Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Glass Ceiling: The Failure of the Equal Rights Amendment

I am coauthor of an updated version of the college American history textbook, currently titled “American Dreams and Reality: A Retelling of the American Story.” Here, I describe the limits of what second wave feminism was able to achieve in a sexist political and cultural atmosphere and the opposition to the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Radical feminist groups like Cell 16 held little appeal for most women. Most feminists shared no desire with Cell 16’s members to separate into female-only communes or believed in male inferiority. Most wanted fair pay for their work, equal opportunity in the job market, property rights, medical control over their own bodies and for the law to take spousal abuse and rape seriously. Yet, influential men such as Sen. Jennings Randolph (D-W. Virginia) mocked even mainstream feminist leaders as “braless bubbleheads,” and CBS News commentator Eric Severeid attributed women’s claims of discrimination to hysteria.

In spite of male hostility, feminists successfully won a place for women in American politics. In 1968, women constituted only 13 percent of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention and 17 percent of the Republican National Convention delegates the same year. Feminists realized that women’s issues would not be taken seriously unless more women were elected to public office. There were no women in the United States Senate in 1968 and only nine women in the United States House out of 435 members the same year.

In 1971, veteran feminists like Friedan, civil rights campaigner Fannie Lou Hamer, and those belonging to the tiny circle of women in the United States Congress like Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm (who in 1968 became the first black woman elected to the House), organized the National Women’s Political Caucus to increase the number of women members of Congress, governors, legislators, mayors and city council members.

The 1970s would see the election of Ella Grasso as governor of Connecticut and Dixie Lee Ray as the chief executive in Washington State. Mary Anne Krupsak won election as the lieutenant governor of New York under the slogan, “She’s Not One of the Boys” while Abzug won a seat in the New York congressional delegation, declared that, “This woman belongs in the house – The House of Representatives.” All these women were Democrats.

Feminists in the 1960s and 1970s wrote, voted for and successfully lobbied for several landmark laws benefiting women. For instance, Title IX of a 1972 federal law, the Education Amendments Act, banned sex discrimination in university admissions, faculty hiring and college athletics, which slowly and steadily increased the number of women earning advanced degrees. In 1960, only 1.7 percent of women 25 years old and beyond had an education beyond a bachelor’s degree, compared to 4.4 percent of men. By 2009, the numbers had reached near parity, with 10,1 percent of women and 11.1 percent of men taking course work beyond a four-year diploma. By 2000, women between the ages of 25 and 29 for the first time constituted a majority of those holding at least a master’s degree, with women representing 58 percent of MAs in that age group.

Nevertheless, in the 1970s a considerable gulf existed between law and enforcement. For instance the Equal Pay of 1963 had been strengthened by two Supreme Court decisions. In “Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co.” (1970), the court majority held that jobs don’t have to be identical in order for the Equal Pay Act to apply, but only have to be "substantially equal." This ruling meant that an employer could not alter job titles or make minor alterations in job descriptions for women employees to justify paying them less. In the 1974 “Corning Glass v. Brennan” case, the Supreme Court ruled that employers could not legally pay women less because that was the “going market rate” paid in a locality or pay men more for doing the same work “simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women." In spite of the law and such court rulings, however, by 2010 women still earned only 78 cents for every dollar earned by their male peers.

THE FAILURE
OF THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT

The continued barriers to women in the workplace sparked a movement to add an Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution. “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” said the first section of the brisk, 56-word proposed amendment. A version of the ERA, as it was called, had been written by Alice Paul in 1923 and had been introduced in every session of Congress since, until the modern version passed both houses of Congress in 1972.

A seven-year deadline was placed on ratification and the amendment went to the states. “In the beginning, the ERA seemed certain to pass,” Schulman said. Hawaii became the first state to ratify it, on the very day it passed the Congress. Three days after Congressional passage, the amendment had also been approved by Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, and New Hampshire. Within five years, the ERA had been ratified by 35 states, just three short of the 38 needed for it to become part of the Constitution. Majority opinion supported the ERA, with the amendment winning the backing of as much as 74 percent of voters polled in 1974. Opponents never represented even a third of voters.

Momentum, however, had undeniably slowed by 1977. The ERA was partly a victim of feminism’s successes. With laws already on the books banning discrimination in hiring and pay, some Americans found the need for the amendment less urgent. As Schulman pointed out, the states that had not passed the ERA were heavily concentrated in the highly conservative and religiously fundamentalist South and Western Mormon areas which saw the proposed amendment as a threat to the traditional, “God-mandated” role of women as mothers and homemakers. The amendment was a “definite violation of holy scripture,” declared TV evangelist Jerry Falwell, who insisted that the Bible defined “the husband as the head of the wife.”

Conservative Southern Protestants saw the amendment as one more assault on traditional values by the same liberals who had ended racial segregation. Many of the ERA’s opponents like Falwell had also supported Jim Crow. A conservative woman who had campaigned for Barry Goldwater for president in 1964, Phyllis Schlafly, led the group STOP ERA and would battle the entire feminist agenda. “Superficially, Schlafly seemed an odd candidate to lead women against feminism,” Schulman said. “A master organizer and brilliant speaker, she had run for public office, published several books, and lectured around the nation. In 1970s terms, she appeared the model of a liberated woman.”

