Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"A Blight and a Sin": Segregation, The Kennedy Assassination And The Wreckage of Whiteness, Part II

In 2006, the University of Texas Press published my first book "White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001." To mark the fifth anniversary of that publication, I am serializing it at this blog site. Here, I discuss what the reaction within the city of Dallas to the Kennedy assassination reveals about the city's class and racial politics.

On September 6, 1961, Dallas implemented a so-called stairstep integration plan involving only a grade at time, thus possibly dragging out full integration until the mid-1970s. On the first school day of the 1961-62 term only 18 black elementary school children — attended by an escort of police and school officials — were enrolled at eight previously all-white campuses in the district. Hostile reaction was muted. Officials found a dummy hanging from a flagpole in front of one desegregated school. A nineteen-year-old self-proclaimed segregationist carried a gasoline-saturated cross to Ben Milam Elementary School, one of the integrated campuses, before being arrested.

Dr. White promised there would be no additional transfers of black students to white schools until possibly the next year. Dallas supposedly desegregated three grades by 1964. There were 9,400 black students at those grade levels, but only 131 were in desegregated classrooms. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 placed greater pressure on the school system, which classified 67 of 171 campuses as desegregated by 1966. This quickening pace only hastened white flight to the suburbs, however. By decade's end, only 57 of 177 campuses were deemed integrated. By the end of the 1969-1970 school year, 113 campuses were still all white.

In spite of the relatively mild reaction, the threat of backlash from congenitally savage whites continued to be the excuse for keeping Jim Crow languishing in its death throes. Nevertheless, alienation of white elites from the working class increased as the 1960s progressed. No clearer evidence existed of the gap between the city's rulers and the ruled than the Dallas reaction to the presidency of John Kennedy. To the Dallas establishment and its voice, the Dallas Morning News, Kennedy represented an ideological nightmare, the personification of federal government policies that redistributed wealth and political influence from the powerful to blacks and the poor. In the 1960 presidential race, Kennedy enjoyed substantial support among lower-income whites. In his race against Vice President Richard Nixon, Kennedy carried 45 percent of the poor white vote in the city during an election that he won with only 49.7 percent of the vote nationally. Kennedy received support from only 23 percent of the Dallas upper class.

As always, elites cast a wary look at the white lower classes for signs of future disorder. Elements of the city's middle and upper classes, however, posed an immediate threat to the public peace. Less than a week before the 1960 presidential elections, a mob assaulted Democratic Vice Presidential nominee (and Texas Senator) Lyndon Johnson and his wife Lady Bird as they left the Adolphus Hotel. The pro-Nixon demonstrators, mostly women followers of Bruce Alger, spat on and shoved Lyndon Johnson and his wife and snatched Lady Bird's gloves and threw them in the gutter as Alger, who had organized the protest, stood nearby with a sign that read "LBJ Sold Out to Yankee Socialists." Embarrassed for the city, one Johnson staffer later unconvincingly blamed the incident on riff-raff from downtown bars and "lower class" restaurants rather than on the well-dressed, upper middle class Junior Leaguers who made up most of the crowd.

Once famous as a clean, efficient, well-run city, the rise of the right wing made Dallas appear more like a capital of crackpots, the insanity spreading from the top down. Dallas got more unwanted attention when a reactionary mob, including former General Edwin Walker (a Dallas resident who had been fired from the army by Kennedy for distributing John Birch Society literature to his troops), spat upon United Nations ambassador Adlai Stevenson after he made an October 26, 1963 speech marking United Nations Day to the Dallas Council on World Affairs. Once again, an angry gathering of middle class, upper middle class and even wealthy men and women rioted, rocking Stevenson’s limousine back and forth before a driver finally raced the ambassador to safety.

When the president fatefully visited Dallas on November 22, 1963, city's class tensions blew apart. On that day a group of wealthy oil men bought an ad in the Dallas Morning News designed like a wanted poster that charged Kennedy with treason, massive crowds gathered for the president and showered him and the First Lady with affection. The streets along the motorcade routes were lined and triple-lined with a quarter of a million people, Jim Bishop reported in his account of the assassination. Kennedy received a "rip-roaring hell-bent-for-election Western-style welcome."

While the "oil men in the mahogany chambers with the deep pile rugs" angrily shut off television coverage of the visit, a wildly enthusiastic throng gave the supposedly too-liberal-for-Dallas president a full-throated welcome. "He [Kennedy] had won the endorsement of the people in spite of their masters," Bishop wrote. Dallas' ruling bloc found it was discredited even before the first angry crack of an assassin’s rifle fire echoed through Dealey Plaza.

To an extent that Memphis would not be held accountable for the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. nor Los Angeles for the killing of Robert F. Kennedy, the world blamed Dallas for JFK's assassination. Instead of the civilization builders portrayed by Holland McCombs and other creators of the Origin Myth, Dallas' leaders now seemed small-minded and the source of a climate that made the president's death possible.

"In the storm of grief and anger that subsequently swept down upon Dallas, the city was widely characterized as the 'hate capital of the nation,' a place so steeped in violence and political extremism that school children would cheer the President's death . . . ," Fortune magazine reporter Richard Austin Smith noted. ". . . [T]he business leadership of the city began to be singled out for censure . . . [Elites were] responsible for the character of Dallas, and if they had done a better job of leading, the city would not have earned its international reputation for violence and hatred and intolerance."

Elites were victims of their own mythology. If Dallas' business rulers were as omnipotent as Holland McCombs had insisted in his portrait of the city's "dydamic" leadership in Fortune 15 years earlier, then they had to bear the bloody responsibility for the actions of a lone, left-leaning nut hiding in a store room of a school book depository. They had willed Kennedy's murder, just as surely as they had earlier summoned into existence the "city with no reason for being."

Hoping to prevent a PR meltdown, traditional elites chased the New Right into a political closet. Alger's followers had been implicated in the pre-assassination assaults on Lyndon Johnson and Adlai Stevenson. This association became a liability after November 22, 1963. Elites united behind Mayor Earle Cabell in his bid to unseat Alger in November 1964. The ultra-conservative Cabell beat Alger by 44,000 votes out of 200,000 ballots cast. Elites insisted that the lesson from the Alger era was that Dallas should not stray from its traditional, old rich, male ruling class. Even liberals like author Warren Leslie, a Neiman-Marcus department store executive, contributed to this propaganda. Leslie, in his post-assassination best seller Dallas Public and Private, blamed the city's right wing climate of the 1950s and 1960s partly on the community's "shifting class mobility" and on politically active women.

"Since problems of insecurity often bring on anger and the desire to lash out, it is not surprising that in emotional matters (and in America, that would certainly include politics) women are often angrier than men," he wrote. In Dallas, status was attached to right wing politics, which provided competitive incentives for "compulsive right wing women" to outdo their neighbors in extremism. "At manifestations [of the right wing] in Dallas over these years, women have been, on the whole, more obviously numerous, more vocal, more absolute and sometimes more physical than men," Leslie wrote. " . . . In earlier days . . . female fury usually manifested itself in the sex war with men. Since the suffragettes, women have been turning it on ideological concepts . . . Such [women's minds] . . . will be politically as organized . . . as it is in other ways . . . [in] black and white." For years, Leslie's armchair Freudianism stood as the standard explanation for Dallas culture and politics.

Probably recalling the female leadership of the Red Scare in Houston, Leslie made women a convenient scapegoat to blame for Dallas' right-wing extremism. The leaders and the bankrollers of the right, such as Alger, Walker, H.L. Hunt and Clint Murchison, were male and had a large male following. Yet, elites claimed that the city's right wing problem resulted from the infusion into county politics of female nouveau riche outsiders not blessed with male calm and rationality. Restoration of traditional conservative male leaders to power would soothe Dallas' troubled waters. Even as traditional racial ideology weakened, elites tried to reinforce the dogma of upper class male supremacy.

The impact of the Kennedy murder on municipal politics held profound implications. The Dallas Citizens Council and its Citizens Charter Association political arm effectively lost control of city hall by the early 1970s, the death knell coming in 1975 when a federal court ruled that the city's at-large system of electing council members was unconstitutional. This transformation was quiet. But even as white Dallasites congratulated themselves on the city's relative lack of racial disorder, they continued to cast worried looks over their shoulders at their black and brown neighbors. Even as they lost monopoly control on municipal politics, elites watched with horror the racially charged urban riots in cities like Los Angeles in 1965 and Detroit in 1967.

Dallas elites always believed deeply in the city's exceptionalism, but after Kennedy's death this cherished delusion faded. In Race Relations and the Intergroup Climate in Dallas, Texas, a 1967 report compiled by the bureaucratically-named North Texas Chapter of the National Association of Intergroup Relations Officials, the organization's chairman Robert F. Greenwald noted, "It has been said that Dallas enjoys a healthy climate of racial and ethnic relations. There has been little 'trouble.' Organized protest is rare. Visible signs of unrest are seldom in evidence."

