Fighting Their Own Battles: Mexican Americans, African Americans, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Texas

By Brian D. Behnken | Go to book overview

1
Advancing the Cause of Democracy

The Origins of Protest in the Long Civil Rights Movement

On a warm Monday night in May 1950, a handful of dynamite easily destroyed Robert and Marie Shelton’s American dream. The bomb ripped through the African American couple’s newly purchased home in South Dallas, demolishing their front porch, knocking the house off its foundation, and leaving behind a large hole in the ground. Robert received cuts and gashes about his face from flying debris, while Marie was uninjured. Roughly one month later, a bundle of dynamite exploded along the side of taxi driver Dennis Huffman’s recently purchased home, also in South Dallas. The unoccupied house received only slight damage, but the next day a massive bomb obliterated Johnnie Staton’s new home. Staton had not yet moved into the house, and no one sustained injuries from the explosion.1

The black citizens of South Dallas suffered more than fifteen racially motivated bombings in 1950 before the attacks ended. Like bombings in Birmingham, Alabama, and other southern cities, the terrorist acts in Dallas stemmed from the migration of blacks out of overcrowded segregated neighborhoods and into areas zoned for white use.2 But in South Dallas, two of the main suspects were Mexican American men who felt threatened by the encroachment of African American families into white neighborhoods. One of these individuals, Pete Garcia, later admitted that he had painted “For Whites Only” signs in the neighborhood, threatened black home buyers with a knife, and chased two African American real estate agents out of the area. Several blacks

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