Schlafly was conservative across the board, supporting the war in Vietnam, and opposing gay rights, social welfare programs and federal involvement in education. A strongly independent woman, she acted submissive when it suited her political purposes, often telling her audiences that she was speaking to them only because she had her husband’s permission.
Schlafly warned that the ERA would end special protections for women, who might become eligible for the draft and placed in combat. Men would be “free to abandon their wives without the obligations of alimony or child support,” as Schulman summarizes her arguments. Schlafly also warned that the ERA would result in unisex restrooms in public buildings and the legalization of gay marriage.

Congress extended the deadline for ratification until 1982, but no more states passed the amendment. Support for the ERA had been on the platform of both major parties, but the Republican Party – at the behest of conservative presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s supporters – removed its pro-ERA plank in time for the 1980 national convention. The ERA has been re-introduced in Congress every session since 1982 but has failed to pass.



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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

“Who Is Controlling The Supposed Revolution?”: Feminism Enters a More Radical Phase

I am coauthor of an updated version of the college American history textbook, currently titled “American Dreams and Reality: A Retelling of the American Story.” Here, I describe feminism in the late 1960s when women activists moved from more pragmatic issues like workplace discrimination to the hard struggle against the ideology of male supremacy.

Soon, young female veterans of the civil rights movement gravitated towards more dramatic forms of protest than filing lawsuits. In 1968, a group called New York Radical Women (NYRW) organized a burial for “traditional womanhood” at Arlington Cemetery near Washington, D.C. Participants “organized an actual funeral procession with a larger-than-life dummy on a transported bier, complete with feminine get-up, blank face, blonde curls, and candle,” remembered participant Shulamith Firestone. “Hanging from the bier were disposable items such as . . . curlers, garters, and hairspray. Streamers floated off of it and we also carried banners such as “DON’T CRY: RESIST.’”

This event marked one of the first exercises in “street theater” that would be employed by the “second wave.” The Youth International Party, or Yippies, had hit upon street theater and humor as a form of protest and one of the Yippies’ founders, Abbie Hoffman, had made a scene on August 23, 1967, when from the visitors’ gallery at the New York Stock Exchange he tossed anywhere from 30 to 400 $1 bills onto the exchange floor, causing some brokers to laugh, some to shake their fists at the protestors and some to foolishly scramble for the money. The Yippie love of absurdity carried over into radical feminist groups like Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell (or WITCH), whose members donned black robes and hats on Halloween in 1968 and cast a “hex” on Wall Street, which they saw as the center of war and women’s economic exploitation.

During the Miss America beauty pageant in Atlantic City September 7, 1968, 100 feminists from across the country picketed outside, throwing girdles, typing books, high-heeled shoes, false eyelashes, magazines like “Ladies Home Journal” and other “instruments of torture to women” into a “Freedom Trash Can.” Just as Yippies had nominated a pig for president outside the 1968 Democratic Convention, the feminists crowned a sheep Miss America to “parody the way the contestants (all women) are appraised and judged like animals at a county fair.”

WITCH disrupted a Bridal Fair at Madison Square Garden in New York City in February 1969. Before the event, they had – in a parody of the popular leftist slogan “Confront the Warmakers” glued stickers all over the city that said “Confront the Whoremakers.” As Echols notes, “Incredibly . . . they had not considered the possibility that the women attending the fair might resent WITCH’s characterization of them as prostitutes in the making.”

Inside the fair, WITCH activists donned black veils and sang, “Here come the slaves/off to their graves” before releasing white mice on the floor. WITCH received a lot of criticism from other feminists after this event, arguing that “actions such as these whose sole point seemed to be ‘we’re liberated and you’re not’ only served to distance the movement from their natural constituency,” as Echols put it.

One could argue that feminism splintered, or perhaps that it diversified. Radical feminists like those in WITCH split from what Echols called “politicos,” the ones who still believed that political lobbying and legislation were the most efficient ways to advance women’s rights. Dominated by straight women, NOW did not openly support gay rights until 1973, prompting lesbians to form their own separate liberation groups. African American women at times felt marginalized within groups like NOW and in 1973, they formed the National Black Feminist Organization. Latinas formed similar organizations.

CONSCIOUSNESS RAISING

In the early 20th century, many Marxists had encouraged workers to reject basing their identity on race, regional identity, or nationality and instead to think of themselves as part of a working class that crossed boundaries of color, culture and language. They encouraged workers to reject what they saw as “false consciousness,” identifying with the rich ruling class because of fantasies of economic advancement. Similarly, feminists challenged women to consider the ways in which they collaborated with sexism: by starving themselves to meet unrealistic societal expectations of thinness; by exposing themselves to poisonous hair dye and makeup to meet unrealistic standards of beauty; by giving up on careers to raise children; and by deferring to domineering fathers, husbands and boyfriends in order to not seem aggressive and “unfeminine.” Second-wave feminists encouraged such personal awareness of sexism and its harmful effects by promoting what they called “consciousness-raising.”

The technique was largely pioneered by the NYRW. The group would ask women to gather and speak about topics like rape, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, spousal abuse, economic dependence on men, employment discrimination and so on. Everyone was allowed to speak and to share their experiences. Such talks allowed women to not feel isolated and to realize their common interest in opposing male supremacy.

