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

SEVEN
Black, Brown, and Poor
Civil Rights and the Making of the Chicano Movement

GORDON MANTLER

Early in the morning of May 15, 1968, Gloria Arellanes boarded a chartered Greyhound bus in South Central Los Angeles, ready to make the nearly three-thousand-mile journey to Washington DC. The nineteen-year-old Arellanes had never visited the nation’s capital. She knew few Chicana or Chicano activists outside of her immediate world in East Los Angeles and El Monte, California. She had heard about but never seen anyone beaten by the police. Nor had she seen white people so poor that their children hardly had shoes. But this all began to change when she and her fellow Brown Berets—a Chicano youth organization from Los Angeles—heard about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for a new multiethnic alliance of poor people. Two months later, her life as an activist in the Chicano movement forever would be transformed.1

Unveiled by King in late 1967, the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) aimed to transform the African American freedom struggle into a larger class-based liberation movement that included not just blacks and whites, but also people of Mexican descent, American Indians, and Puerto Ricans. Together, King declared, they would dramatize the plight of poverty by bringing “waves

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