George I. Sanchez, Ideology, and Whiteness in the Making of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, 1930-1960 By CARLOS K . BLANTON Let us keep in mind that the Mexican-American can easily become the front-line of defense of the civil liberties of ethnic minorities. The racial, cultural, and historical involvements in his case embrace those of all of the other minority groups. Yet, God bless the law, he is “white”! So, the Mexican-American can be the wedge for the broadening of civil liberties for others (who are not so fortunate as to be “white” and “Christian”! . George L Sanchez (1958) By embracing whiteness, Mexican Americans have reinforced the color line that has denied people of African descent full participation in American democracy. In pursuing White rights, Mexican Americans combined Latin American racialism with Anglo racism, and in the process separated themselves and their political agenda from the Black civil rights struggles of the forties and fifties. Neil Foley (1998)’ 1 HE HISTORY OF RACE AND CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE AMERICAN SoUTH IS complex and exciting.
The history of Mexican American civil rights is also promising, particularly so in regard to understanding the role of whiteness. Both selections above, the first from a Mexican American ‘ The epigraphs are drawn from George I. Sanchez to Roger N. Baldwin, August 27, 1958, Folder 8, Box 31, George I. Sanchez Papers (Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries, Austin); and Neil Foley, “Becoming Hispanic: Mexican Americans and the Faustian Pact with Whiteness,” in Foley, ed.. Reflexiones 1997: New Directions In Mexican American Studies (Austin, 1998), 65.
The author would like to thank the Journal of Southem History’s six anonymous reviewers and Texas A University’s Glasscock Center for Humanities Research for their very helpful intellectual guidance on this essay. MR. BLANTON is an assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University. THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY Volume LXXII, No. 3, August 2006 570 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY intellectual of the mid-twentieth century and the last a recently published statement from a historian of race and identity, are nominally about whiteness. But the historical actor and the historian discuss whiteness differently.
The quotation from the 1950s advocates exploiting legal whiteness to obtain civil rights for both Mexican Americans and other minority groups. The one from the 1990s views such a strategy as inherently racist. The historical figure writes of Mexican Americans and African Americans cooperating in the pursuit of shared civil rights goals; the historian writes of the absence, the impossibility of cooperation due to Mexican American whiteness. This contrast is worth further consideration. This essay examines the Mexican American civil rights movement by focusing on the work and ideas of George I.
Sanchez—a prominent activist and professor of education at the University of Texas—in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Sanchez is the most significant intellectual of what is commonly referred to as the “Mexican American Generation” of activists during this period. As a national president of the major Mexican American civil rights organization of the era, however, Sanchez’s political influence within the Mexican American community was just as important as his intellectual leadership. Sanchez pondered notions of whiteness and actively employed them, offering an excellent case study of the making of Mexican American civil rights. First, this work examines how Sanchez’s civil rights efforts were vitally informed by an ideological perspective that supported gradual, integrationist, liberal reform, a stance that grew out of his activist research on African Americans in the South, Mexican Americans in the Southwest, and Latin Americans in Mexico and Venezuela. This New Deal ideological inheritance shaped Sanchez’s contention that Mexican Americans were one minority group among many needing governmental assistance. Second, this liberal ideology gave rise to a nettlesome citizenship dilemma.
During the Great Depression and World War II, Mexican Americans’ strategic emphasis on American citizenship rhetorically placed them shoulder-to-shoulder with other U. S. minority groups. It also marginalized immigrant Mexicans. The significance of ^ For more on Sanehez see Gladys R. Leff, “George I. Sanchez: Don Quixote of the Southwest” (Ph. D. dissertation. North Texas State University, 1976); James Nelson Mowry, “A Study of the Educational Thought and Aetion of George I. Sanehez” (Ph. D. dissertation. University of Texas, 1977); Amerieo Paredes, ed.. Humanidad: Essays in Honor of George 1.
Sanchez (Los Angeles, 1977); Steven Sehlossman, “Self-Evident Remedy? George I. Sanchez, Segregation, and Enduring Dilemmas in Bilingual Education,” Teachers College Record, 84 (Summer 1983), 871-907; and Mario T. Garcia, Mexican Americans: Leadership, Ideology, and Identity, J930-1960 (New Haven, 1989), chap. 10. WHITENESS AND MEXICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS 571 citizenship was controversial within the Mexican American community and coincided with the emergence of an aggressive phase of Mexican Americans’ civil rights litigation that implemented a legal strategy based on their whiteness.
Third, Sanchez’s correspondence with Thurgood Marshall of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1940s and 1950s reveals early, fragmentary connections between the Mexican American and African American civil rights movements. All these topics address important interpretive debates about the role of whiteness. This essay fuses two historiographical streams: traditional studies on Mexican American politics and identity and the new whiteness scholarship’s interpretation of Mexican American civil rights.
In traditional works the Mexican American civil rights experience is often examined with little sustained comparison to other civil rights experiences. Conversely, the whiteness scholarship represents a serious attempt at comparative civil rights history. Taking both approaches into account answers the recent call of one scholar for historians to “muster even greater historical imagination” in conceiving of new histories of civil rights from different perspectives. ^ Traditional research on Mexican Americans in the twentieth century centers on generational lines.
From the late nineteenth century to the Great Depression, a large wave of Mexican immigrants, spurred by dislocation in Mexico as well as by economic opportunity in the U. S. , provided low-wage agricultural and industrial labor throughout the Southwest. Their political identity was as Mexicans living abroad, the “Mexicanist Generation. ” They generally paid little heed to American politics and eschewed cultural assimilation, as had earlier Mexicans who forcibly became American citizens as a result of the expansionist wars of the 1830s and 1840s.
However, mass violence shortly before World War I, intensifying racial discrimination throughout the early twentieth century, and forced repatriations to Mexico during the Great Depression heralded the rise of a new political ethos. The community had come to believe that its members were endangered by the presumption of foreignness and disloyalty. “^ By the late 1920s younger ‘ Charles W. Eagles, “Toward New Histories of the Civil Rights Era,” Journal of Southern History, 66 (November 2000), 848. ” See Emilio Zamora, The World of the Mexican Worker in Texas (College Station, Tex. * 1993); George J. Sanchez, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 (New York, 1993); Benjamin Heber Johnson, Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans into Americans (New Haven, 2003); and Amoldo De Leon, The Tejano Community, 1836-1900 (1982; new ed. , Dallas, 1997). 572 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY leaders—the “Mexican American Generation”—urged adoption of a new strategy of emphasizing American citizenship at all times.
They strove to speak English in public and in private settings, stressed education, asked for the gradual reform of discriminatory practices, emulated middle-class life, and exuded patriotism as a loyal, progressive ethnic group. They also desired recognition as ethnic whites, not as racial others. The oldest organization expressing this identity was the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). This ethos of hyphenated Americanism and gradual reform held sway until the late 1960s and early 1970s. Studies of whiteness contribute to historians’ understanding of the interplay of race, ethnicity, and class by going beyond a black-white binary to seek the subtleties and nuances of race. This new scholarship examines who is considered white and why, traces how the definition of white shifts, unearths how whiteness conditions acts of inclusion and exclusion and how it reinforces and subverts concepts of race, and investigates the psychological and material rewards to be gained by groups that successfully claim whiteness.