As historian Bruce Schulman noted, “women holding consciousness-raising sessions in the Boston-area discovered feelings of frustration and anger toward specific doctors and the medical maze in general” which moved them to “do something about those doctors who were condescending, paternalistic, judgmental and non-informative.” These women conducted deep research on women’s biology and health issues and produced the bestselling book, Our Bodies, Ourselves: A Book By and About Women. This volume, Schulman wrote, “became the bible of the women’s health movement and the inspiration for feminist health clinics and reforms in gynecology and obstetrics across the United States.”


“AGAINST OUR WILL”

In 1971, NYRW member Susan Brownmiller held a consciousness-raising “Speak-Out on Rape.” Women heard horrifying stories about sexual assault and discovered that rape was far more common than was typically thought. One woman told of missing her bus as she returned from home to Harvard University and accepting a ride with a young man who took her out for coffee and donuts. The young man picked up male friends and then drove the woman to a deserted garage.

They told me I’d better cooperate or I’d be buried there and nobody would ever know. There were three of them and one of me. It was about 1 a.m. and no people were around. I decided to cooperate.

Another woman told of being on a date with a New York University intern that had been arranged by her mother. He asked her if she wanted to see where he lived before they went to dinner and when they got to his room, “he threw me on the bed and raped me, just like that.

Afterwards, he got up as if nothing had happened. I thought to myself, I wonder what happens now. I kept thinking about my mother, she’d never believe it. I’ll tell you what happened next. We went out to have dinner. We proceeded along with the date as if nothing had happened. I was in such a state of shock I just went along with the rest of the date.

The speakout led to Brownmiller’s landmark 1975 study, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. The author detailed the brutal history of that crime and its pervasiveness. Brownmiller noted that rape laws evolved primarily as a way for men to protect their female “property” and to ensure the paternity of potential heirs. She described in painful detail how women were blamed for being raped because of how they dressed or if they acted in an allegedly sexually provocative way and documented the lengthy history of rape of children and the elderly.

If they filed charges against their assailants, rape victims routinely suffered humiliation in court as defense attorneys accused such women of being sexually promiscuous and of telling lies about a consensual lover out of spite. In any case, men routinely escaped conviction in rape cases because of the almost impossibly high bar set by the law. New York’s rape statute, for instance, required prosecutors to prove that the victim was raped “by force” (thus requiring a victim to physically resist), that “penetration” occurred, and that an additional witness had seen the accused near the location where the rape allegedly occurred.

Brownmiller also provided pioneering research advancing the notion of “marital rape” and “date rape”: the idea that violent sexual coercion of a wife by her husband or a girlfriend by a boyfriend is a crime. More controversial was her theory as to the political meaning of rape. In her most contentious passage, she suggests that all men see benefit in rape. “Men’s discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric time, along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe,” she wrote. “From prehistoric times to the present, I believe, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.”

Brownmiller’s critics pointed out that she seemed to be blaming all men for rape and had implied, at least, that men have a biological drive towards sexual abuse. Just as extreme racism had driven some African Americans into black supremacist groups like the Nation of Islam, laws stacked against rape victims, and harming women economically drove a few women to the extremes of female supremacist thinking.

One radical, Donna Allen, wrote that men’s genetic makeup created inner tensions that programmed them for aggression and oppression. “Being XX, a woman feels total security that she is female,” Allen wrote, referring to the chromosomes that determine gender. “But the normal XY man does not have this same inner security about his identity. Vacillating between gentleness and aggressiveness, being genetically both, he tends to let himself be defined from outside.” Men, she said, resolved these internal conflicts by becoming authoritarian and giving themselves an unquestionably domineering persona.
One radical feminist group, Cell 16, saw men as so irredeemably violent that it urged its members to “swear off sex and relationships with men, to learn karate, and to live in communes – in all-female communes for those who were smart enough to be single,” as historian Alice Echols wrote.




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, November 28, 2011

Second Wave Feminism and "The Problem With No Name"

I am coauthor of an updated version of the college American history textbook, currently titled “American Dreams and Reality: A Retelling of the American Story.” Here, I describe the rise of a new feminist movement in the 1950s and 1960s and Betty Freidan's role in promoting women's rights.

The collapse of the civil rights coalition by the mid-1960s led to the birth of several other freedom struggles, including those of women and gays. Women who fought against segregation and for black voting rights became the leaders of the 1960s feminist movement. In a 1951 edition, "Seventeen" magazine had advised its readership to be "a partner of a man . . . not his rival, his enemy, or his plaything. Your partnership in most cases will produce children, and together you and the man will create a haven, a home, a way of life." By the early 1960s, college-educated women in particular rebelled against being reduced to domestic junior partners to their husbands.

In 1960, CBS television aired a documentary on the "trapped housewife." Journalist Marya Mannes used the Cold War as an argument for opening career options to women. The U.S. was at a disadvantage in its competition with the Soviet Union, she said, when it suppressed intelligent women. "We have for years been wasting one of the resources on which our strength depends and which other civilizations are using to their advantage."

In her 1963 bestselling book " Feminine Mystique," author Betty Friedan described the frustration and boredom felt by many educated suburban housewives as the “problem with no name.” Friedan’s book described the agonies of middle-class white American women who found themselves locked into lives as domestic servants to their husbands, burdened with washing iapers, raising children in isolation from adult company, waxing floors and preparing the big meals expected by their husbands.

