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

By Brian D. Behnken | Go to book overview

5
Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Ecumenical Activism in the Lone Star State

In the summer of 1964, Houston minister Wallace B. “Bud” Poteat established the Ecumenical Fellowship (EF) to eradicate social problems and racism in the Bayou City. He hoped to accomplish this goal by taking advantage of local and national antipoverty programs, by encouraging minority communities to vote, and, when necessary, by urging these same communities to protest. The EF soon founded its most ambitious program, the Latin American Channel Project (LAC Project). The new project was all grassroots; Poteat and other EF members worked and lived in Houston’s poorest neighborhoods, particularly in the mixed African American/Mexican American ghetto near the Houston Ship Channel (east end of Houston), an area known simply as the Latin American Channel. Reverend Poteat had simple objectives: to end poverty and secure civil rights for Mexican Americans and African Americans before these groups resorted to violence in response to these problems. “The blight of poverty in our area must be stopped,” he asserted. “Our city, our [part] of town must avoid the violence and stigma of… slums!”1

Poteat’s voice joined an unusual chorus that gained increasing salience after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Indeed, individuals like Bud Poteat appeared at a crucial moment during the civil rights period. As nonviolent protest and political activism gave way to Black Power and Chicano Power, many civic leaders feared the struggle might spin out of control. Moreover, some leaders worried that the radicalism of the

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