The Quiet Voices: Southern Rabbis and Black Civil Rights, 1880s to 1990s

By Mark K. Bauman; Berkley Kalin | Go to book overview
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Rabbi Sidney Wolf: Harmonizing in Texas

HOLLACE AVA WEINER

The story of Rabbi Sidney Wolf offers numerous variables to the kaleidoscopic picture. Corpus Christi boasted a triracial population and an extensive military presence. Its lone rabbi mingled easily with the Christian community and served, to a large degree, as the representative Jew for half a century. He achieved positive results through ministerial associations, boards, and quiet brokering, taking the concept of brotherhood beyond racial boundaries in a region where racism, discrimination, and segregation were the rule.

Depression-era Corpus Christi was three towns, not one. On the wrong side of the tracks sat Colortown where blacks, then 5 percent of the city's thirty thousand residents, subsisted in dilapidated rental housing.1 There was the barrio--poor-to-modest dwellings throughout the west side--a sector that was home to Hispanics, the 45 percent of the populace who labored in the fields, on the docks, and in the trenches digging ditches.2 The most visible stretches of the city were white, from the sun-bleached beaches hugging the horseshoe bay to the Victorian homes on the bluff overlooking a harbor where oil tankers arrived to gorge their holds with newly discovered crude oil.3

Cut off from the rest of Texas by 150 arid miles that ended at the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi seemed the center of a universe, the largest city in a vast farm and ranching region that reached to the Mexican border. It was a county seat where "colored" signs directed blacks to the balcony at the movie theater and custom steered Hispanics there.4 Although the populace was divided racially, segregation and isolation fostered self-sufficient, tight-knit communities. The League of United

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