Friedan, who worked during the 1950s at so-called “women’s magazines,” all edited by men, blamed the media for promoting the myth that healthy women could find true purpose and glory only in playing the role of wife and mother. Conducting an extensive survey of middle class and affluent women similar to herself, Friedan blamed the “feminine mystique” – which glorified only women who played a traditionally subservient role to men – as the cause of an outbreak of depression, anxiety, emotional withdrawal, anger and infantilization of adult women and their daughters. The book found an understanding audience, and "The Feminine Mystique"became a bestseller, with more than a million copies purchased.

The publication of her book occured almost simultaneously with the release of a report by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, a blue-ribbon panel chaired by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The report documented widespread discrimination against women regarding employment, pay and promotion at the workplace, and in colleges and universities. President John F. Kennedy responded to the report by signing an executive order directing federal agencies to hire employees “without regard to sex.” Kennedy also threw his support behind the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibited employers from paying employees differently based on gender. The persistence of sexism in American life, plus the release of the commission’s report and Betty Friedan’s book, inspired the rise of what would be called the second wave of feminism (the first wave was the women’s suffrage campaign from 1848 to 1920).

“THE BUNNY LAW”

The Equal Pay Act and the anti-sex discrimination provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act had a dramatic impact on women’s experiences in the workplace. The law empowered the newly created Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce provisions against racial and sexual discrimination. At first EEOC administrators laughed at the concept of gender discrimination, an insensitivity reinforced by the male-dominated press which frequently scoffed at the idea of male and female equality.

Editorialists railed that men and women were biologically suited for different kinds of work. Would feminists protest, they joked, if a man were refused a job as a "Playboy" bunny, a waitress dressed in what was basically a one-piece bathing suit adorned with a fluffy bunny tail and bunny ears who served drinks at the nightclubs owned by Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy, a popular men’s magazine? Newspapers caustically dubbed the anti-sexual-discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as the "bunny law."

Feminists did not find such condescending attitudes from men amusing. Women still faced substantial legal obstacles. State laws in the 1950s and 1960s did not take spousal abuse seriously. Several states placed barriers to women serving on juries. Connecticut prevented women from obtaining birth control. Through the early 1960s, it was typical for classified ads to specify, “Help Wanted: Male.” In Texas, until 1967 a woman technically could not sign a contract to work without her husband’s permission.

By the late 1960s, many women had been active in the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements, yet suffered marginalization by male protestors. Men rarely listened to the ideas of their female comrades and sometimes made them the objects of crude jokes or as weapons to entice their political opponents. “Girls Say Yes to Boys Who Say No,” was a frequent slogan used by men in the anti-draft movement. Women acted as voter registrars and recruiters, often facing physical danger. Yet, at the civil rights offices, men expected these women to perform menial tasks like typing and making coffee, even demanding sexual favors. Reportedly, when asked “What is the position of women in SNCC [the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee]?”, African American civil rights activist Stokley Carmichael crudely replied, “The position of women in SNCC is prone.”

Women activists realized that they would have to form their own civil rights group to be heard. In 1966, feminists formed an organization named, at Betty Friedan's suggestion, the National Organization for Women (NOW). Overwhelmingly white, NOW at first catered primarily to older, more affluent, professionals – lawyers, government workers, and women working in the media. Like the NAACP, NOW primarily battled gender discrimination through lobbying Congress and state legislatures and litigation rather than through “direct action” protests.

The original NOW leadership came from a comfortable, upper middle class culture, and often showed a lack of imagination and had a limited vision of how feminism should change society. Women were entitled to more than access to professional jobs, as younger activist and historian Sara Evans suggested in her memoir "Personal Politics: The Roots of the Women's Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left." Women still received substantially lower salaries than men. Women had to directly challenge American society’s belief in male supremacy, the assumption that men were smarter, stronger and were natural leaders whose work deserved greater financial compensation, that women were irrational, less reliable and should be submissive.



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.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Days of Rage": The Weather Underground, Violence and the Revolt of the Hardhats

I am coauthor of an updated version of the college American history textbook, currently titled “American Dreams and Reality: A Retelling of the American Story.” Here, I describe the violent path of the Weather Underground in the late 1960s and early 1970s and the predictable Middle American response.

As African American civil rights groups such as the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panthers embraced self-defense and more confrontational tactics, a new anti-war group, The Weather Underground, arose. Named after a line in the Bob Dylan song "Subterranean Homesick Blues" that included the lyrics, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the winds blows”, so-called Weathermen engaged in domestic terrorism. They called for “anti-imperialist action in which a mass of white youths tear up and smash wide-ranging imperialist targets such as . . . high schools, draft boards and [military] induction centers, pig [police] institutes, and pigs themselves.”

The revolutionary group held “jail breaks” in which they “liberated” classrooms -- taking over school facilities to lecture students about revolution. The Weathermen dubbed themselves the “Americong” in tribute to the communist Vietcong guerillas battling the American military in South Vietnam. The Weathermen vowed to “bring the war home.” Announcing the start of “Days of Rage” on October 8-11, 1969, the Weather Underground attacked Chicago’s wealthy Gold Coast neighborhood, vandalizing cars and police vehicles, shattering store windows, and attacking random individuals. Both police and members of the Underground suffered injuries. Six Weathermen suffered gunshot wounds and police arrested 250 rioters.