Class tension, nativism, and racism are connected to a larger whiteness discourse. In other words, this is a new, imaginative way to more broadly interrogate the category of race. Works on whiteness often share a conviction that thoughts or acts capitalizing on whiteness reflect racist power as well as contribute to that insidious power’s making. They also generally maintain that notions of race, whether consciously employed or not, divide ethnic and racial minorities from each other and from workingclass whites, groups that would otherwise share class status and political goals. In recent reviews of the state of whiteness history, Eric Amesen, ‘ See Mario Garcia, Mexican Americans; George J. Sanchez, Becoming Mexican American; David G. Gutierrez, Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity (Berkeley, 1995); Ignacio M. Garcia, Viva Kennedy: Mexican Americans in Search of Camelot (College Station, Tex. , 2000); Carl Allsup, The American G. I. Forum: Origins and Evolution (Austin, 1982); Richard A.
Garcia, Rise of the Mexican American Middle Class: San Antonio, 1929—1941 (College Station, Tex. , 1991); David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986 (Austin, 1987), chaps. 12 and 13; Julie Leininger Pyeior, LBJ and Mexican Americans: The Paradox of Power (Austin, 1997); Juan Gomez-Quinones, Chicano Politics: Reality and Promise, 1940-1990 (Albuquerque, 1990); and Guadalupe San Miguel Jr. , Brown, Not White: School Integration and the Chicano Movement in Houston (College Station, Tex. , 2001). ^ David R.
Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (1991; rev. ed.. New York, 1999); Roediger, Towards the Abolition of Whiteness: Essays on Race, Politics, and Working Class History (New York, 1994); Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge, Mass. , 1998); George Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit From Identity Politics (Philadelphia, 1998). WHITENESS AND MEXICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS 73 Barbara J. Fields, Peter Kolchin, and Daniel Wickberg offer much criticism. These historians argue that scholars using whiteness as an analytical tool are shoddy in their definitions, read too finely and semantically into documents and literary texts, and privilege discursive moments that have little or nothing to do with actual people or experiences. More specifically, Kolchin and Amesen argue that many studies of whiteness incautiously caricature race as an unchanging, omnipresent, and overly deterministic category.
In such works whiteness is portrayed as acting concretely and abstractly with or without historical actors and events. Ironically, studies of whiteness can obscure the exercise of power. Fields explains that studying “race” and “racial identity” is more attractive than studying “racism” because “racism exposes the hoUowness of agency and identity . . . [and] it violates the two-sides-to-every-story expectation of symmetry that Americans are peculiarly attached to. “^ Research that applies the idea of whiteness to Mexican American history is sparse and even more recent.
Several of these studies focus upon the use of whiteness as a legal strategy while others take a broader approach. ^ Historian Neil Foley offers the most significant and ambitious arguments by moving beyond an analysis of how white people viewed Mexican Americans to look instead at the construction of whiteness in the Mexican American mind. He shifts the perspective from external whiteness to internal whiteness and argues that Mexican Americans entered into a “Faustian Pact” by embracing racism toward African Americans in the course of trying to avoid de jure discrimination.
Foley claims that Mexican Americans consciously curried the favor of racist whites: “In pursuing White rights, Mexican Americans ‘ Peter Kolchin, “Whiteness Studies: The New History of Race in America,” Journal of American History, 89 (June 2002), 154-73; Eric Arnesen, “Whiteness and the Historians’ Imagination,” International Labor and Working-Class History, 60 (Fall 2001), 3-32; Barbara J. Fields, “Whiteness, Racism, and Identity,” International Labor and Working-Class History, 60 (Fall 2001), 48-56 (quotations on p. 8); Daniel Wickberg, “Heterosexual White Male; Some Recent Inversions in American Cultural History,” Journal of American History, 92 (June 2005), 136-57. *Ian F. Haney Lopez, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York, 1996); Neil Foley, The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture (Berkeley, 1997); Steven Harmon Wilson, The Rise of Judicial Management in the U. S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, 1955-2000 (Athens, Ga. 2002); Wilson, “Brown over ‘Other White’; Mexican Americans’ Legal Arguments and Litigation Strategy in School Desegregation Lawsuits,” Law and History Review, 21 (Spring 2003), 145-94; Clare Sheridan, “‘Another White Race’: Mexican Americans and the Paradox of Whiteness in Jury Selection,” Law and History Review, 21 (Spring 2003), 109^14; Ariela J. Gross, “Texas Mexicans and the Polities of Whiteness,” Law and History Review, 21 (Spring 2003), 195-205; Carlos Kevin Blanton, The Strange Career of Bilingual Education in Texas, 1836-1981 (College Station, Tex. 2004); Patrick J. Carroll, Felix Longoria’s Wake: Bereavement, Racism, and the Rise of Mexican American Activism (Austin, 2003). 574 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY combined Latin American racialism with Anglo racism, and in the process separated themselves and their political agenda from the Black civil rights struggles of the forties and fifties. “^ Missing from such interpretations of whiteness’s meaning to Mexican Americans is George I. Sanchez’s making of Mexican American civil rights.
Analyzing Sanchez’s views is an excellent test of Foley’s interpretation because Sanchez’s use of the category of whiteness was sophisticated, deliberate, reflective, and connected to issues and events. An internationalist, multiculturalist, and integrationist ideology shaped by New Deal experiences in the American Southwest, the American South, and Latin America informed George L Sanchez’s civil rights activism and scholarship. Sanchez regarded Mexican Americans as one of many American minority groups suffering racial, ethnic, and religious bigotry.
Though Sanchez regarded Mexican Americans’ racial status as white, he also held that they were a minority group that experienced systematic and racialized oppression. Sanchez’s articulation of whiteness was qualified by an anti-racist ideological worldview and supports Eric Amesen’s criticism of “overreaching” by whiteness scholars who “appreciate neither ambiguity nor counter-discourses of race, the recognition of which would cast doubt on their bold claims. “‘° Sanchez was very much a New Deal “service intellectual” who utilized academic research in an attempt to progressively transform society.
The term service intellectual is an appropriate description of Sanchez, who propagated his civil rights activism through academic research with governmental agencies (the Texas State Department of Education, the New Mexico State Department of Education, the U. S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs) and national philanthropic organizations (the General Education Board, the Julius Rosenwald Eund, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Marshall Civil Liberties Trust).
The pinnacle of Sanchez’s scholarly contribution as a service intellectual was his evocative 1940 portrayal of rural New Mexican poverty and segregation in The Forgotten People: A Study of New Mexicans. ‘ ‘ ‘ Foley, “Becoming Hispanic,” 53-70 (quotation on p. 65); Foley, “Partly Colored or Other White: Mexican Americans and Their Problem with the Color Line,” in Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker, eds. , Beyond Black and White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U. S. South and Southwest (College Station, Tex. , 2004), 123-44.
For an older whiteness study that discusses the external imposition of racial concepts on Mexican Americans and other groups, see Roediger, Towards the Abolition of Whiteness, chap. 10. ‘”Amesen, “Whiteness and the Historians’ Imagination,” 24. ” Richard S. Kirkendall, Social Scientists and Farm Politics in the Age of Roosevelt WHITENESS AND MEXICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS 575 Sanchez particularly sought to transform society through the field of education. In the early 1930s he published blistering critiques of the shoddiness of IQ tests conducted on Mexican American children.