In spite of the apparent tranquility, Greenwald felt, at best, a shaky confidence about the city's long-term prognosis. After noting that racial peace and racial justice are not synonymous, Greenwald nervously observed that, "The Reader's Digest in October, 1964 published an article on 'How Los Angeles Eases Racial Tensions.' It was the story of a city convinced of its own interracial well-being. Los Angeles by then had developed what was thought to be one of the more sophisticated human relations programs in the nation. Then, the following summer — WATTS."

Dallas elites could well be nervous as they looked at other cities still dazzled seven decades later by Henry Grady's late nineteenth century vision of a New South. Dallas had shared much with Atlanta, with both cities by the late twentieth century enjoying prominence as banking centers and headquarters for international businesses.

Three major players in Dallas' racial history — anti-lynching crusader Jessie Daniel Ames, Ku Klux Klan leader Hiram Evans and African American minister Maynard Jackson (whose namesake son would become Atlanta's first black mayor in the 1970s) — played a key role in Atlanta's black-white relations. Both cities, marked by Civil War-era fires, had obliterated most physical reminders of their antebellum pasts, and in their boosterism sought to emphasize differences between their communities and the rest of the South. Atlanta and Dallas both had significant Jewish populations whose leadership tenuously claimed acceptance as white.

The two cities each had fractured white elites and a political system that for much of the twentieth century blocked African American access to state and national elections but allowed the black community to exercise influence on municipal politics. In both cities, black leaders for most of the twentieth century urged patience, practiced realpolitik and negotiated incremental reforms as the best means to political emancipation.

Both civic leaderships had buried their histories of violence and resistance so that Dallas' 1860 fire, Atlanta's 1906 race riot and the 1915 Leo Frank lynching seemed grotesque aberrations. Both cities, while achieving only painfully slow school desegregation and token black political representation by the mid-1960s, bragged that because of their moderate white and black leadership they had escaped the chaos and violence consuming Birmingham, New Orleans, Little Rock and other Southern cities after World War II.

By the mid-1960s much of Atlanta's carefully woven image had frayed. Mayor William Hartsfield oversaw the quick and minimal desegregation of Atlanta schools (with Atlanta officials looking to Dallas as a role model). Martin Luther King, Jr.'s presence guaranteed that the desegregation of downtown Atlanta would be accomplished non-violently. Hartsfield and his moderate allies could not completely contain the rage inspired when some whites feared a loss of status or the anger of blacks when minimal reform produced minimal results.

In October 1958 a reform temple was bombed in Atlanta, as was an African American elementary school in 1960. Atlanta's image as a city too busy to hate completely deflated by the time of a police shooting enflamed a 1966 revolt in a poor African American neighborhood whose wealth had been drained by white flight. Though the Atlanta uprising proved extremely mild compared to the earlier uprising in Watts, Dallas elites must have been alarmed at the unraveling spectacle in such a similar social setting.

The increasing assertiveness of the black political leadership in Dallas intensified such white angst. Newer civil rights groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), impatient with the few tangible benefits earned through conservative reform, pushed aside traditional leaders like A. Maceo Smith, who were now viewed as collaborators with white racism.

SNCC sought to solve African American problems by buying out white businesses catering primarily to black customers. SNCC aimed its sights at OK supermarkets, but when the grocery chain refused to sell, members supposedly retaliated with a "bottle-smashing raid" at one store. A jury convicted two members of SNCC of destroying property and gave them the draconian sentence of 10 years. The Dallas police and district attorney targeted SNCC, with various members arrested for felonies, including one member framed on an armed robbery charge. Under such pressure, so-called radical organizations such as SNCC proved short-lived.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"A Blight and a Sin": Segregation, The Kennedy Assassination And The Wreckage of Whiteness, Part I

In 2006, the University of Texas Press published "White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001." In honor of the fifth anniversary of that publication, I am serializing 'White Metropolis" at this blog site. Here, I discuss the unusual career of Dallas Congressman Bruce Alger and the fitful moves Dallas took towards desegregation in the early 1960s.

By 1960, Dallas blacks and whites lived on the same planet, but in different worlds. The black civil rights leadership looked to tomorrow, believing that "The South Is Changed And Can Never Turn Back," as a March 14, 1959 banner headline in the Dallas Express proclaimed. If Dallas blacks looked forward to a more equitable future, elites mourned a past they believed had blossomed under the unchallenged rule of wealthy Southern whites.

Even as waves of non-Southern immigrants altered the region's politics and culture, Dallas’ leadership continued to cloak the city in Confederate gray. A list of Dallas elementary schools in the mid-twentieth century read like a rebel army muster roll. Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, generals Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and John B. Hood, Confederate Postmaster and local politico John H. Reagan, General (and later Dallas Mayor) William Cabell and local banker and Confederate officer William Henry Gaston all had campuses named in their honor. Thomas Jefferson High School, named after the slaveholding president, called its teams the Rebels and adopted the Confederate battle flag as its symbol.

Southerness marked the local architecture as never before. One might have expected North Central Texas voices to drip honey, but by the 1960s Dallas increasingly spoke with a different accent. The post-World War II flood of immigrants to Texas from outside Dixie began as a trickle. In 1950, a little less than 11.3 percent of Texas residents had been born outside the South. By 1960, that number increased to almost 11.7 percent.

This slow prelude to a demographic revolution dramatically accelerated in the last third of the twentieth century. The number of native-born Texans living in the state dropped from 71 percent in 1970, to 65 percent in 1994. Unlike the past, when most newcomers to Texas came from the South, most of the immigrants in the later third of the twentieth century previously lived in the Midwest. A human tidal wave altered not just the Texas landscape, but also the entire region.

"[T]he South has been Americanized," historian John Boles noted of the post-war immigration boom that turned Dixie into part of the so-called Sunbelt, a neo-region that stretched amoebae-like from the Carolina coast westward to California. The rise of the Sunbelt signified the increasing political and economic power of the South and West and the precipitous decline of a unionized North. Dallas became a port of entry for Rustbelt refugees who brought a more industrial, more high-tech economy and created a less provincial culture.

"In 1861 everyone considered Texas a part of the South; a century later its regional identification was debatable . . .," Boles noted. In the post-war years, Texans began electing Republicans to the governor’s office and the Senate, legalized liquor-by-the-drink and repealed the state’s blue laws, which outlawed sale of certain retail items on Sunday. These changes marked the crumbling of traditional Southern elite hegemony. "We’re becoming more of national state than a Southern state," one Texan observed upon the blue laws’ demise.

Dallas' elites had mythologized the Southern past beyond recognition. They no longer remembered the 1860 fire, the intra-white conflict during Reconstruction, or the conflicts between capitalists and Populists, Socialists and unionists at the turn of the century. The political turmoil wracking Dallas in the 1960s and 1970s seemed a new thing, shaking elite confidence. This chapter argues that Dallas elites in the 1960s and 1970s were paralyzed by their view of the past and unable, for two decades, to fully accommodate new political realities.

Elites feared mounting an Alamo-like defense of Jim Crow, worrying that this would dry up the flow of Yankee investment dollars fueling Dallas' economic expansion. Yet they also dreaded a rebellion of lower-class whites should they appear to accommodate the federal government's integrationist demands. Divided, elites passively allowed Dallas desegregation, opening city hall, the county courthouse and the local congressional delegation to people of color. Elites, however, retained control by default as blacks and Mexican Americans battled with increasing ferocity.

Old and new racial ideologies existed side-by-side. Some elites still believed that the line between black and white represented the division between the civilized and uncivilized. One Dallas Morning News editorial warned of the dire consequences that the civil rights movement posed for Dallas. "When one million Negroes in Harlem, Chicago and Philadelphia can have more influence in elections — and in Washington's crucial decisions — than all the states from Texas to the Carolinas, then the South has a tremendous danger to face," the editorial cautioned.

When blacks assumed power, the newspaper insisted, civilization fell to jungle rule. Civil war and ethnic cleansing in newly decolonized Africa became a recurring motif of the Dallas Morning News' overseas coverage. Jungle stereotypes of blacks with large lips and bones through their noses abounded in advertising and editorial cartoons. One Bill McClanahan cartoon, "Somebody's Going To Get It," depicted factions in the Congo civil war of the early 1960s as cannibals sharpening knives over boiling pots as they hungrily eyed each other.

"It is quite true that the people of the Congo are primitive children of the jungle and that many of them are the children or grandchildren of practicing cannibals," wrote columnist Lynn Landrum in 1961. "That has a bearing, of course, on whether we ought to insist that they adopt our form of representative government and conduct their affairs of state as we do at Austin or at Washington." As such, neither Landrum nor his paper could endorse any political party that embraced black political rights. This estranged Dallas elites from a Democratic Party that since the 1930s, they charged, provided "the impetus for racial equality, integration and social mixing . . ."

