The Struggle in Black and Brown: African American and Mexican American Relations during the Civil Rights Era

By Brian D. Behnken | Go to book overview

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

WILLIAM CLAYSON

As early as 1965, the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), the agency charged with righting President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, employed affirmative action to preempt criticism of racial bias or exclusion. Bill Crook, the head of the OEO’S Southwest Regional Office in Austin, prioritized placing minorities in high-profile positions. Crook hired an African American, Herbert Tyson, as deputy director and a Mexican American, Tom Robles, as regional manager of the Community Action Program (CAP), the OEO’S largest effort. Crook felt that hiring these two men “would fill our top three spots with an Anglo [himself], Negro, and Mexican American … while this wouldn’t be the most popular thing [in Texas], it is something that I would like to do.”1 The OEO also required that each regional office submit a monthly “Minority Gap Report” to the agency’s headquarters in Washington. The report detailed how many members of minority groups worked for each regional office. By November 1968 the Southwest Region employed fifty-six members of minority groups out of a total of 217 employees, including twenty-three African Americans, twenty-eight Mexican Americans, four American Indians, and one “Oriental-American.”2

-125-

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