Mexican Americans bad just challenged separate schools in Texas and California and were told by the courts that because they were technically “white,” racial segregation was illegal; however, the courts then claimed that pedagogical segregation based upon intellectual or linguistic “deficiency” was permissible. In challenging racist IQ science, Sanchez essentially advocated integration. ‘^ A decade of service intellectual work came together for Sanchez in Forgotten People. He called for a comprehensive federal and state program to uplift downtrodden Hispanic New Mexicans: “Remedial measures will not solve the problem piecemeal.
Poverty, illiteracy, and ill-health are merely symptoms. If education is to get at the root of the problem schools must go beyond subject-matter instruction. . . . The curriculum of the educational agencies becomes, then, the magna carta of social and economic rehabilitation; the teacher, the advance agent of a new social order. “‘^ Sanchez regarded Mexican Americans as similar to Japanese Americans, Jewish Americans, and African Americans. To Sanchez these were all minority groups that endured varying levels of discrimination by white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant America.
Sanchez was uninterested in divining a hierarchy of racial victimization; instead, he spent considerable energy on pondering ways for these groups to get the federal government, in New Deal fashion, to help alleviate their plight. Even in the mid-1960s when many Mexican Americans had come to favor a separate racial identity over an ethnic one, Sanchez still conceived of Mexican Americans as a cultural group, ignoring concepts of race altogether unless discussing racial discrimination. “^ Sanchez engaged the struggles of other minority groups and linked them to Mexican American activism.
In 1948, for example, Sanchez (Columbia, Mo. , 1966), 1-6; George I. Sanchez, Forgotten People: A Study of New Mexicans (1940; reprint, Albuquerque, 1996), xvi-xvii. Befitting the service intellectual ideal of freely diffusing knowledge, the Carnegie Foundation gave the book away. Carnegie provided four thousand dollars for Sanchez’s research at the same time it supported work on a much larger study on African Americans—Gunnar Myrdal’s classic An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (New York, 1944). ^ Carlos Kevin Blanton, “From Intellectual Deficiency to Cultural Deficiency: Mexican Americans, Testing, and Public School Policy in the American Southwest, 1920-1940,” Pacific Historical Review, 72 (February 2003), 56-61 (quotations on p. 60). ‘ ‘ Sanchez, Forgotten People, 86. ‘” George I. Sanchez, “History, Culture, and Education,” in Julian Samora, ed.. La Raza: Forgotten Americans (Notre Dame, 1966), 1-26; Mario Garcia, Mexican Americans, 267-68. 576 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY published through the United States Indian Service a government study on Navajo problems called The People: A Study of the Navajos. ^ In 1937-1938 Sanchez transferred his New Deal, reformist ideology across borders as a Latin American education expert with a prestigious administrative post in Venezuela’s national government. Writing to Edwin R. Embree, director of the Julius Rosenwald Fund, Sanchez described his work as the chief coordinator of the country’s teachertraining program in familiar New Deal terms: “the hardest task is breaking down social prejudices, traditional apathy, obstructive habits (political and personal) and in-bred aimlessness. His first program report was appropriately titled “Release from Tyranny. “‘^ During World War II Sanchez was appointed to the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs under Nelson A. Rockefeller, where he continued work on Latin American teacher-training programs as part of the war effort. Sanchez was deeply committed to progressive reform in Latin America that would lift educational and living standards. ‘^ Sanchez also took on African American issues. From 1935 to 1937 he worked as a staff member with the Chicago-based Julius Rosenwald Eund.
This philanthropic organization was concerned with African American rural education in the South, and in this capacity Sanchez collaborated with Eisk University’s future president, the eminent sociologist Charles S. Johnson, on preparing the massive Compendium on Southem Rural Life. Sanchez was listed in the study’s budget as the highest-paid researcher for the 1936-1937 academic year with a $4,500 salary and a $2,000 travel budget. Sanchez’s work with the Rosenwald Eund also involved numerous activities beyond his role as the group’s pedagogical expert.
In November and December 1936 he lobbied the Louisiana State Department of Education on behalf of a ” “Dr. Sanchez Seeks Fulfillment of U. S. Promise to Navajos,” Austin Daily Texan, November 16, 1946, in George I. Sanchez Vertical File (Center for American History, Austin, Texas; hereinafter this collection will be cited as Sanchez Vertical File and this repository as Center for American History); George I. Sanchez, The People: A Study of the Navajos ([Washington, D. C], 1948). “^ G. I. Sanchez to Edwin R.
Embree, October 17, 1937, Folder 4, Box 127, Julius Rosenwald Fund Archives (Special Collections, John Hope and Aurelia Franklin Library, Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee; hereinafter this collection will be cited as Rosenwald Fund Archives and this repository as Franklin Library) (quotation); Embree to Sanchez, October 29, 1937, ibid. Sanchez’s work for the “Instituto Pedagogico” occurred just after its creation in 1936 during a brief liberal phase of Venezuelan politics. For more on its creation, see Judith Ewell, Venezuela: A Century of Change (Stanford, 1984), 75. Dave Cheavens, “Soft-Spoken UT Professor Loaned to Coordinator of Latin-American Affairs,” Austin Statesman, December 3, 1943, in Sanchez Vertical File; “Texan Will Direct Training of Teachers,” Dallas Morning News, November 3, 1943, ibid. ; George I. Sanchez, “Mexican Education As It Looks Today,” Nation’s Schools, 32 (September 1943), 23, ibid. ; George I. Sanchez, Mexico: A Revolution by Education (New York, 1936). WHITENESS AND MEXICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS 511 Rosenwald teacher-training program and the broader issue of school equalization.
Equalization had been the primary avenue of African American activism that culminated with the Gaines v. Canada decision of 1938, which mandated that the University of Missouri either admit a black law student or create a separate, equal law school for African Americans. Sanchez also lobbied in Washington, D. C. , in February 1937, consulting with the Progressive Education Association and various government agencies on Rosenwald projects. ‘^ As one of his duties on the compendium project, Sanchez studied rote learning for rural African American children who lived in homes lacking in formal education.
This study was inspired by Charles Johnson’s mentor at the University of Chicago, Robert E. Park. Johnson, Sanchez, and other young researchers such as famed historian Horace Mann Bond were to look at ways to educate populations “handicapped by the lack of books and a tradition of formal education in the home. ” This venture was affiliated with the Tennessee Valley Authority and chiefly concerned with “raising the cultural level” of poor, rural African Americans more effectively than standard textbooks and pedagogies developed for privileged students in other parts of the country.
The project aimed to equip teachers to “integrate the knowledge which the school seeks to inculcate with the experiences of its pupils and with the tradition of the local community. ” Sanchez’s comparable work with bilingual education in New Mexico and Latin America fit well within the scope of the new undertaking. ‘^ Sanchez’s biggest project with the Rosenwald Fund was creating a well-recognized teacher-training program at the Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute at Grambling. Charles S.