Regardless of the Morning News' hostility towards civil rights, however, some Dallas whites saw America as locked in a bitter ideological war with the Soviet Union for hearts and minds in Africa and Asia. Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and other liberal Democratic Presidents in the mid-twentieth century worried about the impact of Southern racism on America's image during the Cold War. Many Americans suspected the stability of newly independent states in Africa and Asia and felt that they had to convince the gullible, easily manipulated people of the developing world that the United States offered the best model for new nations.

With the Soviet Union presenting itself as not just anti-imperialist but anti-racist, according to historian Joel Williamson, the United States found itself in a difficult position. "The United States, offering itself as both the modern exemplar and the champion of democracy, was faced with the problem of wooing the non-white people of the Third World into the anti-Communist camp while racism ran riot at home," Williamson wrote.

Many Southerners shared this fear that the cumulative injustices of American society might provide ammunition for a communist enemy spreading subversive doctrines at home and in the decolonized world. Douglas McKibben, who lived in an apartment in a lower middle class white Dallas neighborhood with a median income of $4,574, felt a combination of moral outrage and Cold War fear over the city's racial politics. "As a grammar and high school student in a segregated community in West Texas, I never questioned whether or not Negroes had any rights. Likely I thought of them not at all," he admitted in a 1959 letter to the Dallas Morning News. "As a college student in a large integrated community, I never questioned the rights of Negroes, Orientals and others to attend the same school . . . The actions of the Arkansas and Virginia Governors [to block school integration] are indefensible. [Soviet leader] Nikita [Khrushchev] himself could not have caused greater racial discord and disrespect for our country."

Mrs. J. Roland Smith, the wife of a draftsman living in an upper middle class white neighborhood with a median income of $8,348, echoed McKibben's worries. Smith could not stomach the violent hostility to black student James Meredith's enrollment at the University of Mississippi. "The shooting into the Meredith home in Mississippi was a disgrace to America," she said. " . . . When an American can't go to the college he chooses, he might wonder what we are fighting for."

In May 1958, more than 300 white Dallas-area ministers joined 115 black ministers in issuing a statement condemning segregation as "a blight and sin." "We are requesting only simple justice . . ." the joint statement read. "We ask for nothing that a recognition of the dignity of man does not prescribe." Unlike Anglo Dallasites of an earlier generation,

Robert P. Douglass, pastor of the Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in Dallas, saw neither racism nor racial separation as part of the natural order. In a February 1961 sermon, Douglass declared, "The Christian gospel gave people the idea that no man is second class in the sight of God. . . . We adults, both white and Negro, are too deeply ingrained with Jim Crow. But we must let the change come, particularly in the schools. Young people who do not come into the world with our prejudices have a chance to solve these problems if we adults don't force our prejudices upon them."

Texas experienced no campaign of "massive resistance," with explosive riots accompanying school integration as happened in nearby New Orleans or in the neighboring state of Arkansas. Growing Northern immigration to the state, increasing sophistication in the Texas economy, and stronger ties between cities like Dallas and Houston to the national and global economies all diluted loyalty to de jure segregation as a Southern way of life. As Houston historian William Henry Kellar points out, many school districts in North and West Texas that had a small number of black students implemented Brown almost immediately. El Paso approved a desegregation plan by a 6-1 majority within months of the 1954 Supreme Court decision even as San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Eagle Mountain quickly announced plans to implement Brown.

Texas school districts with the largest number of African American students, such as Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Galveston, dragged their feet in complying with the court, but such battles were usually coolly legalistic, not marked by the glandular outbursts accompanying desegregation in the Deep South. Fewer Texas whites defended Jim Crow as passionately as their peers in Mississippi, but few openly embraced desegregation either. Doing so, many Texas liberals worried, would invite harassment, accusations of communism or worse. "Most Southern whites who opposed racial discrimination remained fearfully silent," William Kellar writes. Too many churches and universities failed to offer moral leadership on the civil rights issue, Kellar argues, and this dampened public acceptance of desegregation.

The most courageous white support for desegregation in Texas often came from younger voters, with the Dallas County Young Democrats testing the limits of white supremacy. State Attorney General John Ben Shepperd tried to abolish the Texas chapter of the NAACP by arguing that the group met the legal definition of "doing business" in Texas and therefore had to remit previously unpaid franchise taxes as well as make its membership list public. Such a move would have exposed supporters to harassment and potential violence. The state and the NAACP settled out of court, with Texas agreeing not to challenge the organization's non-profit status and the NAACP agreeing to pay the state franchise tax.

The NAACP's decision to settle prompted resentment among black supporters across the state. NAACP membership declined from 16,866 in 1956 to 7,785 at the end of 1957. In this hyper-charged atmosphere, Doyle King, president of the Dallas County Young Democratic Club, proclaimed in 1956 his opposition to the state's harassment of the NAACP. King's remarks outraged Lynn Landrum of the Morning News who predicted a backlash against the Democratic Party in Dallas County during Dwight Eisenhower's re-election campaign for the presidency.

Racial liberals gained strength in the Democratic Party as segregationists bolted for the city's growing Republican movement. In 1954, Dallas County allocated its only Congressional seat to right-wing Republican Bruce Alger, who proved that the GOP could learn from Southern Democrats how to play racial politics. Alger ran his debut congressional campaign as a political outsider, opposing the establishment-backed Wallace Savage, a former mayor. Alger shocked the city, carrying nearly 53 percent of the vote to become the first-ever Republican congressman from Dallas County and the only Republican member of the Texas delegation to the House of Representatives.

Savage alienated several key constituencies, fighting off a challenge from liberal Leslie Hacker in the Democratic party primary by venomously assailing New Deal and pro-Truman Fair Deal Democrats and the NAACP. Roy Evans, president of the United Auto Workers local in Dallas, supported Alger because working for a two-party system was preferable to liberals to being "co-opted constantly by the ruling conservative Democrats." The Republican carried a majority in black precincts, where voters were alienated by Savage's attacks on the Civil Rights Movement.

To whatever degree race was in the background in his first campaign, in later years Alger fought as ardently as any Dixiecrat to defend Jim Crow. Alger's challenger during his first re-election campaign in 1956, Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade, stooped to invoking the Civil War to attack the first-term Republican. "Republicans are running on a platform of peace," Wade said in a September debate. "They forget they were born of the most devastating war in our history — the Civil War." Wade attacked Alger for being insufficiently committed to segregation. "He (Alger) said anyone who thought the Supreme Court segregation ruling was unconstitutional was 'whistling Dixie,'" Wade continued. "Dixie is a grand old tune — a tune both my grandfathers marched to in war. And you'll find Henry Wade 'whistling Dixie' whenever the Supreme Court or anyone else in Washington tried to take away State's rights or local self government."

Wade’s attacks forced Alger to establish his segregationist credentials. Alger told an audience of Young Republicans at the Baker Hotel in Dallas that he had been informed by "responsible Negro leaders" that they aspired to “equality of education rather than enforced association” in spite of the pretensions of the NAACP. Wade represented the most serious challenge to Alger's tenure until his ultimate defeat in 1964, but the Republican still prevailed.

Stung by Wade’s attacks, Alger pursued increasingly white supremacist themes. Alger, however, represented a subtle but significant shift in the national dialogue on race. His Southern peers in the Congress, such as Democratic Representative John Bell Williams of Mississippi, unequivocally declared in a July 5, 1956 speech on the House floor that "[m]entally, the Negro is inferior to the white . . . the arrest and even deterioration in mental development is no doubt very largely due to the fact that after puberty sexual matters take first place in the Negroes’ life and thoughts."

Mindful of his more sophisticated urban audience, Alger refashioned such racist rhetoric with great nuance. He marshaled FBI crime statistics, for instance, to imply that there was a black propensity to commit crimes against whites. But rather than dwell on the mythological black propensity for violence and rape, Alger disguised his racist appeals as opposition to a tyrannical federal government's growing power.

Alger avoided directly proclaiming black inferiority, scrupulously emphasizing that he was against forced integration, implying that he would support desegregation of the voluntary sort. " . . . I will observe that I do not believe the Negroes want to go to white schools," he scribbled in notes for a 1950s speech titled Segregation. " . . . [U]nder no circumstances should any child be compelled to be taught by a teacher of the opposite race, against his will. Nor should [there be forced] integration of [the] diseased with the healthy, nor morons with normals, nor criminals with [the] virtuous, nor filthy with clean children ever be permitted under any circumstances."

