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

By Brian D. Behnken | Go to book overview

3
Nothing but Victory Can Stop Us

Direct Action and Political Action in the Early 1960s

In March 1960 black Texans began sit-in protests at segregated lunch counters and other public facilities. Students, ministers, lawyers, young, old, men, and women participated in the demonstrations. They followed the example of four youths from Greensboro, North Carolina, whose sit-ins in February of that year sparked a national movement. The Houston Forward Times, a black weekly, reported that protesters arrived at segregated lunch counters in the Bayou City and “in less than 30 minutes, 1) The white customers departed 2) The waitresses walked away… and a ‘closed counter’ sign was posted 3) Negroes then occupied all 30 of the counter’s seats and the sit-in strikes rampaging across the south for nearly 40 days had arrived in Houston.” 1 Other cities followed suit.

African Americans hoped Mexican Americans would join their cause. After all, many Mexican Americans continued to experience discrimination in schools, in housing, at the ballot box, and, depending on their skin color and local conditions, in public facilities.2 But Felix Tijerina, the national president of LULAC, once again made cooperation impossible. In a patronizing, paternalistic letter published in the Houston Chronicle, Tijerina disparaged the sit-ins and the activists. Though claiming to sympathize with blacks because Mexican Americans had experienced discrimination in the past, Tijerina urged African Americans to show patience, arguing that protests “cause much more harm than good…. The ladder must be climbed one step at a

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