Johnson later described this Grambling teacher-training program as “among the most progressive of the community-centered programs for the education of teachers in the country. ” He praised the Grambling endeavor for offering African American teachers “opportunities for the development of creativeness and inventiveness in recognizing and solving ‘* Charles S. Johnson to Edwin R. Embree, October 16, 1936, Folder 1, Box 333, Rosenwald Fund Archives; Embree to Johnson, October 23, 1936, and enclosed budget manuscripts “Supplementary Budget on Rural Education Compendium” and “Rural School Exploration, Tentative Budget 1936-37,” ibid. undated project time sheet [October 7, 1936 to April 27, 1937], Folder 3, Box 127, ibid. ; Numan V. Bartley, The New South, 1945-1980 (Baton Rouge, 1995), 15; Compendium on Southern Rural Life with Reference to the Problems of the Common School (9 vols. ; [Chicago? ], 1936). ” Charles S. Johnson to Edwin R. Embree, January 21, February 25, 1937, Folder 5, Box 335, Rosenwald Fund Archives; Johnson to Dorothy Elvidge, June 23, 1937, and study proposal by Robert E. Park, “Memorandum on Rote Learning Studies,” March 3, 1937, pp. (first and second quotations), 3 (third quotation), ibid. Sanchez left shortly after the project began. 578 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY the problems to be found in rural communities, homes, and schools . . . .”^° Sanchez oversaw this project from its inception in September 1936 until he left for Venezuela in the middle of 1937. He set up the curriculum, the budgets, the specialized staff (nurses, agricultural instructors, home economists, and rural school supervisors), and equipment (the laboratory school and a bus for inspections).
These duties involved close coordination with Grambling administrators, Louisiana health officials, and state education and agriculture bureaucrats. Difficulties arose due to Sanchez’s departure. One Rosenwald employee summarized the program’s problems, “As long as George [Sanchez] was here he was the individual who translated that philosophy to the people at Grambling, and I am sure that you agree with me that he could do it far more effectively than the rest of us.
But now that Sanchez [sic] is not here it is the job of the president of the institution to do both this interpretation and this stimulation. . . . I do not believe [President] Jones knows them. “‘^’ Fisk’s Charles S. Johnson was elite company for Sanchez. Johnson’s devastating attacks on southem sharecropping influenced public policy and garnered praise from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He and others spurred the creation of Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet. “^^ Sanchez practiced a similar combination of academic research and social activism.
When he began his work at Grambling he had recently lost his position in the New Mexico State Department of Education due to his pointed advocacy of reform as well as his penchant for hard-hitting, publicly funded academic research on controversial topics such as the segregation of Mexican Americans in schools. He had long sparked controversy with his research on racial issues. What especially limited ^° Charles S. Johnson, “Section 8—The Negro Public Schools,” in Louisiana Educational Survey (7 vols, in 8; Baton Rouge, 1942), IV, 216 (first quotation), 185 (second quotation).
A copy of this volume is in Folder 5, Box 182, Charles Spurgeon Johnson Papers (Franklin Library). ^’ A. C. Lewis to G. I. Sanchez, October 14, 1936, Folder 13, Box 207, Rosenwald Fund Archives; Sanchez to Dr. R. W. Todd, September 28, 1936, ibid. Sanchez to Miss Clyde Mobley, September 28, 1936, ibid. ; Sanchez to J. W. Bateman, September 28, 1936, ibid. Sanchez to Lewis, September 28, 1936, ibid. ; Edwin R. Embree to Lewis, September 29, 1936, ibid. ; Sanchez to Lewis, September 30, 1936, ibid. ; Dorothy A. Elvidge to Lewis, November 27, 1936, ibid. ; Lewis to Sanchez, July 9, 1937, Folder 14, Box 207, ibid. i. C. Dixon to Lewis, March 17, 1938, Folder 15, Box 207, ibid, (quotation on p. 2); Sanchez, “The Rural Normal School’s TeacherEducation Program Involves . . . ,” September 17, 1936, Folder 16, Box 207, ibid. ; Sanchez, “Suggested Budget—Grambling,” April 9, 1937, ibid. ; Sanchez, “Recommendations,” December 9, 1936, ibid. ^^ John Egerton, Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South (New York, 1994), 91-92; George Brown Tindall, The Emergence of the New South, ? 913-1945 (Baton Rouge, 1967), 543, 544 (quotation); Matthew William Dunne, “Next Steps: Charles S.
Johnson and Southem Liberalism,” Journal of Negro History, 83 (Winter 1998), 10-11. WHITENESS AND MEXICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS 579 Sanchez’s future in New Mexico was a 1933 furor over his distribution of another scholar’s Thurstone scale (a psychometric technique developed in the 1920s) on racial attitudes to pupils in New Mexico’s public schools. Governor Arthur Seligman publicly demanded that Sanchez be ousted and that the General Education Board (GEB) cancel the grant funding his position in the state bureaucracy. Partly due to the influence of New Mexico’s U. S. enator Bronson Cutting, a progressive Republican champion of Mexican Americans, Sanchez survived an ugly public hearing that resulted in the resignation of the University of New Mexico faculty member who devised the scale. Nevertheless, the incident severely constrained Sanchez’s future in the New Mexican educational and political arena. ^^ But Sanchez was not pushed into African American education simply out of desperation for employment. He appreciated the opportunities that the Rosenwald Fund provided to broaden his activism as a service intellectual beyond the Southwest.
He was direct about this to his most ardent supporter. President James F. Zimmerman of the University of New Mexico: “I’m sorry the [Rosenwald] Fund is virtually prohibited from extending its interests and experiments into the Southwest. This is the only disappointment I feel in connection with my present work. I feel it keenly, however, as you know how deeply I am bound up with that area and its peoples. At the same time, though, being here has given me a wider viewpoint and experience that may well be directed at my ‘first love’ sometime. Zimmerman was disappointed; he had groomed Sanchez for a faculty and administrative future at the University of New Mexico. Despite the uproar in 1933 Sanchez’s talents were in high demand, however, as GEB agent Leo Favrot and Rosenwald director Edwin Embree coordinated which agency would carry Sanchez’s salary with the New Mexico State Department of Education in early 1935 (GEB) and during a yearlong research project on Mexican higher education from 1935 to the middle of 1936 (Rosenwald Fund) until he joined the staff of the Rosenwald Fund on a full-time basis for his work at Grambling. ‘* ^^ G. I. Sanchez to Leo M. Favrot, April 27 and May 11, 1933, Folder 900, Box 100, General Education Board Papers (Rockefeller Archives Center, Sleepy Hollow, New York); Favrot to Sanchez, May 15, 1933, ibid. ; Bronson Cutting to James F. Zimmerman, May 8, 1933, Folder “U. S. Senator Bronson Cutting,” Box 12, Zimmerman Papers (University of New Mexico Archives, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque); Zimmerman to Cutting, May 1, 1933, Folder “U. S. Senator Bronson Cutting,” Box 12, ibid. ; Phillip B.
