort to integrate public schools in Kansas City, Kansas. A shoemaker from Michoacan, Mexico, and a high school graduate himself, Alvarado believed his children Jesse and Luz had the right to be educated at Argentine High School (which was an all-white school at the time) like any other students living in Argentine.
In the 1920s, it was common for children of Mexican immigrants to end their formal education before high school. After angry parents in Argentine fought to keep Alvarado’s children from enrolling at Argentine High School, he fought against the segregation of Mexican and Mexican American students in KCK for two years, taking his case to the Superintendent of Schools, the Mexican Consul, the Governor of Kansas, and the State Attorney of Kansas. The Kansas City, Kansan reported in 1925 that Harry Hayward, County Attorney, was prepared to take the fight to federal court as a treaty with Mexico extended the same privileges to Mexican students in the U.S. as those enjoyed by American schoolchildren. Alvarado’s efforts were successful, and Jesse and Luz graduated from Argentine in 1930.
Although Mr. Alvarado fought racial discrimination well before the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954, it was not until many years later that he began to be recognized for his contributions to the education of Mexican and Mexican American children in KCK. In 1984 a street in Argentine was named for him, and in 2003, the KCK School District renamed the auditorium at Argentine Middle School in Alvarado’s honor. He was inducted into the Mid-America Education Hall of Fame at Kansas City, Kansas, Community College. Alvarado died in 1955. He is buried at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
Information for this post was compiled from the National Park Service, Kansas Preservation Magazine, The Kansas City Star, the Kansas City, Kansan, and the KCKPS district history website.