The Weathermen descended into mindless nihilism, with one of the co-founders, Bernardine Dohrn, applauding the murders committed in Los Angeles August 8-9 by the Charles Manson cult in California, whose victims included the actress Sharon Tate in her eighth month of pregnancy. The Weathermen believed, according to historian Allen J. Matusow, that “no white baby born in the mother country of the empire [politically dominant Europe and America] deserved to live.” After the Manson murders, one of the cultists stuck a fork in the stomach of murdered Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca. “Dig it!” Dohrn said in a speech to Weathermen. “First they killed these pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they even shoved a fork into a victim’s stomach. Wild!”

The Weathermen conducted a series of successful and attempted bombings, including the detonation of a pipe bomb at the San Francisco police department headquarters in February 1970. On March 6, 1970, Weathermen gathered in a Greenwich Village townhouse prepared a bomb they intended to set off at a military officers’ dance at Fort Dix in New Jersey. An incorrectly connected wire caused the bomb to explode, killing three members of the terrorist cell. In 1971-1973, members of the Underground set off several explosions at the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, the ITT headquarters in New York City and the United States Sate Department.

Classified as a domestic terrorist organization by the FBI and under intense pressure from other law enforcement agencies, the top Weathermen like Mark Rudd and Dohrn went into hiding during the bombing campaigns, using a series of fake identities. Gradually members of the Underground resurfaced and charges against most members were dropped because of illegal investigative tactics used by the police.

The chief impact of the Weather Underground was to damage the image of the anti-war movement, which overwhelmingly opposed violence. The “Days of Rage,” the bombings, and images of Black Panthers carrying weapons frightened many middle class and working class white Americans. As one worker said, “What I don’t like about the students, the loudmouthed ones, is that they think they know so much they can speak for everyone, because they think they’re right and the rest of us aren’t clever enough and can’t talk like they can.”


HARDHATS

The Watergate scandal that unfolded between 1972 and1974, and destroyed the presidency of Richard Nixon, confirmed for many on the left that criminals ran the country. The ultra-bloody action film "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), which made a pair of 1930s bank robbers its heroes, and two Academy Award-winning movies, "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Godfather Part II" (1975), reflected this cynicism.

In the "Godfather" movies, the Mafia dons insist that blackmail, beatings, and murder are just “business,” and it was clear that the director/writer Francis Ford Coppola did not see a vast difference between their ethics and that of big American corporations or President Nixon’s administration. In fact, the Mafiosa in the Godfather films behave with greater loyalty and ethics than the corrupt police officers and politicians who get in their way. “Now all the criminals in their suits and their ties/are free to drink martinis and watch the sunrise,” as Bob Dylan sang of the Nixon administration in his 1975 protest record, “Hurricane.” The real crooks, these artists seem to say, weren’t in the streets but safely ensconced on Wall Street and in the White House.

If the left believed the establishment had created a criminal society, many conservative members cried for law-and-order and a crackdown on student radicals, the Black Nationalists and the Weather Underground types. Many in the older generation saw these groups as bent on destroying the country. Such conservatives packed movie theaters in 1968 to watch the pro-Vietnam War film "The Green Berets," produced by and starring the hero of many movie Westerns, John Wayne. Berets portrayed the press as a liberal force that deliberately ignored the good done by the military in Southeast Asia, and the film portrayed the North Vietnamese Army and their Vietcong allies as evil.

Even when the media had a liberal message, angry whites found validating messages for their beliefs. A television comedy produced by left-leaning activist Norman Lear, "All in the Family,' first aired on CBS in 1971, starting a wildly successful eight-year run. The situation comedy centered on the malaprops and bigotry of blue collar worker Archie Bunker, who lived in a middle American home in Queens, New York, with his wife, daughter, and liberal, educated, hippie-like son-in-law.

In the series, Archie, played by the veteran actor Carroll O’Connor, mocked anti-war protestors and derided African Americans as “niggers” and “coons,” and called Polish people “Polacks” and Italians “Dagos.” Bunker was a fan of the politician he incorrectly called “Richard E. Nixon.” Lear intended the audience to relate to the much smarter and more tolerant son-in-law, Michael Stivic, and to laugh at Archie’s ignorance, but to many whites resentful over what they saw as black radicalism and lawlessness, Archie was a role model. T-shirts that said “Archie Bunker for President” sold well in the early 1970s.

Another strange conservative icon appeared in the movie "Joe." Peter Boyle plays the title character, a tool-and-die maker who meets at a bar a wealthy businessman who has just killed his daughter’s hippie boyfriend. Joe confesses to the businessman he’d like to kill a hippie, too. The pair later go on a shooting spree, killing counterculture types including, accidentally, the businessman’s daughter.

Boyle later said that the audience didn’t understand that Joe wasn’t a hero. He said that after the movie was released he went to a neighborhood butcher shop in Manhattan where an elderly woman recognized him and said, “I agree with everything you said, young man. Somebody should have said it long ago.” Author Rick Perlstein observes the uncomfortable parallel between the satirical film "Joe" and real life, noting the comment made by a Chicago ad salesman in a story in the May 18, 1970 edition of Time magazine. “I’m getting to feel like I’d actually enjoy going out and shooting some of those people,” the man told the Time reporter. “I’m just so goddamned mad. They’re trying to destroy everything I’ve worked for – for myself, my wife, and my children.” Such whites would form the army of voters who would begin to support conservative Republicans like Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and would join the ranks of right-wing activists opposing feminism, abortion and gay rights.