Gonzales, Forced Sacrifice as Ethnic Protest: The Hispano Cause in New Mexico and the Racial Attitude Confrontation of 1933 (New York, 2001), 114, 130, 218, 244. ^^ Edwin R. Embree to James F. Zimmerman, March 26, 1935, Folder “Organizations and 580 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY Sanchez married the fields of southern, African American, rural education and southwestern, Mexican American, rural education. He discussed this fusion: “I am intensely interested in our programs at the [Rosenwald] Fund. Such projects as the Grambling experiment, the Louisiana Survey, etc. are very close to my own particular interests. However, I’d be much more effective if I were doing this same sort of work in the Southwest. “^^ Sanchez returned to New Mexico in 1938, when he came back from Venezuela, and carried over his understanding of a southern, African American perspective to his work with southwestern Mexican Americans, particularly in a 1939 study of school equalization. ^^ In 1938 Sanchez also conceived his book Forgotten People with direct inspiration from the work of Howard W. Odum, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina.
Sanchez explained that “the main purpose of the project is the preparation of a socio-economic ‘bible’ for New Mexico—Similar to Odum’s Southern Regions and studies of the like. ” In fact, Sanchez attempted to persuade President Zimmerman to create an institute of the Southwest at the University of New Mexico similar to the University of North Carolina’s emphasis upon the South. ^^ Upon arriving at the University of Texas for a new job in the fall of 1940, Sanchez sought to continue blending African American and Mexican American educational research through the Rosenwald Fund.
Embree wrote that this was impossible: “Unfortunately, our foundation continues to feel that it should restrict its remaining limited resources to the pressing field of Negroes and Negro-white relations. Intellectually I agree with this decision, though I am terribly sorry not to take a direct part in the ‘Mexican efforts. ‘”^^ Sanchez’s political activism cannot be separated from his pedagogiAssociations-Julius Rosenwald Fund, 1934-35/41/44,” Box 8, Zimmerman Papers; G. I. Sanchez to Zimmerman, September 30, 1935, Folder “Sanchez. George I. , 1933-35,” Box 10, ibid. (quotation); Sanchez to Zimmerman, October 17, 1935, ibid. Embree to Zimmerman, October 17, 1935, Folder “Organizations and Associations-Julius Rosenwald Fund, 1934-35/41/44,” Box 8, ibid. Zimmerman to Sanchez, October 22, 1935, Folder “Sanchez, George I. , 1933-35 ” Box 10, ibid. ^^ G. I. Sanchez to Leo M. Favrot, July 9, 1937, Folder 2043, Box 212, General Education Board Papers; Sanchez to Favrot, March 23, 1937, Folder 2983, Box 286, ibid. George I. Sanchez, The Equalization of Educational Opportunity—Some Issues and Problems (Albuquerque, 1939), 37-40. ” G. I. Sanchez to James Zimmerman, January 3, 1938, Folder “Sanchez, George I. 193841,” University of New Mexico Archives—Faculty Files (Center for Southwest Research); Zimmerman to Sanchez, January 8, 1938, ibid. Sanchez to Zimmerman, March 29, 1938, ibid. ^^G. I. Sanchez to Edwin R. Embree, April 3, 1940, Folder 5, Box 127, Rosenwald Fund Archives; Sanchez to Embree, March 12, 1945, Folder 4, Box 127, ibid. ; Embree to Sanchez, March 19, 1945, ibid, (quotation). WHITENESS AND MEXICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS 581 cal work. Like Charles S. Johnson and the philanthropic organizations that supported southem education, Sanchez sought to transfonn society through academic research.
One of his Rosenwald publications, “The Community School in the Rural Scene,” epitomized New Deal activist scholarship: “This graphic portrayal of the South’s cultural lag is by no means a complete one. There are many other evidences of educational maladjustment that could be mentioned—political demagoguery, superstition, the wastefulness of dichotomous education (negro-white, male-female, public-private), racial attitudes that bemean [sic] the negro and rebound to the degradation of whites, unprepared leadership, an unresponsive church.
Suffice it to say, in summary, that in no other large area of the country is there so great a need for the rehabilitation of a people, socially and physically, culturally and materially, as there is in the South today. “^^ The comparison of Sanchez to Johnson is not a shallow one. In a 1939 essay Johnson spoke of rural African American education in similar terms of isolation and cultural lag. Like Sanchez, Johnson would be criticized in later years for a seeming conservatism that inhibited sharp denunciations of racism.
Yet minority scholars like Johnson and Sanchez in their work more forcibly challenged racial prejudice than most liberals of the 1930s and Sanchez continued his New Deal-style scholarly activism immediately after the war. Believing that the correction of deficiencies in educational administration and curriculum by progressive bureaucrats and researchers would spare Mexican Americans from segregated schools, he publicly predicted, “We can do it by existing laws; we don’t need any new ones. ” In 1945 he formed the First Regional Conference of the Education of Spanish Speaking-People in the Southwest.
This forum allowed educators to protest segregation as “un-American, un-Christian, and immoral” into the early 1950s. ^’ One historian argues that in Sanchez’s ideological worldview changing how ^’ George I. Sanchez, “The Community School in the Rural Scene,” in Samuel Everett, ed.. The Community School (New York, 1938), 164-215 (quotation on p. 172); William A. Link, The Paradox of Southern Progressivism. 1880-1930 (Chapel Hill, 1992), 240-43. ‘” Charles S. Johnson, “The Cultural Environment of the Negro Child and its Educational Implications,” February 15, 1939, Folder 5, Box 160, Johnson Papers; Dunne, “Next Steps,” 2-3, 8-9. ‘ “Texas’ Racial Antagonism Blamed on Schools by Educators,” Austin Daily Texan, December 14, 1945, in Sanchez Vertical Files (first quotation); “Sanchez to Open Education Panel: Spanish-Speakers Problems Studied,” Austin Daily Texan, December 13, 1945, ibid. ; “Five-State Conference Brands Mexican Schools as Un-American,” Austin Daily Texan, December 16, 1945, ibid, (second quotation); “Dr. Sanchez Warns Against ‘Zoning’ Culture Groups,” Austin Daily Texan, February 8, 1951, ibid. 582 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY ducators perceived Mexican Americans represented the best way to alleviate discrimination: “The system had its faults but it could be reformed. Sanchez strongly believed that when Anglo Americans learned about and appreciated the history and culture of Mexican Americans, they would support needed reforms. “^^ George I. Sanchez’s civil rights activism should be viewed as an extension of his New Deal-inspired ideology of gradual, liberal reform led by service intellectuals. From the 1930s to the mid-1940s Sanchez was optimistic about the prospects for progressive educators to transform racial prejudice into mutual tolerance and respect.
All that was needed was for the offices of a sympathetic government to aid reformers with their work of uplift. Sanchez’s reformist ideology encompassed all racial and ethnic minorities as allies in a larger effort to recast American society in line with its aspirations rather than its failures. This larger ideological worldview and its overlap with the African American civil rights movement must be seriously considered in any history of the Mexican American civil rights movement. This point of view also influenced a peculiar, very instructive emphasis upon U. S. citizenship among Mexican Americans during World War II and into the 1950s.
As opposed to the recent analytical focus upon whiteness, the issue of citizenship is underappreciated in the study of Mexican American civil rights. Historian Peter Kolchin argues of some whiteness studies that “in assigning whiteness such all-encompassing power, they tend to ignore other forms of oppression, exploitation, and inequality. “^^ George I. Sanchez’s civil rights activism after World War II demonstrates that for him whiteness was less important than the thorny issue of citizenship. Though he believed in basic human rights, he viewed the democratic nation-state as its best guarantor, particularly after the U.
