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

By Brian D. Behnken | Go to book overview

7
Pawns, Puppets, and Scapegoats

School Desegregation in the Late 1960s and Early 1970s

In 1970 the Houston Independent School District (HISD) implemented a new integration plan to comply with the Brown v. Board of Education decision. This plan integrated only African American and Mexican American schools, which Chicanos and blacks viewed as discriminatory. Chicanos protested by boycotting the HISD and forming separate Huelga Schools (strike schools). They hoped that blacks would join their cause. Indeed, a number of black civil rights groups supported the boycott, especially the NAACP. But African American backing of the Huelga Schools proved largely rhetorical. Since Mexican Americans protested the HISD’S decision to integrate blacks and Chicanos, some African Americans worried that Chicanos simply did not want to attend school with blacks. When a few Chicanos uttered racist opinions about black people, the African American community felt betrayed. Unification once again eluded these groups.1

The African American and Mexican American civil rights movements both focused sustained attention on school issues in the 1960s and 1970s. With the advent of new integration strategies and the creation of bilingual education programs, the debate over school desegregation became wide ranging. Texans loved to flaunt their successes in integrating schools, and many found much to praise in the desegregation efforts. According to a variety of sources, Texas had the highest percentage in the nation of black students attending integrated schools. But that number amounted to only 34 percent.2 And while

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