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The Struggle in Black and Brown

African American and Mexican American Relations during the Civil Rights Era

Brian D Behnken

Publication Year: 2012

It might seem that African Americans and Mexican Americans would have common cause in matters of civil rights. This volume, which considers relations between blacks and browns during the civil rights era, carefully examines the complex and multifaceted realities that complicate such assumptions—and that revise our view of both the civil rights struggle and black-brown relations in recent history. Unique in its focus, innovative in its methods, and broad in its approach to various locales and time periods, the book provides key perspectives to understanding the development of America’s ethnic and sociopolitical landscape.

These essays focus chiefly on the Southwest, where Mexican Americans and African Americans have had a long history of civil rights activism. Among the cases the authors take up are the unification of black and Chicano civil rights and labor groups in California; divisions between Mexican Americans and African Americans generated by the War on Poverty; and cultural connections established by black and Chicano musicians during the period. Together these cases present the first truly nuanced picture of the conflict and cooperation, goodwill and animosity, unity and disunity that played a critical role in the history of both black-brown relations and the battle for civil rights. Their insights are especially timely, as black-brown relations occupy an increasingly important role in the nation’s public life.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: Justice and Social Inquiry


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi


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p. vii

Abbreviations Used in the Text

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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-18

In October 1967 a large group of Mexican American and African American activists met in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the annual conference of the Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres. Called together...

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1. Not Similar Enough: Mexican American and African American Civil Rights Struggles in the 1940s

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pp. 19-48

On July 6, 1948, University of Texas professor George I. Sánchez penned a letter to Thurgood Marshall, special counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People...

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2. The Movement in the Mirror: Civil Rights and the Causes of Black-Brown Disunity in Texas

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pp. 49-77

Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated schools illegal in Brown v. Board of Education, local and state government in Texas began examining ways to prolong separate education...

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3. Complicating the Beloved Community: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the National Farm Workers Association

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pp. 78-103

Elizabeth Sutherland Martínez had chosen her dress just for the occasion—it was red and black to match the flag of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). Martínez had traveled from New York City...

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4. The Neighborhood Adult Participation Project: Black-Brown Strife in the War on Poverty in Los Angeles

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pp. 104-124

On a warm September afternoon in 1966, a crowd of nearly fifty Mexican Americans carrying picket signs marched along 42nd Avenue and Avalon in South Central Los Angeles outside of the old Wrigley Field ballpark...

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5. “Mexican versus Negro Approaches” to the War on Poverty: Black-Brown Competition and the Office of Economic Opportunity in Texas

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pp. 125-147

As early as 1965, the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), the agency charged with fighting President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, employed affirmative action to preempt criticism of racial bias or exclusion...

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6. Cesar and Martin, March ’68

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pp. 148-178

In early 1968 the philosophy of nonviolence was sinking beneath a tidal wave of bloodshed and death. The previous summer, rioting had erupted in major urban centers across the United States...

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7. Black, Brown, and Poor: Civil Rights and the Making of the Chicano Movement

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pp. 179-210

Early in the morning of May 15, 1968, Gloria Arellanes boarded a chartered Greyhound bus in South Central Los Angeles, ready to make the nearly three-thousand-mile journey to Washington dc. The nineteen-year-old Arellanes...

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8. Brown-Eyed Soul: Popular Music and Cultural Politics in Los Angeles

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pp. 211-236

In May of 1970 the East Los Angeles–based band El Chicano hit number 28 on the Billboard Top 100 pop music chart with their song “Viva Tirado.” Exhibiting El Chicano’s eclectic mix of rock and jazz...

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9. Raising a Neighborhood: Informal Networks between African American and Mexican American Women in South Central Los Angeles

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pp. 237-256

In the fall of 1978 Elena Santiago, her husband Antonio, and their daughter and son decided to leave their hometown in Mexico to make the arduous journey north to the United States. The family did not know...

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10. A New Day in Babylon: African American and Mexican American Relations at the Dawn of the Millennium

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pp. 257-285

On February 10, 2007, Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president of the United States in front of the state capitol in Springfield, Illinois. In 1858 Abraham Lincoln used this same site to deliver his historic...


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pp. 287-290


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pp. 291-298

E-ISBN-13: 9780803262744
E-ISBN-10: 0803262744
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803262713
Print-ISBN-10: 080326271X

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Justice and Social Inquiry
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OCLC Number: 797825911
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Struggle in Black and Brown

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Ethnic relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century
  • African Americans -- Relations with Mexican Americans -- History -- 20th century.
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mexican Americans -- Civil rights -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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