S. and its allies had just triumphed in a world war against racist, fascist empires. After the war Sanchez elevated the significance of U. S. citizenship in making Mexican American civil rights. This veneration of citizenship placed non-Hispanics in closer proximity to Mexican Americans than non-citizen, Mexican immigrants. Thus, in their pursuit of civil rights, Mexican Americans consciously cut themselves off from vital segments of their own communities—family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. They emphasized citizenship over culture and citizenship over race.
Simultaneously, restlessness within the Mexican Mario Garcia, Mexican Americans, 271. Kolchin, “Whiteness Studies,” 170. WHITENESS AND MEXICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS 583 American community spurred Sanchez to abandon pedagogical gradualism for legal confrontations that utilized whiteness. As national president of LULAC and a new faculty member at the University of Texas, Sanchez found that World War II provided fresh opportunities to advance civil rights. He publicly professed outrage at continued racial discrimination even as he served the U. S. government in an official wartime capacity. ”* Sanchez’s wartime superiors at the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs supported these complaints because the professor’s international reputation as a champion of liberal reform proved useful in their efforts to cultivate a moderate-left ideological perspective among Mexican Americans as an acceptable balance between the fascist Sinarquistas of Latin America and the communist-influenced Spanish-Speaking Congress of the U. S. ^^ Sanchez injected racial integration into govemment policy by applying the wartime Latin American “Good Neighbor” policy to Mexican Americans at home.
He chaired the University of Texas’s Committee on Inter-American Relations, served on the Texas Good Neighbor Commission, helped the Texas State Department of Education create multicultural curricula, set up teacher conferences, and directed integrationist research. Sanchez proclaimed at a wartime conference that school segregation was more hurtful to the war effort “than a shipload of Nazi agents. “^^ Sanchez intensified his focus on citizenship during World War II. Within weeks of the bombing of Pearl Harbor—and while serving as national president of LULAC—Sanchez sent Nelson A.
Rockefeller a proposal for a “Latin American Research and Policies Commission” that over the course of a year and a half would give $71,000 toward studies on Mexican Americans. ^^ Sanchez eventually received $41,000 from Rockefeller’s GEB in 1947 for a more narrowly defined project, his “Study of Spanish Speaking People,” in which he directed the research of others for several years. As part of the project Lyle Saunders of the University of New Mexico and Olen Leonard of ‘••G. I. Sanchez to Dennis Chavez, October 17, 1941, Folder 11, Box 22, Sanchez Papers; Sanchez to U.
S. O. , May 31, 1943, ibid. ; Lipsitz, Possessive Investment in Whiteness, 201-2. ”Victor Borella to Nelson A. Rockefeller, April 2, 1943, pp. 1-7, Folder 36, Box 5, Coordinator for Inter-American Affairs Subseries, Series O, Record Group 4, Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers (Rockefeller Archives Center). •”• Guadalupe San Miguel Jr. , “Let All of Them Take Heed”: Mexican Americans and the Campaign for Educational Equality in Texas, 1910-1981 (Austin, 1987), chap. 4; Blanton, Strange Career of Bilingual Education, chap. 6; “Justice Urged for Mexicans in U. S. ” Washington Post, May 6, 1942, p. 13 (quotation). ‘ ‘ G. I. Sanchez to Nelson Rockefeller, December 31, 1941, Folder 9, Box 31, Sanchez Papers (quotation); Gutierrez, Walls and Mirrors, 131. 584 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY Vanderbilt University created a “wetback” report alleging that illegal aliens from Mexico threatened Mexican Americans’ economic, social, and political viability. ”^ The “wetback” studies brought out the central tension between Sanchez’s veneration of U. S. citizenship and his position as a leader of an ethnic and still partially immigrant community.
Sanchez was troubled by the presence of Mexican immigrants, even though they differed little from Mexican Americans apart from the almost magical imprimatur of U. S. citizenship. He held that the “wetbacks” fed venomous problems: “1) disorganized, migratory populations; 2) segregated schools, 3) hostilities and tensions; 4) political apathy; 5) economic waste; 6) peonage, and 7) a divided citizentry [sic]. “^^ Sanchez viewed the citizenship issue through the lens of a traditional Mexican American emphasis upon cultural and political assimilation.
In 1951 he argued that illegal immigration harmed these goals: “From a cultural standpoint . . . the influx of a million or more ‘wetbacks’ a year transforms the Spanish-speaking people of the Southwest from an ethnic group which might be assimilated with reasonable facility into what I call a ‘culturally indigestible’ peninsula of Mexico. ‘”*” The distinction between Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants was rooted in recent history and a part of the ideology of the so-called Mexican American Generation. During the depths of the Great Depression the U. S. forcibly epatriated to Mexico approximately five hundred thousand people who the U. S. claimed were illegal residents. Over half of these unfortunate deportees were actually American citizens. In 1942 and 1944 LULAC, the leading Mexican American activist organization, broke with what had been full support of the war effort by publicly opposing the bracero agreements between the U. S. and Mexico due to the activist group’s fear of an “avalanche” of Mexican workers and a “lowering of wage standards almost to a peonage level. ” LULAC also opposed the renewal of the treaty in 1953.
In a 1954 sweep known as “Operation Wetback,” the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) deported over half a million persons who, despite the ideological collaboration of Mexican American “*W. W. Brierley to Theophilus S. Painter, June 19, 1947, Folder 5491, Box 515, General Education Board Papers. The word wetback is an epithet describing illegal aliens from Mexico who traverse the Rio Grande. Though derogatory, all figures of the period regularly used the term, and thus I will as well, though I shall keep this odium in quotation marks. ^ Dick Elam, “Stop Wetback Flow, Texans Warned,” Austin Summer Texan, June 12, 1949, in Sanchez Vertical Files (quotation); “Saturday Banquet to Honor Dr. Sanchez,” Austin Daily Texan, April 21, 1950, ibid. ; Gutierrez, Walls and Mirrors, 145-46, 158-59. “•”Gladwin Hill, “Peons in the West Lowering Culture,” New York Times March 27 1951 p. 31. WHITENESS AND MEXICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS 585 leaders like Sanchez, nonetheless included some U. S. citizens. Mexican Americans’ willingness, pointedly demonstrated by Sanchez, to sacrifice those people lacking citizenship went unrewarded and unacknowledged. * ‘ Though synchronous with Mexican American ideology, stressing American citizenship to such an extent was never free of controversy. Sanchez expected and received criticism from agricultural interests— those alleged to have mercilessly exploited Mexican farmworkers through both illegal immigration and the bracero program. However, Sanchez also received stinging criticism from Mexican Americans, including fellow LULAC members. Many Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants, though they may have supported most of LULAC s goals, were hostile to positions that caused pain to immigrants.
