Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era

Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era

Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era

Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era

Synopsis

This book is about the other Texas, not the state known for its cowboy conservatism, but a mid-twentieth-century hotbed of community organizing, liberal politics, and civil rights activism. Beginning in the 1930s, Max Krochmal tells the story of the decades-long struggle for democracy in Texas, when African American, Mexican American, and white labor and community activists gradually came together to empower the state's marginalized minorities. At the ballot box and in the streets, these diverse activists demanded not only integration but economic justice, labor rights, and real political power for all. Their efforts gave rise to the Democratic Coalition of the 1960s, a militant, multiracial alliance that would take on and eventually overthrow both Jim Crow and Juan Crow.

Using rare archival sources and original oral history interviews, Krochmal reveals the often-overlooked democratic foundations and liberal tradition of one of our nation's most conservative states. Blue Texas remembers the many forgotten activists who, by crossing racial lines and building coalitions, democratized their cities and state to a degree that would have been unimaginable just a decade earlier--and it shows why their story still matters today.

Excerpt

On August 28, 1963, while much of America nervously watched the March on Washington, nearly one thousand demonstrators gathered in the all-black neighborhood of East Austin, Texas, to march toward the state capitol in 102-degree heat. Their two-mile route wound its way down crumbling streets, passed run-down houses and segregated schools, and finally crossed over into the white section of town, with its gleaming, pink granite capitol and lily-white Governor’s Mansion. Veteran activists of all colors from across the state flanked several hundred local black teenagers, while groups of white college students and Mexican American activists joined the procession. Picket signs calling for “Freedom Now” competed with a dizzying array of homemade placards. One linked Texas governor John Connally to the infamous segregationist George Wallace of Alabama. Others carried slogans that connected civil rights to labor: “No more 50¢ per hour,” read one, and “Segregation is a new form of slavery.” Still another praised the president while adding some Spanish flair: “Kennedy , Connally no.” The marchers sang movement songs lambasting the governor, who flatly refused to meet with them despite the fact that, hours earlier, President Kennedy had received a delegation of activists at the White House. Under the Texas sun, the demonstrators approached the capitol but could not stop there as planned. State police had turned on the lawn sprinklers to keep the marchers off the grounds while the governor continued working inside.

The weary protestors instead assembled under the live oak trees at a nearby park, listening and cheering as movement leaders gave speeches before the eager state press corps. The orators called for the passage of federal and state civil rights acts, but they did so in an unusual manner. “They’ll never separate the Latin-American and Negroes again in politics,” thundered W. J. Durham of Dallas, an African American attorney, state leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and president of the allblack Texas Council of Voters. “They’ll never separate the independent white man and the Negro again. They’ll never separate labor and the Negro again. We’re going to march on the street, pray on the streets, sit in the streets, walk on the streets. We’re going to fight at the ballot box and in the courts. I believe that’s the last message I’ve got for my governor.” Henry Muñoz, a printer and union activist from San Antonio, delivered a similar message on behalf of the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations (PASO), the state’s . . .

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