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

By Brian D. Behnken | Go to book overview

6
The Day of Nonviolence Is Past

The Era of Brown Power and Black Power in Texas

In a 1969 speech in San Antonio, activist José Angel Gutiérrez told a group of Chicanos: “We have got to eliminate the gringo, and what I mean by that is if the worst comes to worst we have got to kill him.” Gutiérrez’s words caused considerable controversy in Mexican American leadership circles, although some Chicanos agreed with him. In a similar statement before the Houston City Council in 1970, Ovide Duncantell, of People’s Party II (PP2), the precursor to Houston’s Black Panther Party (BPP), warned that blacks would “exterminate 10 pigs for every black brother [that] is killed.” 1 Like Gutiérrez’s in San Antonio, Duncantell’s threat produced much disquiet within the black leadership of Houston. Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, the popularity of Black Power and Brown or Chicano Power increased in Texas. The radicalism of the era set the stage for some of the most dramatic moments in the broader quest for Mexican American and African American rights.

The civil rights struggles of both groups became more militant at this time. Some blacks, following the example of the Oakland, California-based BPP, established groups committed to self-defense and Black Power.2 Chicanos primarily focused on political campaigns, although these offensives displayed a radicalism that leaders of previous political actions hardly recognized. Chicanos created MAYO and RUP to advance Mexican American rights.3 Not all blacks and Mexican Americans identified with the Black Power or Brown Power advocates, and many disagreed with these ideologies. But adherents to

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