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.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Re-Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee: The American Indian Movement in the 1960s and 1970s

I am coauthor of an updated version of the college American history textbook, currently titled “American Dreams and Reality: A Retelling of the American Story.” Here, I describe political protest and resistance among Native Americans in the 1960s and 1970s and how the American Indian Movement (AIM) changed media depictions of indigenous people.

Beginning in the late 1960s, and through the 1970s, Native Americans emerged from the political shadows and launched a “Red Power” movement to protest poverty, lack of jobs and poor health care on reservations, the disrespect shown Indian history and culture in American movies and television, and the lengthy list of treaties with Indian nations signed and broken by the federal government.

the early 1960s, as the historian James Wilson wrote, conditions in “most Indian communities were appalling . . . more than 90 percent of their housing was substandard; their infant mortality rate was more than twice the national average; their incidence of preventable diseases such as tuberculosis, meningitis, and dysentery exceeded the general population’s by anything up to a hundred times; their average age of death was forty-three years [as opposed to almost 70 for the general population]; and, with unemployment running between 40 percent and 80 percent, their average family income was only around 20 percent of their Anglo-American neighbors.”

The political ferment of the 1960s moved young Native Americans to take direct action against oppressive white laws. The National Indian Youth Council (NIYC), for instance, conducted “fish-ins” in 1964 to assert tribal fishing rights in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho where pollution and the construction of dams, along with the intrusion of commercial fishing companies, had sharply reduced fish stocks in local streams, lakes and rivers. The three state governments had implemented conservation laws that applied equally to non-Natives and Natives, even though for the latter group the fish were “not only the staple food . . . but also one of the central motifs of their cultures.”

Indians had also been promised by 19th century treaties with the federal government that they would be allowed to fish in “their usual and accustomed” places. Young Native Americans blamed the depletion of local trout and salmon not on Indian fishers but on commercial fisheries. The NIYC began to deliberately disobey local fishing laws, and game wardens arrested the protestors. As the arrests multiplied, the protests began to draw national attention.

“Fish-ins began to erupt throughout the Northwest . . . bringing Native Americans from across the United States – at one gathering there were more than a thousand people from fifty-six tribes – into the area to support the beleaguered fishing peoples,” Wilson wrote “At the same time, hundreds of non-Indians including [actor] Marlon Brando and the black comedian Dick Gregory, publicly demonstrated their solidarity with the Indians by joining the protests and risking imprisonment.” In 1966, under escalating pressure the Justice Department announced that it would defend in court, upon request, any Native person protected by federal treaties charged with violating state fishing regulations.

The American Indian Movement, founded in 1968 by two members of the Chippewa Nation, George Mitchell and Dennis Banks, became perhaps the most influential and powerful “Red Power” group among Native Americans. Formed in Minnesota, AIM organized “patrols to protect Indians from police brutality” and used federal funds to “establish ‘urban alternative’ schools, where Native American children who had dropped out of the school system could develop greater cultural awareness and self-respect and learn how to survive in both the Indian and non-Indian worlds.”

Native American groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s sought to speak not just for individual tribes, but for all indigenous people victimized by white oppression. Such was the approach when an invading force that called itself “Indians of All Tribes” on November 20, 1969 seized control of Alcatraz Island, a closed federal prison in San Francisco Bay. The force included 300 Native Americans from 50 different Indian nations. The occupiers laid siege for 19 months, demanding that the government turn the property back over to its proper Indian owners and calling for the construction of an Indian cultural center on the site that would include an “Indian college, museum and ecology center.” Federal marshals ousted the last 15 Native American protestors on June 11, 1971.

The cultural center was not built, but one leader of the Alcatraz occupation believes the action had a positive impact on the indigenous community. “Alcatraz was a major turning point in my life,” said one Native American, Francis Wise. “For the first time in my life, I was proud to be an Indian and an Indian woman. I grew up in an all-white area. It was very difficult. You were constantly struggling to maintain any kind of positive feeling, any kind of dignity. Alcatraz changed all that.”

A dynamic new leader of AIM, Russell Means, continued to raise the visibility of the Indian cause by staging protests at two sites cherished by white America: Mount Rushmore, the sculpted tribute to four American presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt) created on a mountain on Indian land in South Dakota, and at the Mayflower II, the replica of the Pilgrim ship in the harbor at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Indian movement, and the Indian-admiring white counterculture, dramatically changed the way whites saw Native Americans.

Prior to the late 1960s, Westerns had consistently been the most popular American movie genre and in these films, Native Americans were almost always portrayed as inarticulate buffoons, or menacing killers with no regard for the life of the defenseless. Westerns began to disappear from theaters by 1970. One of the few to be released that year, "Little Big Man," had as its hero a man interviewed in modern times at the epic age of 121, Jack Crabb (played by Dustin Hoffman.) Crabb, audiences learn, spent his life being captured back and forth by whites and by an Indian tribe that called themselves “The Human Beings.” It is the Native Americans who are funny, wise, and compassionate in the film, and the whites who are drunks, fools, and murderers. George Armstrong Custer, the Army Indian fighter long portrayed in American folklore as a hero, is conceived in this film as a ruthless killer willing to step over the bodies of murdered Indian children and unarmed women as he pursues military and political fame.