Alger cloaked his defense of segregation as a defense of black rights, at the same time sending a less explicit pitch than John Bell Williams to racists by implying "Negroes" belonged to the same category of social defectives as morons, criminals, the diseased and the filthy. Disguising racism as a dispassionate plea for less government, Alger presaged much of the "Southern Strategy" approach taken by the GOP beginning in the late 1960s, long after Alger’s departure from Congress.

Alger's approach caused even the diehard Dixiecrats at the Morning News to reassess their attitude towards the GOP. In January 1960, Alger won praise from the Morning News for being the only congressman to "get on his feet and salute Robert E. Lee on his birthday." After noting that Alger had fought for "state's rights," the Morning News pointedly asked, "Where were the Democrats — so-called party of the South? Courting the support of Eleanor Roosevelt and the NAACP?" A Morning News editorial in the 1950s almost gasped at the transformation of the two major parties. "[I]t once would have been a phenomenon for a Republican to stand for state's rights or segregation of the races, but it is no longer so. In recent years the Republican party [has done] more to defend state's rights than the Democratic party."

Alger polarized white Dallas in the early 1960s. In 1962, violence erupted at the University of Mississippi when James Meredith, an African American, attempted to register. Alger backed the state of Mississippi's at-times violent resistance to integration and opposed using the National Guard to integrate the university, earning him support in a December 1962 letter from Jimmy G. Robinson of the blue-collar suburb of Garland, just north of Dallas. "Congressman Alger, for the first time in my life on November 6, I went to the polls and voted for a Republican only one and that was you," Robinson wrote. " . . . Prior to the Oct. invasion of Mississippi I took democrats for granted that they were for the south and its southern people. Mr. Alger then I studied the beliefs of my former party & decided that in order for me to vote for the right people I would have to vote Republican just once anyhow."

Robinson, a merchant, would be arrested and fined in 1963 for burning a cross on the lawn of a Jewish refugee from Germany who had been giving lectures at Dallas civic clubs about the similarities between the German Nazi Party and far-right wing groups in America. Robinson's reaction to Alger's segregationist posturing was by no means universal. Segregation deeply offended many new Dallas immigrants. "I have only recently moved into Dallas," Carol Marie Hurd wrote in a September 27, 1962 letter to Alger. "However, I would like you to know that I am deeply disturbed and concerned about the welfare of James Meredith and of all the American negroes . . . It is difficult for me to realize this great scene can yet be carried on in our great country of opportunity and equality."

As these letters suggest, Dallas slouched towards desegregation because no clique was powerful enough to lead the city in a more decisive, dramatic direction. Neither massive resistance nor a true redistribution of economic and racial power was a realistic option. The Dallas Citizens Council, meanwhile, tried to contain the demands of the civil rights movement by working through a Committee of 14, made of seven whites and seven blacks. The black members of the committee were drawn from an older generation of African American leaders, such as A. Maceo Smith and W.J. Durham, who had long negotiated for incremental change.

At the urging of the relatively conservative committee, several stores such as Woolworth's and Walgreen's agreed in the spring of 1960 to integrate their lunch counters. The days were past, however, when Dallas elites could choose which black leaders they would negotiate with, and sit-ins led by blacks outside the traditional power circle broke out all over the city, beginning in October 1960. The protests deepened a generational divide in black Dallas. Rev. E.C. Estell, whose Dallas Community Committee supported the work of the Committee of 14, blasted the sit-ins in a November 1960 speech, decrying the picketers as ignorant. The African American political world was a badly divided as its white counterpart.

Regardless, in the spring of 1960 a group of 58 white and two black SMU theology students sat in at the University Drug Store across the street from the campus. When they refused to leave the lunch counter, owner C.R. Bright hired a fumigation service that pumped insecticide inside the store. Most of the students remained seated, covering their faces with handkerchiefs. The day after the SMU students were gassed, W.J. Durham publicly admitted that negotiations carried on by the Committee of 14 had broken down.

Protestors targeted the downtown Titche-Goettinger Department store and 200 angry students returned to the University Drug Store for a five-hour protest. By May 1961, the spiral of demonstrations threatened Dallas' national image. The general manager of Detroit's Metropolitan Opera Company announced that it would no longer play to segregated audiences, specifically mentioning Dallas and Atlanta as cities notified of the new policy. Facing the threat of business boycotts, the Committee of 14 engineered limited desegregation in downtown Dallas. On July 26, 1961, the Committee of 14 took 159 black patrons to 49 downtown restaurants and lunch counters where they were served without incident.

Even as they backtracked from rigid segregation, elites feared the rise of an order-shattering white mob — those racially marginal whites who lynched, whipped and shot when they faced social demotion. By the late 1950s, Dallas School Superintendent W.T. White prepared for the trouble he expected would follow school desegregation. In May 1957, the board released the results of a questionnaire distributed to Dallas school faculty. Even faculty members more or less favorable to at least gradual integration (about 43 percent of the total) feared "that the troublemakers among students would be those who are already troublemakers or who would be troublemakers in any situation, and they would probably come from the 'underprivileged' of both races."

In November 1960, the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Dallas Independent School District to implement desegregation the following school year. Elites immediately worked to stop any potential rioting and civil disturbance, such as had wracked Little Rock and New Orleans when school desegregation was ordered there.

Key to this effort was a film, Dallas at the Crossroads, produced by public relations expert and Temple Emanu-El member Sam Bloom. The film, shown at dozens of work sites, before civic organizations, and on one Dallas television station, argued that violent reaction to school desegregation would psychologically harm children and convince the world that the city was an unsafe place to do business.

During the 20-minute film, Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry, in full dress uniform, warned that, "The police will devote their energy to controlling those few who do not have the judgment or character to obey the law." Curry ominously added, "We know who those few are." Dallas police, meanwhile, prepared for a riot. Emergency station wagons loaded with riot-control equipment waited at strategic points throughout the city. The much-anticipated disorder, however, never came.

On September 6, 1961, Dallas implemented a so-called stairstep integration plan involving only a grade at time, thus possibly dragging out full integration until the mid-1970s. On the first school day of the 1961-62 term only 18 black elementary school children — attended by an escort of police and school officials — were enrolled at eight previously all-white campuses in the district. Hostile reaction was muted. Officials found a dummy hanging from a flagpole in front of one desegregated school. A nineteen-year-old self-proclaimed segregationist carried a gasoline-saturated cross to Ben Milam Elementary School, one of the integrated campuses, before being arrested.

Dr. White promised there would be no additional transfers of black students to white schools until possibly the next year. Dallas supposedly desegregated three grades by 1964. There were 9,400 black students at those grade levels, but only 131 were in desegregated classrooms. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 placed greater pressure on the school system, which classified 67 of 171 campuses as desegregated by 1966. This quickening pace only hastened white flight to the suburbs, however. By decade's end, only 57 of 177 campuses were deemed integrated. By the end of the 1969-1970 school year, 113 campuses were still all white.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Monday, July 18, 2011

White Like Me: Mexican Americans, Jews, and the Elusive Politics of Whiteness, Part III

In 2006, the University of Texas Press published 'White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001." To mark the fifth anniversary of that publication, I am serializing "White Metropolis" at this blog site. Here, I describe the complicated relationship between Jews and African Americans in Dallas in the mid-20th century.

If relations in Dallas between blacks and Mexican Americans in the mid-20th century were at times hostile, divisions between blacks and two other marginalized groups, Jews and Anglo Catholics were distant, but friendlier. Catholics and Jews found themselves attacked by the same public figures that ranked among the city's most vocal negrophobes. Many Protestants suspected the whiteness of Catholics because of the high number of Mexican Americans and other non-whites in the church, the church's highly visible provision of private education to blacks and the foreignness of its Vatican leadership. Like Jews, Catholics represented an ethnically and linguistically varied religion on the verge of racialization by the Protestant majority.

Federal defense spending in Southern metropolitan areas during World War II and continuing through four decades of Cold War brought a migration of high-skilled workers of unprecedented ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious diversity. Fundamentalist Protestants, fearing a loss of cultural hegemony in the region, expressed this anxiety by striking at a familiar target, the Catholic Church. Catholics represented one of the fastest growing demographic groups in Texas at mid-century, numbering from just over 600,000 in 1930 to more than 1.3 million in 1960.

By the time John Kennedy was inaugurated as the first Roman Catholic president of the United States in 1961, the Catholic Church represented the largest denomination in the state. One of the most vociferous spokesmen for Dallas anti-Catholicism in the 1950s and 1960s was the Rev. W.A. Criswell, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, which in the later half of the twentieth century became the largest Southern Baptist congregation in the world. Eventually receiving considerable financial backing from oil billionaire H.L. Hunt, Criswell became one of the pulpit's most visible defenders of segregation. Addressing the Baptist Conference on Evangelism in Columbia, South Carolina, Criswell demanded not just a separation of the races, but of religions as well. Invoking images of filth and dirt frequently used in depictions of African Americans and Mexican Americans, Criswell called integration the work of "outsiders" (by implication Jews) in "their dirty shirts" who, if they weren't stopped, would "get in your family." Christians, he said, must resist this religious miscegenation and urged denominations to "stick to their own kind."

