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Fighting Their Own Battles

Mexican Americans, African Americans, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Texas

Brian D. Behnken

Publication Year: 2011

This book compares the African American and Mexican American civil rights movements in Texas. Between 1940 and 1970, both groups fought a number of battles in court, at the ballot box, in schools, and on the streets to eliminate segregation and state-imposed racism. African Americans and Mexican Americans both won many victories during the civil rights era in the Southwest, and yet the groups were rarely unified. Rather, two parallel civil rights movements were occurring simultaneously. Behnken argues that prejudice from both sides greatly diminished the potential of a united civil rights campaign. African American groups discounted Mexican Americans' initial attempts to argue for status as white people, a strategy that Chicanos later abandoned in the 1960s. African Americans interpreted this move from desiring white identity to propounding the radical Chicano movement as an attempt to join in on the success of the black freedom struggle of the 1960s. The work is essentially about race and racism and about the history of whiteness and brownness in America and the relationship of both to blackness. The legal victories, political campaigns, and protests shape and inform Behnken's story of these two movements.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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pp. 1-1


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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-x


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pp. xi-xvi

Acronyms and Abbreviations

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pp. xvii-xx

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pp. 1-12

In 1957 Texas legislators drafted a plethora of segregationist legislation designed to circumvent the Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing school segregation. Mexican American and African American civil rights...

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1 Advancing the Cause of Democracy: The Origins of Protest in the Long Civil Rights Movement

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pp. 13-38

On a warm Monday night in May 1950, a handful of dynamite easily destroyed Robert and Marie Shelton’s American dream. The bomb ripped through the African American couple’s newly purchased home in South Dallas, demolishing...

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2 Sleeping on Another Man’s Wounds: The Battle for Integrated Schools in the 1950s

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pp. 39-71

In the mid-1950s, G.I. Forum national chairman Hector García dispatched San Antonio county commissioner Albert Peña Jr. to investigate the operation of a segregated Mexican school in the small South Texas town of Lytle...

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3 Nothing but Victory Can Stop Us: Direct Action and Political Action in the Early 1960s

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pp. 72-101

In March 1960 black Texans began sit-in protests at segregated lunch counters and other public facilities. Students, ministers, lawyers, young, old, men, and women participated in the demonstrations. They followed the example...

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4 Venceremos: The Evolution of Civil Rights in the Mid-1960s

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pp. 102-129

In August 1967 Father Antonio Gonzalez of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese described himself as the “Martin Luther King of the Mexicans.” Speaking at a meeting of PASO, the priest detailed his own activism and commended “some of the nation’s rioters” in Houston...

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5 Am I My Brother’s Keeper?: Ecumenical Activism in the Lone Star State

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pp. 130-153

In the summer of 1964, Houston minister Wallace B. “Bud” Poteat established the Ecumenical Fellowship (EF) to eradicate social problems and racism in the Bayou City. He hoped to accomplish this goal by taking advantage of local and national antipoverty programs...

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6 The Day of Nonviolence Is Past: The Era of Brown Power and Black Power in Texas

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pp. 154-194

In a 1969 speech in San Antonio, activist José Angel Gutiérrez told a group of Chicanos: “We have got to eliminate the gringo, and what I mean by that is if the worst comes to worst we have got to kill him.” Gutiérrez’s words caused...

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7 Pawns, Puppets, and Scapegoats: School Desegregation in the Late 1960s and Early 1970s

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pp. 195-223

In 1970 the Houston Independent School District (HISD) implemented a new integration plan to comply with the Brown v. Board of Education decision. This plan integrated only African American and Mexican American schools, which Chicanos and blacks viewed...

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pp. 224-240

The 2001 mayoral race in Houston pitted incumbent Democratic mayor Lee P. Brown against Republican challenger and Houston City Council member Orlando Sánchez. Mayor Brown, an African American political wunderkind...


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pp. 241-304


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pp. 305-332


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pp. 333-347

E-ISBN-13: 9781469603193
E-ISBN-10: 1469603195
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834787
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834785

Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 715868046
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Fighting Their Own Battles

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Subject Headings

  • Mexican Americans -- Civil rights -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
  • Civil rights movements -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
  • School integration -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Relations with Mexican Americans -- History -- 20th century.
  • Texas -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Texas -- Ethnic relations -- History -- 20th century.
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