In the Oscar-winning film " Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" (1973), an insane asylum run by a heartless, autocratic nurse serves as a metaphor for the United States during the Cold War and the Vietnam War. The hero (Randall Patrick McMurphy, played by Jack Nicholson) finds his strongest, most steady ally in a Native America, nicknamed with ironic humor “Chief,” who shows compassion and intellectual clarity as the inmates rise up in rebellion. In contrast to real life, it is the Native American who is the only inmate sane enough to escape the clutches of a mad American society by the film’s end.

Indian pride fueled another protest action at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, scene of a late-19th-century massacre of Native Americans by the U.S. Army. On February 27, 1973, about 200 Native Americans armed themselves and took over the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Wounded Knee to overthrow a corrupt Indian leader enjoying white support who tried to crush AIM. “The young kids tied eagle feathers to their braids, no longer unemployed kids, juvenile delinquents or winos,” recalled one participant, Mary Crow Dog. More than 300 National Guardsmen and US marshals surrounded Wounded Knee village, filled with “hundreds of Sioux and – at various times – members of 64 other tribes and a handful of black, chicano, and Euro-American supporters who had managed to slip past the government roadblocks,” as Wilson said.

This siege lasted 71 days. Across America, Native American and Chicano protestors rallied in support of the Indians and some were killed by police violence. Shootouts at Wounded Knee killed two Indians, with one federal marshal injured. In May, the Indians agreed to lay down their weapons. “Appropriately, perhaps, the Wounded Knee siege was the high-water mark of Native American activism,” Wilson observed. “Although the radical movement continued in 1974, for instance AIM established the International Treaty Council to try to win recognition of Native American sovereignty from the UN and other nations – it was never again able to attain the same level of public awareness and support. With U.S. withdrawal from two conflicts – the Vietnam War and the War on Poverty . . . the country gradually drifted towards a much more consensual, cautious mood . . .”




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.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Chicanismo": The Rise of the Latino Civil Rights Movement

I am coauthor of an updated version of the college American history textbook, currently titled “American Dreams and Reality: A Retelling of the American Story.” Here, I describe middle class Mexican American civil rights groups like LULAC and the more radical campaigns waged by Chicanos and by Latino farm workers in the 1960s and the 1970s.

The African American civil rights movement profoundly inspired Latinos after World War II. Other factors moving the community towards great militancy included “an increased awareness and expanded horizons of many Mexican-American veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict . . . rising educational levels among Mexican Americans (especially after World War II); increased awareness of the civil-rights movement of the late sixties . . . [and the] emergence of nationally significant Chicano leaders in community organizations and governmental positions . . .”

Latinos represented one of the fastest-growing populations in the United States after the war, with approximately 6 million people of Mexican descent living in the Southwestern United States from California to Texas. A large cluster of Cuban immigrants had settled in Florida and the major urban centers in the Northeast now included a large number of residents of Puerto Rican descent. Many Mexicans had settled in the United States as a result of the bracero, or agricultural guest worker program between Mexico and the United States, from 1942 to 1964. After World War II, Latinos of all ethnicities became increasingly aware that their larger numbers could translate into greater political power.

Mexican Americans had primarily voted for the Democratic Party, but by the late 1950s many had concluded that Democrats took them for granted. To address these frustrations, activists like Bert Corona and Edward Quevedo formed the Mexican American Political Organization (MAPA) in California in 1959, the group recruited Mexican American candidates for public office. During the 1960s, Viva Kennedy clubs formed all over the Southwest as the largely Catholic Mexican American population rallied behind their co-religionist. After Kennedy’s election, older Latino civil rights organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Viva Kennedy joined together, following a 1961 meeting in Victoria, Texas to form the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations (or PASO), which would shake the political world with local elections in the small town of Crystal City, Texas.

Crystal City was an agricultural community where Mexican Americans made up 80 percent of the population. Many lived in poverty and attended poorly funded schools. The city council was all-Anglo in 1963. Juan Cornejo, a member of the local Teamsters Union at the Del Monte cannery in Crystal City (a politically powerful local business), and a PASO organizer, launched a successful campaign to get Mexican Americans to pay the poll tax and register to vote. As a result of the drive, Mexican Americans constituted almost 70 percent of voters. Cornejo then helped boost the city council candidacies of five Mexican American candidates, who came to be known as los cinco. The candidates included a grocery store clerk, a truck driver, and the owner of a camera store. The Anglo power structure cracked down on this attempt by Mexican Americans to take over the city council and the Del Monte plant fired numerous workers for wearing campaign buttons supporting los cinco. After intervention from the Teamsters Union, the workers were rehired.

The city government reduced the number of polling places within Mexican American neighborhoods from three to one. Some workers continued to be physically threatened and then the Del Monte plant ordered overtime production during the election to keep their Mexican American workers from voting. “The Mexicans are trying to take over our town,” complained an Anglo worker at a local gas station. Nevertheless, the Mexican American slate won the election and held all seats on the new Crystal City Council. The PASO faction would lose control of the city government by 1965, nevertheless Anglos would never again hold a monopoly on power in Crystal City. Events in Crystal City politically energized Latinos across the United States, and especially in Texas.