At the same time, Criswell attacked the "spurious doctrine" of the "universal Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man." Criswell was by no means a lonely extremist among Southern fundamentalists. In 1959, one group of Atlanta evangelicals described integration as "Satanic, unconstitutional, and one of the main objectives of the Communist Party." Yet Criswell's vitriol still stood out in an age of widespread demagoguery garnering national headlines.

Criswell's attacks undoubtedly stemmed in part from the Catholic Church's general support of the civil rights movement. Many Catholic liberals openly supported the NAACP and criticized the prevailing racial order. "Why cannot Dallas, progressive in every other way, be a leader during this critical time?" Sister Mary Ignatius asked in a letter from the suburb of Irving to the Dallas Morning News. "If, without putting up any signs, we simply served graciously every customer who came to a lunch counter — just as we sell merchandise to anyone who patronizes a store — there would be no need for demonstrations. Perhaps then we could read portions of the Declaration and Constitution without blushing, stammering and rationalizing." NAACP activist Craft recalled that some of the first whites in Dallas to support the NAACP were leaders of the Catholic Church. "[M]ost of them had served all over the world," she said. " . . . [They] had been to Rome and different places, and they didn't have the racial prejudice."

Liberal Jews also backed the NAACP. About 9,000 Jews lived in Dallas in 1939-1940, about 3 percent of the city's total population. By the early 1950s, the Jewish population had increased by about half. Before World War II, the Jewish community inclined strongly towards assimilation, aiding their attainment of whiteness. After the war, notes historian Marilynn Wood Hill, "a large migration of Jews from eastern and midwestern metropolitan centers came to Dallas [who] . . . were more traditional in religion, more conscious of their Jewishness, and more desirous of Jewish grouping and ingathering." International events also reinforced a need for a more distinct Jewish identity. "The atrocities of Hitler . . . and the establishment of the state of Israel [in 1948], all helped draw the Jews closer together in a common bond," Hill wrote. The formation of a more distinct group identity confirmed for anti-Semites the stereotype of Jews as clannish and emotionally disconnected from the larger community and, therefore, disloyal.

Because of their higher economic standing than most Latinos, Jews did not see blacks as job competitors or rivals for the spoils of desegregation. Consequently, Jews often supported the civil rights movement in Dallas and condemned economic injustice. However, like Mexican Americans, Jews never completely escaped the pressures of whiteness. Rather than a warm alliance, Dallas blacks and Jews often maintained a chilly distance. Demographic changes in North Central Texas after World War II profoundly shaped Dallas anti-Semitism, the position of Jews in the city's racial hierarchy and the relationship of Jews to African Americans.

The defense industry employed 55,000 people in the city during the war years as Dallas became a major manufacturing center for B-24 bombers and P-51 Mustangs and the new home of firms like North American Aviation (relocating from Inglewood, California in 1940). Detroit-based General Motors constructed a $35 million assembly plant in Arlington, 19 miles west of Dallas, in 1953. Once tied to cotton, then to Texas oil, Dallas became a national center for the electronics industry. Each of these corporate moves brought in their wake highly-trained, technically skilled workers with no cultural or political ties to the Confederacy, Jim Crow or Dixiecrat politics. Ironically, demographic changes weakened the city's commitment to Jim Crow at the same time it fostered the growth of the far right wing.

The Dallas Citizens Council was not designed to absorb the more socially ambitious of the city's recently affluent newcomers. Right-wing men chafed at rule by old patriarchs with long roots in the city, and feared they would be pushed aside by aggressive minorities. The newly-rich and the ambitious middle class joined in their suspicions of the DCC clique and its collaboration with an increasingly "socialist" government in Washington, D.C.

The emerging Dallas New Right saw the United States Supreme Court as locked in a conspiracy with the NAACP and the Communist Party, "all dedicated to the overthrow of 'normal' race relations." The social changes represented by the Civil Rights Movement, as critic Theodore White wrote, most threatened the South's "little rich" — the "prosperous car dealers, the contractors, the bottling concessionaires, the little oil men, the real estate men" — who made up a significant part of Dallas' increasingly complex society.

Dallas held no monopoly on right-wing panic in Texas. For a time in the 1950s, obsession with alleged communist conspiracies competed with the Negrophobia generated by the Supreme Court's Brown v. the Board of Education decision in 1954 as the central issue in Texas politics. Many white Texans saw the rise of the post-World War II Civil Rights movement and communist subversion as intimately linked. This anxiety emanated not just from the right-wing fringe, but from the state's mainstream press, such as the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Post and the Houston Chronicle as well as political leaders from 1950s Governor Allan Shivers down.

Local school boards fanned much of the Red Scare. Houston, like Dallas, experienced tumultuous, explosive growth as a result of World War II and Cold War defense spending and had attracted a new, diverse population from all over the country and even the world. Houston's population exploded from 300,000 in 1930 to 726,000 in 1950, more than doubling in two decades. The strain on infrastructure and the cultural upheaval generated by so many newcomers settling in what was once an overgrown provincial town generated what Theodore White described as the "Anguish of Modernization."

These concerns found voice in one writer to the Houston Post who bitterly complained of the city's new "metropolitan café society who condone immorality, drunkenness, plural marriage, divorce and worse among themselves." The letter writer, fretful that he and his fundamentalist Protestant ilk had lost control of the emerging metropolis, believed these social changes had to be a result of a communist conspiracy. This message resonated, particularly among Houston's "white, upper-middle class Republicans and conservative Democrats who attracted allies among the city's previously politically inactive professional and white collar workers," who made up the bulk of the city's Red Scare extremists, according to historian Don Carleton.

Flocking to hard-right organizations like the Minute Women, such anti-communist zealots opposing "integration, New Deal Reforms, and progressive education" took over the Houston school district. Once there, they forced the resignation of George W. Ebey, the deputy superintendent, because while in California and Oregon he had openly backed the New Deal and expressed support for black civil rights. School officials fired one math teacher in Houston because he mentioned in a teacher's longue that he backed liberal Democratic Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson.

The school board yanked books out of the school library if they had something nice to say about the United Nations and delayed the teaching of world history and geography until tenth grade for fear of even mentioning Karl Marx, the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union to younger children. Such actions took place all over the state, including Dallas, where the city's Museum of Fine Arts and the public library were forced to ban exhibits of left-leaning artists such as Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera.

Many of the affluent in Dallas perceived a federal government profoundly transformed by the Great Depression and World War II and a city dramatically changed by immigration. They did not like what they saw. As historian George Norris Green observed, "[I]n Dallas, the Conservative Establishment itself came under fire from the right and failed to truly meet the challenge." The DCC, always hunting for federal dollars to feed Dallas’ economic expansion, was seen as collaborating with big government and, because of its quiet, backroom deal-making with the black community, was viewed as insufficiently hostile to desegregation.

Hoping to counter the communist menace, a Dallas school board less flamboyantly conservative than their peers in Houston approved the creation of the course "The Principles of American Freedom in Contrast to the Tyranny of Communism" in 1961. The school district purchased 15,000 copies of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's "Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism" in the America and How to Fight It as the textbook. The book argued that communists thoroughly infested the black civil rights movement.

Many of the new rich behind the Texas Red Scare, were oilmen. Such men were generally political outsiders whose influence did not match their wealth. In Dallas, their business orientation was global and therefore not Dallas-centric enough to win inclusion in the Citizens Council. Many of these men, such as H.L. Hunt and Clint Murchison along with their Fort Worth peer Sid Richardson, became financiers of the far right in the mid-twentieth century. Murchison, whose son in 1960 became owner of the Dallas Cowboys National Football League franchise, became one of the largest financial contributors to red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin.

Hunt underwrote the tax-exempt Facts Forum organization, publishing pamphlets like "We Must Abolish the United Nations" and "Hitler Was a Liberal" and privately sponsoring an ultraconservative news commentary show called LIFELINE hosted by Dan Smoot and broadcast on more than 80 television and 150 radio stations across the country. Echoing traditional elite hatred of the universal franchise, a belief outlined in his novel Alpaca, Hunt once raged at Smoot after the former FBI man said in a LIFELINE broadcast that democracy was "a political outgrowth of the teachings of Jesus Christ." Hunt corrected Smoot, deriding democracy as the handiwork of the devil and a "phony liberal form of watered down communism."