Attorney Alonso S. Perales, one of LULAC’s founders and an early supporter of immigrant restriction during the 1930s, criticized this research as racist and insulting. Nevertheless, the “wetback” report had broad support among Mexican Americans, receiving public support from LULAC as well as the American G. L Forum, a new, highly activist veterans group. The verve with which Sanchez embraced the attacks from within his own community reinforces the degree to which he emphasized linking Mexican Americans with other ethnic groups in the U. S. ore than he focused on helping their immigrant cousins; citizenship trumped race. This was a powerful, ultimately fruitless sacrifice as Jim Crow discrimination against Mexican Americans stubbornly persisted. “*^ Viewed today, such attitudes appear to be insensitive, crassly opportunistic attempts by Mexican Americans who were legal citizens to utilize nativism, the tool of their oppressor, against the most vulnerable of their own community. This charge against LULAC and the G. L Forum continues to appear in recent histories alleging of them a kind of middle-class conservatism connected to whiteness. *^ The class composition of Sanchez’s audience through LULAC and the G. L Forum is a complicated issue. The leaders of the organizations, like Sanchez himself, may have been middle-class professionals, but the rank and file of the Mexican American community and possibly even of those “‘ Gutierrez, Walls and Mirrors, 142 (third quotation), 144 (first and second quotations); Lopez, White By Law, 38. ”^ “Study Attack Draws Retorts,” San Antonio Light, December 9, 1951, in Sanchez Vertical Files; “University Praised By GI Forum Board,” Austin Daily Texan, December 11, 1951, ibid. Gutierrez, Walls and Mirrors, 84-89. “‘Carroll, Felix Longoria’s Wake, 9, 114; Foley, “Partly Colored or Other White,” 132; Foley, White Scourge, 209-11. 586 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY organizations was not. These aspirants to middle-class life may have embraced a middle-class ideology but were overwhelmingly represented in non-professional, blue-collar employment and lived in segregated neighborhoods. ‘*’* Such conflations of the categories of whiteness and class are common in whiteness histories, according to one generally sympathetic critic.
Charges of class warfare or community betrayal against Mexican American leaders call to mind the African American experience. Comparable organizations for African Americans like the NAACP bore similar charges from within the African American community then and from historians since. “*^ The elevation of the ideological rubric of citizenship made sense in the context of postwar liberalism. It fit with African American civil rights. Charles S. Johnson also emphasized U. S. itizenship and in World War II wrote of African Americans and other ethnic Americans as united in the struggle against racism. Also, the citizenship infatuation did not conflict with support for unions, the most powerful components of postwar liberalism. In Texas, for example, corporate business interests dominated the state’s one-party political scene from within the “establishment” wing of the Democratic Party. Over the opposition of the smaller liberal wing of the Texas Democratic Party, these conservative interests enacted tough anti-labor statutes in the late 1940s.
These same defenders of economic royalty also vigorously defended segregation and the unimpeded immigration of farm laborers. Mexican American organizations that were liberal on civil rights found ideologically compatible the claims by the pro-labor left that foreign workers threatened the wage scale; this fed Mexican Americans’ preexisting emphasis upon sharp citizenship distinctions. ‘*’^ That Sanchez so strongly opposed illegal immigration had more to do with the liberal ideology informing the Mexican American civil rights movement than it did with class antagonism.
His denunciations of the “wetback” situation centered upon a belief that people were harshly exploited: “The life of a Wetback who escapes the attention of the Immigration Service is not pleasant He has no rights and no privileges. He must stay off the highways and out of the towns. He must ^ Mario Barrera, Race and Class in the Southwest: A Theory of Racial Inequality (Notre Dame, 1979), chap. 5; Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans, 298-99. •^ Wickberg, “Heterosexual White Male,” 151 ; Tindall, Emergence of the New South, 567-69. “‘ Charles S. Johnson, Patterns of Negro Segregation (New York, 1943), 316; Dunne, “Next Steps,” 16; George Norris Green, The Establishment in Texas Politics: The Primitive Years. 1938-1957 (979; reprint, Norman, Okla. , 1984), 103-11, 139^1; Ricky F. Dobbs, Yellow Dogs and Republicans: Allan Shivers and Texas Two-Party Politics (College Station Tex 2005) 55-58. WHITENESS AND MEXICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS 587 work for whatever is offered under whatever conditions the employer chooses to provide.
The Wetback’s home is a shack or a brush shelter, or a blanket thrown beside a ditch. He owns nothing except that which he carries. ” This was no racialized critique of underclass Mexicans; rather, this passage highlights Sanchez’s New Deal background of emphasizing the plight of powerless victims brutalized by powerful special interests. Sanchez said little about the victimization of immigrant Mexicans here that he did not also say of African Americans, Latin Americans, Native Americans, and Mexican Americans throughout his career.
To Sanchez the fault lay with amoral capitalism—the solution with government action. By reconsidering the ideology informing the Mexican American civil rights movement, Sanchez’s seemingly elitist citizenship stance appears more consistent with his career’s emphasis upon the sacred compact between governments and their citizens. “^’ Disappointed by society’s retreat from Pan-Americanism after World War II, Sanchez eventually adopted a more confrontational approach. Sanchez explained this shift to Edwin Embree as the war was ending.
He was alarmed at the durability of Mexican American school segregation and sketched how his own research agenda had shifted to meet this deepening problem: “While I am convinced that the segregated school as it now exists does not meet with the law, and while I have hopes that in the future its legality will be successfully challenged, the legal approach is a tedious one and one which, in any case, will have to be supported by expert educational evidence, a more enlightened public opinion, and fully documented evidence of various kinds. I have already started the ball rolling to gather data of a legal and of a pedagogical nature. Like African American activists after the war, Mexican Americans began to lose faith that discrimination could be gradually reformed away. A more confrontational effort was In the decade after World War II Sanchez shelved his New Deal gradualism for immediate confrontations of Jim Crow in the courts. By the early 1950s Sanchez coordinated civil rights litigation around the country through the Robert Marshall Civil Liberties Trust of the “‘ Mario Garcia, Mexican Americans, 270; Elam, “Stop Wetback Flow,” (quotation); Gladwin Hill, “Interests Conflict on ‘Wetback’ Cure,” New York Times, March 29, 1951, pp. 9, 30; “Justice Urged for Mexicans in U. S. ,” Washington Post, May 6, 1942, p. 13; George I. Sanchez, “New Mexicans and Acculturation,” New Mexico Quarterly Review, 11 (February 1941), 62. “‘* G. I. Sanchez to Edwin R. Embree, March 12, 1945, Folder 4, Box 127, Rosenwald Fund Archives (quotation); David L. Chappell, Inside Agitators: White Southerners in the Civil Rights Movement (Baltimore, 1994), 49. 588 THE JOURNAL OE SOUTHERN HISTORY American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Roger N.
Baldwin, executive director of the ACLU, oversaw the Marshall Trust, designed for Spanish speakers of the Southwest, and in 1951 appointed Sanchez, through the new organization Sanchez founded—the American Council of Spanish-Speaking People (ACSSP)—to administer block grants for the funding of civil rights lawsuits. Sanchez approved the disbursement of over $50,000 in Marshall funds for Mexican American civil rights efforts between 1951 and 1957. ^^^ Sanchez and Baldwin regarded this effort as an attempt to create for Mexican Americans a national civil rights presence. Mexican American leaders like Sanchez and ivil rights attorneys Ed Idar and Carlos Cadena believed that their community lagged behind African Americans in organization and viewed the ACSSP as emulating the NAACP and what Cadena described as the “ultra-progressive NegroAmericans. “^° Surprisingly, part of this money went to defend the rights of Mexican immigrants at the moment Sanchez was completing the “wetback” phase of his career in 1953 and 1954. These cases involved the deportation of longtime Mexican laborers because of ties to communism. A. L. Wirin, a prominent Los Angeles civil rights attorney and director of the Southem Califomia ACLU, lost Galvan v.