CÉSAR CHÁVEZ
AND THE UNITED FARM WORKERS

Among Latino leaders, César Chávez enjoyed a unique ability to appeal to “center Mexican American organizations, along with the left,” as the historian Rodolfo Acuña wrote. In so doing, he became the “only Mexican American leader to be so recognized [as a national Latino spokesman] by the mainstream civil rights and antiwar movements.” Chávez first achieved notice when Filipino workers in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) on September 8, 1965 organized a strike against grape growers in the Delano region of California’s San Joaquin Valley. Earlier that year, the U.S. Labor Department had ordered that braceros (guest workers from Mexico) working in the Coachella Valley receive pay of $1.40 an hour ($10.40 an hour in today’s dollars.) The grape pickers were receiving 30 cents, or $2.15 an hour less in today’s dollars. Filipino and Mexican workers walked off the job, demanding the same pay as the braceros.

Chávez became a champion of the grape pickers’ cause. Born in Yuma, Arizona, in 1927, Chávez was the child of a union activist and a member of the United Farm Labor Union. He recalled being abused by teachers who punished students who spoke Spanish. One teacher made him wear a sign that said, “I am a clown. I speak Spanish.” He was deeply influenced by Pope Leo XIII’s papal 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum in which the Catholic leader urged church members to support workers’ rights and fight for social justice. Chávez also studied the career of India’s non-violent independence leader Mahatma Gandhi. In 1962, Chávez moved to Delano to work as a union organizer, focusing on recruiting Mexican field hands. By 1964, the National Farm Workers Association, the grape pickers’ union, had a membership of 1,700.

The charismatic Chávez won support across the country from Anglo Protestant civil rights activists. As a result of pressure from the growing number of Latino members in groups like the United Auto Workers, and the significant support of liberal Catholic priests, the grape strike became a national cause. The NFWA started a grape boycott that hurt growers, grocers and wine manufacturers. The boycott eventually persuaded some of the biggest grape growers and wine manufacturers like Gallo, Christian Brothers, and Paul Masson to sign multi-year contracts with higher pay with the grape pickers.

Other growers continued to resist. The United States government undermined the union and, by 1969, bought more than 4 million pounds of boycotted grapes, some sent to troops in Vietnam. Nevertheless, the boycott spread to Canada and Europe and by 1970, the strike in its fifth year, major growers in the San Joaquin and the Coachella Valley signed contracts with the NFWA. By the spring of 1971, in spite of violence instigated by growers (including a beating that left union lawyer Jerry Cohen unconscious), the major lettuce growers recognized the United Farm Workers Union and offered contracts with higher wages.

CHICANISMO

By the late 1960s, Black Nationalism became a model for younger Latinos who had tired of the more modest goals of assimilation and desegregation sought by groups like LULAC. Younger activists began to adopt the term "Chicano" to refer to their community. Chicano “had historically been a pejorative term applied to lower-class Mexicans,” Acuña wrote. “Working class people themselves, however, had always used it playfully to refer to each other.” Linking themselves to the poor, Chicanos rejected the materialism of their elders and declared their solidarity with African Americans, Cubans, the Viet Cong and others they saw as victims of Gringo (Anglo) imperialism and capitalism.

Most of these Chicano students came from the lower middle and middle classes, and they found radical politics for three major reasons: their own experiences with Anglo racism; the inspiring example of black civil rights protestors and outspoken leaders like Malcolm X; and finally the heroic struggles of the mostly Latino United Farm Workers union.

Chicanos also rejected the approach taken by older Mexican American political groups like LULAC and the GI Forum. In spite of all LULAC and AGIF's efforts to win Anglo tolerance, Mexican American children still attended poorly funded and segregated schools where most teachers were Anglo and could speak only English. The emphasis of LULAC on Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants learning English and becoming flag-waving patriots had not won Anglo respect for Mexican American culture. Chicanos now insisted on "the retention of Mexican cultural traditions — language, ceremonies, songs, family" and proudly declared their "racial and cultural distinctiveness."

One Chicano activist, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez (a former boxer and Democratic Party activist) established in 1966 the Crusade for Justice in Denver, which battled for reform of the local courts and police department, economic justice, and the inclusion of Chicanos in school lessons. “The Crusade became highly nationalistic; at one point Gonzalez considered appealing to the United Nations for a plebiscite in the Southwest to determine whether the people – la raza – might desire independence from the United States,” historian Bruce J. Schulman said. Gonzalez took advantage of a Denver teachers’ strike and got volunteers from the Crusade to teach not only core courses like math and biology, but also classes on Spanish and Mexican culture and Chicano history.

This embrace of cultural difference, which came to be known as Chicanismo, found following among young Houston, Texas, Latinos in the mid-1960s. When the Anglo-run Houston school board attempted to dodge sending white children to desegregated schools by designating Mexican American children as white and grouping them with African Americans, Chicano youths resisted. Chicanos launched a two-and-a-half-week strike involving 3,500 students who refused to attend Houston schools in August and September 1970. Chicanos set up "huelga" or strike schools, so Mexican American children could continue their lessons and learn more about their culture and history.

As a result of the strikes, more bilingual Mexican American teachers were hired by the Houston district, the curriculum was rewritten so students would be exposed to positive portrayals of Mexican Americans and physical improvements were made at some minority-majority schools. The Houston school board, however, never recognized Chicanos or Mexican Americans as a separate racial category, and brown and black children continued to bear the burden of desegregation. Houston Chicanos, however, deeply influenced the future shape of Mexican American politics across Texas and the country for the next four decades. Similar student walkouts occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s in California, Colorado, New Mexico and in major cities across the country.



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.