To the far right, every social justice reform represented a step towards the socialism and miscegenation plotted by conspiratorial Jews. "THE PRESIDENT OF NAACP . . . IS NOT A NEGRO, BUT A MEMBER OF THIS MINORITY NON-CHRISTIAN GROUP BY THE NAME OF A. SPRINGARN," one anti-Semitic flier proclaimed in all capital letters. The flier, distributed in Dallas in the 1950s by "Texas Christians for Freedom," quoted a "Rabbi Rabinovich" outlining a sinister Jewish plot to eliminate the white race. "We will openly reveal our identity with the races of Asia and Africa," the flier quoted Rabinovich as predicting. "I can state with assurance that the last generation of white children is now being born. [We] . . . will . . . forbid the whites to mate with whites. The white women must cohabit with members of the dark races, the white men with the black women. Thus the white race will disappear, for mixing the dark with the white means the end of the white man, and our most dangerous enemy will become only a memory."

The themes of the Jew as non-white racial alien, as instigator of communism, as tireless conspirator and determined race-mixer, all came together in the work of John Owen Beaty, longtime chairman of the English department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. First appointed to the SMU faculty in 1919, the West Virginia native served as chief of the Historical Section in the War Department's Military Intelligence Service during World War II. By the time he returned to SMU, he became embittered by what he saw as the Jewish domination of culture.

His 1951 opus "Iron Curtain Over America" warned that Jews threatened American democracy. Because of its British Israelism, the 1920s Dallas Klan had acknowledged a distant kinship with modern-day Jews, though they believed Jews had become hopelessly corrupted through race mixing and rejection of Jesus Christ as savior. Beaty went further in his anti-Semitism, denying that the Eastern European Jews who represented the bulk of the American Jewish population descended from the Biblical Israelites.

Most Jews, he claimed, descended from Khazars, a "belligerent tribe" of "mixed stock, with Mongol and Turkic affinities" that, while living between the Ural Mountains and the Caspian Sea, converted en masse to Judaism in the 8th or 9th century C.E. "The blood of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob flows not at all (or to a sporadic degree . . .) in the veins of the Jews who have come to America from Eastern Europe," Beaty wrote.

Beaty's denial of modern American Jews' Hebrew origins was not original. Anti-Semitic eugenicist Lothrop Stoddard made a similar claim three decades earlier. Beaty's work, however, far exceeded Stoddard's in its populism and its paranoia. Beaty's Khazars are ever ambitious for power and influence, and experience almost super-human success. Unable to assimilate in Eastern Europe because of their arrogance, he alleged, Khazars eventually provoked the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. "The Marxian program of drastic controls, so repugnant to the free western mind, was no obstacle to the acceptance of Marxism by many Khazar Jews, for the Babylonian Talmud under which they lived had taught them to accept authoritarian dictation on everything from their immorality to their trade practices," Beaty wrote.

Other Khazar Jews immigrated to the United States in mass numbers after World War I and took over the Democratic Party, thus leading to the crypto-socialism and racial liberalism of the Roosevelt era. Jews then provoked World War II, he claimed. "Our alien-dominated government fought the war for the annihilation of Germany, the historic bulwark of Christian Europe," Beaty cried in italics. Just six years after American troops had liberated concentration camps in western Germany, Beaty denied the Holocaust happened, labeling the Shoah a fraud launched to justify the slaughter of Aryans and, after 1948, to blackmail the West into political and financial support of Israel. Khazars stood on the verge of world domination. To save America, Beaty argued, Christians must develop "some method of preventing our unassimilable mass of aliens and alien-minded people from exercising" political and cultural power "out of all proportion" to their numbers.

Beaty's message reached a broad audience, going through nine printings by 1953. Beaty's book went beyond familiar anti-Semitic themes. With his Holocaust denial and claims that Jews were sinister Asians not descended from the monotheistic heroes of the Old Testament, Beaty laid out the major doctrines that would dominate the racist far right wing in the late twentieth century. Beaty particularly influenced the Christian Identity movement, including groups like Aryan Nations, which splintered from other believers in British Israelism in the late twentieth century over their insistence that Jews were the literal descendents of Satan and that only Western and Northern Europeans were legitimate heirs of ancient Israel. A half-century later, Identity web sites still sold copies of "Iron Curtain Over America" and cited it as an authoritative academic justification for anti-Semitism.

More ominous for the Dallas Jewish community than Beaty’s fringe ranting was the tepid response mainstream city leaders gave his outbursts. SMU President Umphrey Lee had ignored letters complaining of Beaty's anti-Semitism dating back to 1947. The Public Affairs Luncheon Club, a women's organization, adopted a unanimous resolution backing Beaty and requesting that SMU investigate the faculty’s philosophy and values. In spite of his noteriety, Beaty continued teaching at SMU until his retirement in 1957.

Doubts about Jewish whiteness persisted after Beaty. In the 1950s and 1960s, several country clubs excluded Jews. The Dallas Junior League remained closed to Jews, as did several SMU sororities and fraternities. Just as the Dallas press emphasized Meyer Perlstein's Russian Jewish origins during the garment workers' strike of the 1930s, Dallas newspapers in 1963 pointedly referred to Jack Ruby, the murderer of President John Kennedy's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, by the more Semitic-sounding "Jacob Rubenstein." This happened even though Ruby long before legally changed his name.

Though many Jews like Fred Florence and Stanley Marcus achieved economic prominence by the 1950s and 1960s, there were no Jews at the top executive level of the major insurance companies at the time, and few Jews held executive positions at banks. The most successful Jews ran the city's department stores, such as Sanger-Harris, Titche-Goettinger, Neiman-Marcus, and E.M. Khan, where they found themselves, uncomfortably, on the front battle lines over Jim Crow.

Many Jewish leaders, like Rabbi Levi Olan, felt that a shared history of oppression made Jewish support of African American civil rights a moral imperative. Born in 1903 near Kiev, the future rabbi grew up in Rochester, New York in a Yiddish-speaking family. Graduating in six years from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Olan accepted a position as rabbi in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1929. He remained there until 1949 when he was invited to lead Dallas' Temple Emanu-El congregation.
Dallas Jews had pursued whiteness to the point of losing their identity.

Upon his 1949 arrival, Olan found that the temple's entire service was in English with the exception of one Hebrew prayer. Congregation songs were led by a quartet and organist who were, in Olan's words, "all goyim." The synagogue largely abandoned celebrating bar mitzvahs to mark the passage of 13-year old boys in the congregation into manhood, in favor of the more Christian-sounding "confirmation" ceremony marking graduation from religious school. Rabbi Olan saw his major assignment as halting assimilationist extremism. "In Dallas the job was to make Jews out of goyim," he joked. Olan instigated changes at the temple, including a repertoire of Hebrew liturgical music for services. "We are being taken over by the third wave of immigration," one temple member of German descent complained, pointedly attacking Olan's Eastern European heritage. Olan countered that he was merely trying to reawaken consciousness of Jewish culture and history.

Olan recalled the cold reception he received when he turned his attention to black civil rights. Like his Dallas predecessor David Lefkowitz, and like many of his contemporaries such as Rabbi Jacob Rothschild of Atlanta and Charles Mantinband of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, he became one more Northern-born religious leader trying to prod a sometimes reluctant Southern congregation to more boldly support African American civil rights. Many Southern Jews took up the cause reluctantly well into the Civil Rights Era.

A 1961 poll showed that while 97 percent of Northern Jews approved the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that mandated desegregation of public school systems, 40 percent of Southern Jews considered the decision "unfortunate." A majority of Southern Jews said that desegregation was moving too quickly. If Southern Jews proved friendlier to black civil rights than their Gentile neighbors, this seemed too timid to Northern immigrants like Olan.

"When I came down to Texas, I had a program on the air," Olan recalled in a 1983 interview. " . . . [O]ne of my first sermons [was] . . . because I saw these . . . toilets which had signs 'for whites only' and that got me. So I preached a sermon on the radio on the race issue. My phone rang that afternoon. Someone says to me, 'Go back where you came from.'"

Olan did not back down on what he considered a basic moral principle. "Segregation is immoral," he preached in blunt language. Because of his support of black political aims, Olan suffered through bomb threats, hate mail, and eggs hurled at Temple Emanu-El and his home. Even as tension rose over Dallas school desegregation, the rabbi delivered a guest sermon at Good Street Baptist Church, an African American congregation. Many Jews applauded Olan and became benefactors of African American institutions such as Bishop College. Olan, Julius Schepps, Jacob Kravitz and Sam Bloom all played key roles in a publicity campaign aimed at persuading Dallas to react calmly when school desegregation began in 1961.

Most Jews, however, were not as bold as Olan. Some preferred to work within the limits of Jim Crow to improve the lives of African Americans. More typical was Jerome Crossman, an attorney and president of the Ryan Consolidated Petroleum Company. In the early 1950s Crossman campaigned to find a nonprofit corporation that would buy land and extend utilities for a segregated, middle-class black housing development to relieve the South Dallas tensions that resulted in the 1950-51 bombings. His efforts culminated in the creation of Hamilton Park, a modest subdivision located at Forest Lane, 100 yards east of Central Expressway, on the far north fringes of the city more than 10 miles from downtown.

