The 1950s and 1960s are often remembered as a “golden age” in American network news. This essay contests such nostalgic narratives by carefully examining the archive of television coverage of Chicano civil rights activism after World War II. Guided by the black-white binary that has historically dominated U.S. history, the networks all but ignored the political developments taking shape among Mexican Americans in the 1940s and 1950s. Things changed somewhat in 1966 with the emergence of César Chávez as a media icon, but television producers now tended to represent progressive Chicano/a politics through a narrow ideological filter in which activists were screened either as saints or traitors. I argue that the network news had a powerful impact on how the Chicano movement was received and later remembered in U.S. history. I also argue that this archive challenges us to reconsider certain assumptions about political efficacy and visibility.


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pp. 897-923
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