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Brown, Not White

School Integration and the Chicano Movement in Houston

By Guadalupe San Miguel Jr.

Publication Year: 2005

Strikes, boycotts, rallies, negotiations, and litigation marked the efforts of Mexican-origin community members to achieve educational opportunity and oppose discrimination in Houston schools in the early 1970s. These responses were sparked by the effort of the Houston Independent School District to circumvent a court order for desegregation by classifying Mexican American children as "white" and integrating them with African American children—leaving Anglos in segregated schools. Gaining legal recognition for Mexican Americans as a minority group became the only means for fighting this kind of discrimination. The struggle for legal recognition not only reflected an upsurge in organizing within the community but also generated a shift in consciousness and identity. In Brown, Not White Guadalupe San Miguel, Jr., astutely traces the evolution of the community's political activism in education during the Chicano Movement era of the early 1970s. San Miguel also identifies the important implications of this struggle for Mexican Americans and for public education. First, he demonstrates, the political mobilization in Houston underscored the emergence of a new type of grassroots ethnic leadership committed to community empowerment and to inclusiveness of diverse ideological interests within the minority community. Second, it signaled a shift in the activist community's identity from the assimilationist "Mexican American Generation" to the rising Chicano Movement with its "nationalist" ideology. Finally, it introduced Mexican American interests into educational policy making in general and into the national desegregation struggles in particular. This important study will engage those interested in public school policy, as well as scholars of Mexican American history and the history of desegregation in America.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: University of Houston Series in Mexican American Studies, Sponsored by the Center for Mexican American Studies

Title Page

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pp. vii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

In the early 1970s thousands of Mexican-origin students, parents, mothers, and community members participated in a variety of legal and political actions against the Houston public schools.1 They boycotted the public schools; attended rallies or informational meetings at local...

Part I: Origins and Development, 1900-60

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1. Diversification and Differentiation in the History of the Mexican-Origin Community in Houston

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pp. 3-18

This chapter will provide a brief history of the Mexican-origin community in Houston prior to the Chicano movement era of the 1960s. Mexicans originally arrived in Houston in the latter part of the nineteenth century, but they did not become a significant ethnic minority group until the...

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2. Providing for the Schooling of Mexican Children

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pp. 19-34

During the twentieth century Mexican children in Houston received instruction from different types of educational institutions, including Catholic schools, private secular instruction, and public education.1 Although diverse forms of schooling existed, by the late 1920s public...

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3. Community Activism and Identity in Houston

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pp. 35-50

Mexican-origin involvement in politics appeared in the early decades of the twentieth century and increased over time.1 Prior to 1930 it was limited primarily to the social and civic arena, but after 1930 it expanded and became more diverse. ...

Part II: Rumblings and Early School Activism, 1968-70

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4. The Community Is Beginning to Rumble

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pp. 53-73

“The Mexican-American community is beginning to rumble,” noted Ben Canales, an official with United Organizations Information Center, a community-based group located in the Northside barrio of Houston. This comment was made before a Houston Board of Education committee...

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5. Pawns, Puppets, and Scapegoats

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pp. 74-94

Despite the increased involvement of some barrio youth and grassroots activists and the militant rhetoric of the established middle-class groups, in the late 1960s activism in the politics of education was characterized by a lack of unity and limited community involvement. ...

Part III: The Struggle for Recognition, 1970-72

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6. Rain of Fury

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pp. 97-118

On the first day of school in the autumn of 1970, the Mexican American Education Council (MAEC) protested unjust integration orders by organizing and conducting a boycott of the public schools involved in the proposed pairing order. ...

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7. All Hell Broke Loose

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pp. 119-132

The school board disruption of Monday, September 14, 1970, was a significant event in MAEC’s struggle for recognition. It took place in the context of increasing intimidation of parents and students involved in the boycott and illustrated the willingness of youth to use violent...

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8. Simple Justice

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pp. 133-146

Despite the board’s commitment to consider Mexican Americans as an identifiable minority group, it continued to view them as white. This became apparent in December, 1970, when district officials drafted a new integration plan for the spring term that failed to consider them as...

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9. Continuing the Struggle

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pp. 147-158

For the next several months, from March through June, 1971, MAEC as well as groups of Mexican American parents, students, and community members continued to struggle on behalf of school reforms. Setbacks in the courts and inequitable treatment in the schools fueled the...

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10. The Most Racist Plan Yet

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pp. 159-173

Prior to the start of the 1971–72 school year MAEC assessed the impact it had had on school officials since its founding and the challenges it faced in the coming year. The organization had exacted certain concessions from the school superintendent and the school board. ...

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11. A Racist Bunch of Anglos

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pp. 174-193

For the first several weeks in the fall of 1971 MAEC conducted another boycott. Unlike the one the previous year, the 1971 boycott included all public schools rather than only those affected by the pairing plan. This boycott was not as successful as expected, although MAEC encouraged...

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Conclusion: Reflections on Identity, School Reform, and the Chicano Movement

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pp. 194-210

This study documents and explores the origins, evolution, and transformation of a local struggle for educational equality in Houston during the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the latter part of the 1960s the struggle for equality was focused on improving the quality of education for...


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pp. 211-273


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pp. 275-283

Image Plates

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E-ISBN-13: 9781603446051
E-ISBN-10: 1603446052
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585444939
Print-ISBN-10: 1585444936

Page Count: 298
Illustrations: 9 b&w photos., 6 tables.
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: University of Houston Series in Mexican American Studies, Sponsored by the Center for Mexican American Studies