Crossman, as historian William H. Wilson notes, was guided by his Reform Judaism to be "very concerned about the welfare of all mankind, regardless of race, color, or creed." Crossman believed that through incremental changes race relations would improve. "Crossman was an optimist, but no visionary," Wilson writes. "He did not foresee a desegregated society . . . nor was he a racial liberal attempting to move towards that goal . . . He would labor for racial justice within the boundaries set by enlightened whites such as himself."

Many Jews sensed their tenuous acceptance within Dallas and feared going too far in their racial liberalism. In the mid-1950s, Anthony Jones, an African American professor of international relations and government at Bishop College, studied Judaism under Levi Olan and applied for membership in the congregation. Fearing a violent Gentile backlash, not everyone in the congregation welcomed Jones. "There were some problems, some I must say opposition," said Irving Goldberg, president of Temple Emanu-El at the time. "And there was genuine fear because at that time synagogues all over the country were being bombed . . . "

With so many Jews owning and/or operating downtown department stores, it was inevitable that some Jews would not only work within the limits of Jim Crow laws, but also actively enforce them. Downtown stores refused to allow black patrons to try on clothes. Other stores excluded blacks all together. Many African Americans, impatient with the petty humiliations they endured as customers at prominent stores such as Sanger's or Titche-Goetinger's staged protests.

In 1953, the "Citizen's Committee To Abolish Discrimination Against Negro Women in Dallas Department Stores" set up shop at the Excelsior Life Building on Flora Street. W.J. Durham, chairman of the committee, circulated a letter reporting on his efforts. Durham had persuaded Morton Sanger, manager of the E.M. Kahn store, to contact other store managers and operators who were "discriminating against Negro women in the sale of merchandise and the services connected with the sale of merchandise." Stanley Marcus of the Neiman-Marcus store said that he was "leaving on a trip, but he would study the matter and see what could be done about it." Marcus, by reputation one of the city's leading liberals, apparently took his time. The store maintained segregation for another eight years, banning blacks from sitting next to white customers at the dining facility, or using the same bathrooms, until 1961.

Representatives of other stores, Durham wrote, said that " . . . 'they would not meet with the members of [the] committee and discuss the matter,' that their business was their private business and they would operate it in such manner as they desired." Morton Sanger was reported to have said that "such action on the part of the other operators left the management of the Kahn store to choose between two classes of business — white trade and trade from Negro citizens. Therefore, I can do nothing about the racial discrimination policy in force at the Kahn store."

The racism of Dallas' larger white community provided moral cover for individual merchants. No store could safely desegregate unless every store did. "The department stores' position is crystal clear; namely, that such stores will continue to insult Negro women . . . and if Negro men continue to trade at such stores, they will and must do so in the face of the fact that their women will continually be insulted and mistreated . . ," Durham wrote.

Resentments between blacks and Jews developed because of the very different place the two groups occupied on the city's racial hierarchy. Blacks saw their health, safety and survival at stake in the civil rights struggle. Discrimination aimed at Jews consisted largely of exclusion from country clubs or from the upper limits of the corporate hierarchy. Such complaints might have seemed trivial to African Americans, who may not have been fully sensitive to the impact that the rise of the Klan in Dallas during the 1920s, the Nazi Holocaust and other instances of Gentile violence had on the Jewish community's sense of security.
Juanita Craft attributed the strain that existed between blacks and Jews in Dallas to the distance that marked all white-black relations in the South.

"They [Jews] accept us, you know, as far as meetings and things of that sort, if you meet them, but they don't put themselves to any trouble to meet us, and we don't put ourselves to any trouble to meet them," she said. Craft said part of the problem was a cultural gulf between the two groups. "You know, a lot of this stuff has developed because of the ignorance of our people," Craft said. "When I was a child coming up, I thought of a Jew as something that was different from everything else. 'He's going to Jew you down.' . . . He's going to be dishonest with you and things of that sort — a stigma that was very unfair."

Some blacks echoed traditional Gentile anti-Semitism, but more often they saw Jews as simply part of an undifferentiated white majority. This perspective was summed up years later in August 1993 by John Wiley Price, the controversial Dallas County Commissioner, who met with a crowd of more than 70 at the North Dallas Jewish Community Center. "Most African-Americans don't know enough to be anti-Semitic," Price told the crowd. "We don't know the difference between Anglos and Jewish people." What Price did not know was that the erasure of that difference between Anglos and Jewish people was the result of about a century of difficult and not entirely successful Jewish effort. Full whiteness for both Jews and Mexican Americans remained a slippery objective.

A tantalizing chance existed for marginal whites to ally politically with blacks in the 1950s and 1960s. The indifference and, at times, hostility of the Mexican American political leadership to African Americans, and the compromised humanitarianism of Jewish leaders like Jerome Crossman towards the civil rights cause, frustrated any possible victory for Dallas' progressive forces. The distance between these groups arising just after World War II guaranteed that the city's freedom movement in the 1960s enjoyed little visibility and mostly symbolic success. The conflicts between blacks, Mexican Americans, and Jews laid the groundwork for the internecine strife that would characterize much of Dallas politics after desegregation.

As the 1960s progressed elites were forced to abandon Jim Crow. Elite actions, however, were based largely on their fear of an enraged, politicized lower class. Even as they sought to incorporate conservative African Americans into the ruling structure, elites continued to see the Anglo working class as uncivilized barbarians, outside the norms of whiteness, threatening to destroy a wealthy metropolis. Elites sought to accommodate these groups with symbolic democracy.

Discourse about the dangers of democracy gave way to praise of America’s heritage of freedom. This rhetorical shift occurred even as the Dallas Citizens Council lost its absolute control of city hall. The city's Democrats divided into Dixiecrat and liberal wings even as some conservatives, dismayed by the civil rights agenda of the national Democratic Party, set aside political traditions dating back to the Civil War and found the Republican Party an increasingly congenial home for white supremacist politics. The weakening of the Democratic Party undermined support for Jim Crow laws. This prevented the city from adopting harsh measures to preserve the racial ancien regime. Softer measures were called for to keep African Americans demands in check. White Texans should politically reward loyal, subservient blacks and conservative Mexican Americans, elites would believe, in order to thwart the political aspirations of more radical blacks and their white allies.

Rather than ruling for the city as a whole, elites had smashed Dallas into atomized parts. This alienation protected elites from the rebellion they feared. This was far from the "beloved community" that black leaders like John Leslie Patton and Juanita Craft had dreamed of when they began their struggle in the 1930s and 1940s. This outcome was not so obvious at the dawn of the 1960s. For many African Americans, the Civil Rights Era seemed the time of the possible in which liberals could imagine without embarrassment a future of racial fairness.

Charles Graggs, an African American writer for the Dallas Express whose letters-to-the-editor flooded the Dallas Morning News in the post-war years, had not yet lost hope for a better tomorrow. "During the first years of my writing letters to the News, pleading for justice and equality, most of the letters, post cards and phone calls I received in reply were ugly and bitter," he wrote 10 months before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in downtown Dallas. "But such responses gradually dwindled until today most of the comment is friendly and cordial. This shows Dallas is throwing off its old idol of hate and segregation, a fact which makes me rejoice." Graggs’ celebration proved tragically premature.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

White Like Me: Mexican Americans, Jews, and the Elusive Politics of Whiteness, Part II

In 2006, the University of Texas Press published "White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001." To mark the fifth anniversary of that publication, I am serializing "White Metropolis" at this blog site. Here, I describe the racism that Mexican Americans encounter in Texas after World War II and how Anglo hostility shaped the Latino relationship with African Americans.

From 1930 to 1960, San Miguel argues, Houston's Mexican American leadership sought to integrate schools for their children, to open more opportunities for such children to attend college and to promote political activism within the community. Such leaders, conscious of their precarious position in the region's hierarchy and fearful of an Anglo backlash, sought to avoid anything smacking of radicalism. "The goal of members of the Mexican American Generation thus was to support moderate social change that would improve, not replace, the existing social order," San Miguel writes.

This ideology shaped the League of United Latin American Citizens, founded in 1929 in Corpus Christi, Texas. LULAC drew its membership from "[s]mall business owners and merchants, small landowners, skilled workers, artisans, [and] professionals . . ." English was declared LULAC's official language. LULAC's racial politics can be deciphered by its name. By labeling themselves "Latin American," the middle class group emphasized the community's European origins and American citizenship. Some LULAC chapters expressed their white identity by erecting a color line between the membership and blacks. One LULAC council expelled a member for marrying a "Negress" and members socially shunned the interracial couple. A member of the council bitterly complained that "An American mob would lynch him. But we are not given the same opportunity to form a mob and come clean."

