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Texas Mexican Americans and Postwar Civil Rights

Texas Mexican Americans and Postwar Civil Rights

Written for general readers as well as scholars, this book sheds new light on the local activism that propelled the national civil rights movement, as well as on the birth of an organization that has been at the forefront of Mexican American and Latino civil rights.

July 2015
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189 pages | 6 x 9 | 16 b&w photos |

After World War II, Mexican American veterans returned home to lead the civil rights struggles of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Many of their stories have been recorded by the Voces Oral History Project (formerly the U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project), founded and directed by Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez at the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism. In this volume, she draws upon the vast resources of the Voces Project, as well as archives in other parts of the country, to tell the stories of three little-known advancements in Mexican American civil rights.

The first two stories recount local civil rights efforts that typified the grassroots activism of Mexican Americans across the Southwest. One records the successful effort led by parents to integrate the Alpine, Texas, public schools in 1969—fifteen years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate schools were inherently unconstitutional. The second describes how El Paso’s first Mexican American mayor, Raymond Telles, quietly challenged institutionalized racism to integrate the city’s police and fire departments, thus opening civil service employment to Mexican Americans. The final account provides the first history of the early days of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and its founder Pete Tijerina Jr. from MALDEF’s incorporation in San Antonio in 1968 until its move to San Francisco in 1972.





Part 1. Claiming Rights on a Local Level

Chapter 1. Integration a Mordidas in Alpine Schools

Chapter 2. The Multistep Integration of the El Paso Police Department

Part 2. Claiming Rights on a National Level

Chapter 3. MALDEF: Born into the Crosswinds of the Chicano Movement

Conclusion: Of Oral History and Research Possibilities


Selected Bibliography



Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez is Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and the founder and director of the multifaceted Voces Oral History Project (formerly the U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project). Her five previous books include, most recently, Latina/os and World War II: Mobility, Agency, and Ideology, coedited with B. V. Olguín.


“The book’s contribution to our understanding of the civil rights actions of the Mexican-origin population cannot be overstated.”
Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez, Professor and Chair of the Department of Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies, Professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and Motorola Presidential Professor of Neighborhood Revitalization, Arizona State University

“This will be a very important book in understanding the post-WWII efforts of Mexican Americans in Texas and the relationships of those struggles to other state and national issues. . . . The chapter on MALDEF is especially detailed and rich and I, a twenty-year MALDEF attorney, learned much about MALDEF from reading it.”
Albert Kauffman, Professor of Law, St. Mary’s University School of Law