Press (1954) at the United States Supreme Court. Later the same year a separate case, Garcia v. Landon (1954), was something of a victory for Wirin and ACSSP in that the vigorous dissents in Galvan had by Garcia prodded the INS to reconsider deportations when it could be demonstrated that the communist affiliation was merely to secure food and shelter or was otherwise entered into out of ignorance of party beliefs. Sanchez made clear his lukewarm position on using Marshall money for non-citizens: “As to the deportation cases: Frankly, I do not regard them of great consequence to Mexican-Americans.
I think they are worthy as general civil liberties cases, but not in the same class with housing, jury, school, etc. where Mexicans are specifically singled out for discrimination. I’ll agree to sweeten the pot for these cases, but with very little sugar. ” Other Mexican American Generation leaders, par- ” ‘ Roger N. Baldwin to Robert Marshall Civil Liberties Trust, August 16, 1951, Folder 6, Box 31, Sanchez Papers; G. I. Sanchez to Robert Marshall Civil Liberties Trust, October 2, 1952, Folder 5, Box 31, ibid. ; Sanchez to Simon Gross, August 12, 1953, Folder 6, Box 31, ibid. Ed Idar Jr. to Sanchez, September 13, 1954, Folder 7, Box 31, ibid. ^° Pycior, LBJ and Mexican Americans, 95, 96 (quotation); Ricardo Romo, “George I. Sanchez and the Civil Rights Movement: 1940-1960,” La Raza Law Joumal, 1 (1986), 353-55. WHITENESS AND MEXICAN AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS 589 ticularly attorneys, maintained ties to Mexican immigrants as well as to the Mexican government’s consular offices. ^’ Sanchez held to these citizenship distinctions so strongly he risked alienating the granting agencies that supported Mexican American civil rights.
When he met with some hesitation by the GEB regarding a 1949 grant application due to his insistence on sharp citizenship distinctions, Sanchez countered that the need for such distinctions went beyond just Mexican Americans: “Keep in mind also that this year we may have as many as 500,000 illegial [sic] aliens working under virtual peonage in this area and undermining the entire socio-economic structure of a million or two Spanish-speaking people (to say nothing of the effects upon the Negroes and ‘poor whites’). In 1952 the ACLU asked Sanchez if the ACSSP would support a National Farm Labor Union lawsuit against the secretary of labor over the bracero program’s depression of domestic wages. Sanchez argued that the more pressing matter was “trying to stem the tide of illegal Mexican labor into this country,” not “legally contracted workers from Mexico. “^^ In this postwar shift away from the gradualism of transformational pedagogy to the immediacy of civil rights law, Sanchez found himself collaborating with different kinds of activists. He worked a great deal with the ACLU’s A. L. Wirin, who litigated the groundbreaking Westminster v.
Mendez, a 1947 case that fought Mexican American segregation in California. Using a temporary LULAC fund he administered, Sanchez hired Wirin the next year for the Delgado v. Bastrop Independent School District case that attacked separate schools for Mexican Americans in Texas. In 1950 Wirin called upon Sanchez to testify in Arizona’s Gonzalez v. Sheely school segregation case. These suits were partial victories for Mexican Americans as the federal courts declared racial segregation illegal but left substantial loopholes regarding curricular segregation based on language proficiency. ^^ Wirin was ” A.
L. Wirin to James Marshall, September 2, 1954, Folder 19, Box 62, Sanchez Papers; G. I. Sanchez to Wirin, December 11, 1953, Folder 18, Box 62, ibid, (quotation); F. Arturo Rosales, ? Pobre Raza! Violence, Justice, and Mobilization Among Mexico Lindo Immigrants, 1900-1936 (Ausun, 1999), 134-35; Galvan v. Press, 347 U. S. 522 (1954); Garcia v. Landon, 348 U. S. 866(1954). ” G . I . Sanchez to Fred McCuistion, February 16, 1949, Folder 5492, Box 515, General Education Board Papers (first quotation); Sanchez to Simon Gross, April 3, 1952, Folder 6, Box 31, Sanchez Papers (remaining quotations). ” G.
I. Sanchez to A. L. Wirin, June 3, 1950, Folder 15, Box 62, Sanchez Papers; Wirin to Sanchez, November 18, 1950, ibid. ; Westminster School Dist. of Orange County et al. v. Mendez et al, 161 F. 2d 774 (9th Cir. 1947); Delgado v. Bastrop Independent School District, (No. 388 Civil, unreported; W. D. Texas 1948). The Delgado case may also be found in mimeographed 590 THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY an intermediary between Sanchez and Baldwin, traveled to the ACLU’s national offices in New York to lobby Marshall trustees for ACSSP budgets, and conferred with Sanchez on a wide spectrum of court cases.
Sanchez’s shyness about defending immigrant communists was not shared by Wirin and Baldwin, who were unfamiliar with the ideology of the Mexican American Generation. Indeed, Sanchez’s discomfort about communism echoes the discomfort that Walter White, head of the NAACP, felt in the involvement of the communist International Labor Defense with the racially charged Scottsboro, Alabama, and Angelo Hemdon cases in the 1930s. ^’^ This partnership was fruitful. The Marshall Civil Liberties Trust empowered local Mexican American groups to initiate litigation programs. Sanchez’s ACSSP was a shell organization.
It met only once a year, had a changing list of officers representing the organizations to obtain Marshall grants for specific cases, and was directed by Sanchez through his executive secretary, Ed Idar, with additional support from the G. I. Forum. The ACSSP disbursed funds to the Texas-based G. I. Forum, the California-based Community Services Organization (CSO), and the Arizona-based Alianza Hispano-Americana. The partnership with the Alianza resulted in successful cases involving discrimination at a Winslow, Arizona, swimming pool and school segregation in Tolleson, Arizona.
The CSO initiated unsuccessful cases attacking police brutality and press hysteria in Los Angeles. The G. I. Forum partnership resulted in two successful federal cases: the 1957 Hernandez v. Driscoll school segregation case and the highly important 1954 Hernandez v. Texas jury case. In Hernandez v. Texas the U. S. Supreme Court, weeks before the more widely recognized Brown V. Board decision, held that Mexican American exclusion from juries was unconstitutional. Mexican Americans claimed that, by law, they were white, and thus the practice of segregation directed against them was illegal.
This is commonly referred to as Mexican Americans’ “whiteness strategy. ” Many regarded such efforts as highly successful. One of Sanchez’s GEB contacts wrote that Jim Crow for Mexican Americans, as a result of these decisions, would soon be eradicated. It seemed to Sanchez and others in the middle 1950s as if Mexican form in the Sanchez Papers. It went unreported to the legal publishing agencies and is thus difficult to find. For more on this se