For many Mexican Americans in Dallas, surrendering any separate cultural identity provided the quickest route to the American mainstream rather than absorbing gringo racism. "I just don't believe in teaching the children Spanish," one resident of a Dallas barrio told anthropologist Shirley Achor in the early 1970s. "They'd be better off if they never spoke it at all . . . You know it's true — even a Spanish accent can hurt a person in life."

Such accommodation marked not just LULAC members, but also Dallas Latinos who joined the American GI Forum (AGIF) after World War II. Dr. Hector Garcia helped form AGIF in Corpus Christi, becoming its first chairman in 1948. The organization received national attention in 1949 when it protested a Three Rivers, Texas funeral home's decision to bar a chapel funeral for Private Felix Longoria, who had been killed years earlier in World War II. In 1954, several prominent Dallas Mexican Americans, including Pancho Medrano (who unlike many of his peers in the group actively participated in black civil rights campaigns) and Joe Landin, founded the Dallas chapter of the GI Forum. AGIF investigated job discrimination and police brutality while lobbying the Dallas school district for improved funding for Mexican American schools.

The American GI Forum, however, held a similar stance to LULAC vis-à-vis racial identity and the black civil rights movement. To both organizations, Mexican Americans were white and African Americans would have to fight their own battles. "LULAC has been the lone spokesman on Civil Rights for over a quarter of a century," the group's president, Paul Andow, sniffed in a 1963 policy statement just three days before Martin Luther King, Jr. and other black civil rights leaders held their famous March On Washington:

"We have not sought solutions to problems by marching to Washington, sit-in's or picketing or other outward manifestations . . . We believe that a man should not receive a position of trust or other emoluments simply because he belongs to a particular ethnic group — we believe that an individual must earn and merit this position . . ."

LULAC leaders like Andow clearly worried that too close an alliance with black civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King and endorsement of their tactics would imperil the position of Latinos in a white supremacist society. Andow further implied that blacks succeeding in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement did not deserve their good fortune. Meanwhile, LULAC sought a white identity for its members, campaigning against racial designations on government forms that classified Latinos as Mexicans. The term Mexican referred to a nationality, not a race, LULAC insisted, and Latinos were as white as any Anglo Saxon. Jacob I. Rodriguez of LULAC bristled at the Mexican label. "There's no sense of shame in being, or being called, a Mexican — IF YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF MEXICO!" Rodriguez wrote in a 1963 letter to the San Antonio Express. "There's just no reason why we — as U.S. Citizens — should be called what we are not . . ."

Dr. Hector Garcia of the American G.I. Forum also fought a long battle to get state institutions to stop classifying Latinos as non-whites. Garcia protested to Homer Garrison, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, that state troopers should stop making the notation "Mex" in the blank space on traffic reports calling for racial designations. " . . . [I]s the Department aware that there is no such thing as a Mexican race, no more than an American race?" Garcia asked Garrison in an April 17, 1950 letter.

Hector Garcia celebrated the decision of the Department of Welfare that they would classify Mexican Americans as "Race — White, Nationality — Americans." Like his LULAC counterparts, Garcia sought to distinguish his group from African American civil rights organizations. On March 9, 1954, an American GI Forum Local Secretary in Crystal City, Texas, Gerald Saldaña, requested Garcia to send a brief history of the organization. Saldaña asked if the Forum was a "Latin counterpart" of the NAACP. Garcia was adamant that no comparison should be made between the two groups. ". . . [W]e are not a civil rights organization," he wrote. ". . . Personally, I hate the word . . . [Definitely] we are not to be considered at all as a counterpart (Latin) of the NAACP."

One American GI Forum supporter, Manuel Avila, Jr., was alarmed when Ed Idar, Jr., the Forum's executive secretary, published an article in the group's newsletter depicting the AGIF and the NAACP allying in the struggle against school desegregation. "I only hope this does not hurt our cause but I can already hear the Anglos saying 'those nigger lovers,'" Avila wrote in 1956. ". . . Anybody reading [your newsletter] can only come to the conclusion we are ready to fight the Negro's battles, and God only knows we have a big problem ourselves and aren't that strong to defend someone else . . . [S]ooner or later we are going to have to say which side of the fence we're on, are we white or not . . . Let's face it first we have to establish we are white then be on the 'white side' and then we'll become 'Americans' otherwise never."

An impulse towards whiteness thus runs through the history of mainstream, middle class Latino political organizations such as LULAC and the American G.I. Forum. However, some Mexican Americans like Pete Garcia moved beyond mere accommodation to violent support of segregation. Garcia was not alone in seeing virulent anti-black racism as a means to achieve whiteness. P.R. Ochoa concluded that the enemy of Dallas' Mexican American community was not the Anglo power structure, but the state's politically disenfranchised African Americans. Part of being white, in Ochoa's view, was holding white supremacist beliefs.

Ochoa in the late 1960s served as a Nueces County Republican Party precinct chairman. In the 1950s and early 1960s, however, he ran a variety of businesses — a publishing company, a "commercial academy," an auto parts store, a real estate firm and a variety store — out of his Dallas office on Singelton Boulevard near Norwich Street. He was also the publisher, and the only identifiable writer, for a chain of Texas newspapers — the Dallas Americano and related editions in San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Kingsville. Ochoa signed his front-page column "Pedro el Gringo" and represented the assimilationist approach in its extreme.

Ochoa urged his Mexican American readers to use the term "Americano," "Spaniol," or "Texano" when referring to themselves because "Latin, Mexican and European are foreigners." Ochoa, who fancied himself the head of the "Spaniol Organization of White People," went much further in promoting white racial identity for Mexican Americans. Integration meant slavery for "Spaniol" Texans, Ochoa argued. He regularly printed slogans in bold type on the pages of his six-page weekly such as "conserve su raza blanca" ("preserve your white race") and "segregacion es libertad" ("segregation is liberty").

Like Pete Garcia, Ochoa also saw Dallas society in terms of a zero sum game. "The modern and first-class Negro public school located at Dallas, west housing project, it is far better and has more commodities than many public schools for Spaniol pupils and English speaking pupils at the valley near the border," he complained in an August 6, 1958 editorial. "Under what article of the Constitution, we should base our complaint?" In a Spanish language editorial he accused groups like the AGIF, LULAC, and the NAACP as engaging in a conspiracy to destroy Texanos. "The American GI Forum, LULAC, the NAACP, congresses and other nigger groups have repeatedly professed to be integrationists to push up the equality, intelligence and superiority of the black race," he wrote.

Anti-black racism by no means proved anymore universal in the Mexican American community than it did among Texas Anglos. Following the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision mandating school desegregation in Brown v. Board of Education, Texas Gov. Allan Shivers placed three non-binding referenda — laws preserving school segregation, strengthening laws against interracial marriage and supporting "local" rule against federal interference — on a statewide Democratic primary ballot.

These measures passed by a four-to-one margin statewide, but in twelve counties with significant Mexican American populations the ballots were approved by less than 60 percent. Three heavily Mexican-American counties, Bexar, Kleberg and Uvalde, refused to put the measures on the ballot while Webb county beat the proposals by an eight-to-one margin. In a state where Mexican Americans became targets of segregation, such opposition might reflect self interest, but it might also reflect a smaller degree of racist sentiment in the Mexican American, as opposed to the Anglo community.

There is less ambiguity in the career of the state's most visible Mexican American politician, Henry B. Gonzalez of San Antonio. As a member of the San Antonio city council in 1956, Gonzalez promoted measures that abolished all of the city's segregation ordinances. As a state senator in 1957, Gonzalez filibustered for 20 hours to block legislative proposals that would have impeded implementation of Brown v. Board of Education in Texas. In his lengthy oration, Gonzalez drew comparisons between his own experiences with segregation as a Mexican American and the freedom struggles of African Americans. "Is Texas liberty only for Anglo-Saxons?" he asked. The next year, Gonzalez won the NAACP's Man of the Year award. Even with his visible support of black civil rights groups, Mexican American voters continued to enthusiastically vote for Gonzalez, electing him to the United States Congress in 1961.

While anti-racist discourse could be heard in the Mexican American community, the desire of groups like LULAC and AGIF to keep the NAACP at a distance provided a counterweight, reflecting a fear that such an alliance would complicate Latino efforts for equality. In some cases the embracing of a white identity also revealed deep currents of white supremacy among Mexican Americans. Ochoa and 1950 bomber Pete Garcia were middle class men who saw their social status dependent upon the isolation of blacks. The ideological differences between LULAC and AGIF on one hand, and Ochoa and Garcia on the other, reflects a politically dominant sentiment in the community that ranged from indifference to African American rights to outright negrophobia.


Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.