Building a Latino Civil Rights Movement

Building a Latino Civil Rights Movement: Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and the Pursuit of Racial Justice in New York City

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Building a Latino Civil Rights Movement
    Book Description:

    In the first book-length history of Puerto Rican civil rights in New York City, Sonia Lee traces the rise and fall of an uneasy coalition between Puerto Rican and African American activists from the 1950s through the 1970s. Previous work has tended to see blacks and Latinos as either naturally unified as "people of color" or irreconcilably at odds as two competing minorities. Lee demonstrates instead that Puerto Ricans and African Americans in New York City shaped the complex and shifting meanings of "Puerto Rican-ness" and "blackness" through political activism. African American and Puerto Rican New Yorkers came to see themselves as minorities joined in the civil rights struggle, the War on Poverty, and the Black Power movement--until white backlash and internal class divisions helped break the coalition, remaking "Hispanicity" as an ethnic identity that was mutually exclusive from "blackness."Drawing on extensive archival research and oral history interviews, Lee vividly portrays this crucial chapter in postwar New York, revealing the permeability of boundaries between African American and Puerto Rican communities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-1554-7
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    In the mid-1970s, even as President Richard Nixon’s “law and order” and anti-busing campaigns signaled to many the decline of the civil rights movement, Evelina Antonetty was beginning to reap the fruits of her organizing work in the South Bronx. Antonetty, a Puerto Rican, had been training Puerto Rican and African American mothers to fight for their children’s education in New York City schools since 1965. Standing at the forefront of the bilingual education movement for Spanish-speaking children, she was at the peak of her political activism. Crucially, she was forging national networks with African American, Native American, and Mexican...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Puerto Ricans, Race, and Ethnicity in Postwar New York City
    (pp. 21-60)

    When Armando Boullon walked into a barbershop in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, on February 19, 1958, he expected to spend an ordinary afternoon getting a haircut. He had been to the same barbershop three months earlier and had gotten a haircut from the owner himself, Frank De Bello, an Italian man. He was shocked that day, however, when he was refused service as soon as he entered the premises. “What do you want here? We don’t cut colored people’s hair,” De Bello told him. When Boullon reminded him that he had gotten a haircut from him before, De Bello insisted that...

  6. CHAPTER TWO We Were Walking on Egg Shells: Puerto Rican and Black Workers’ Political Dissent in the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union
    (pp. 61-94)

    Herbert Hill appeared before the House Committee on Education and Labor in New York City on August 17, 1962, to testify against the leaders of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ilgwu). As labor secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (naacp) and as a special consultant to Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., he had accumulated ample evidence from the 1940s to the early 1960s to prove the union’s racial discrimination against its black and Puerto Rican members. His actions surprised many since the ilgwu had a very progressive record of recruiting black union members at...

  7. CHAPTER THREE From Social Reform to Political Organizing: Building a New Consciousness of Resistance
    (pp. 95-130)

    When Manny Diaz began working as a teenage supervisor at the Union Settlement Association in East Harlem in the fall of 1953, he found himself at an important crossroads in his political life. A decade earlier, he had been manufacturing radios at Motorola Company and working as a shop steward for the United Electrical Workers. He and other factory workers had successfully pressured their boss to provide better ventilation inside the factory through a work slowdown. They also gained union representation by having a union leader negotiate on their behalf with their boss. Such experiences had taught Diaz that poor...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR If You Have a Black Numero Uno, Let’s Have a Puerto Rican Numero Dos: Building Puerto Rican and Black Political Power through the War on Poverty
    (pp. 131-164)

    When Gloria Quiñones finished her undergraduate studies at Fordham University in 1965, she was simply looking for a job. The daughter of a garment worker, Quiñones had had a few experiences with community work as an Aspira member and as a participant in a voter registration drive with Mobilization for Youth, but she was otherwise unaccustomed to the work of community organizing. Little did she know that her first job would change her life. As a twenty-one-year-old, she applied to work as a “community stimulator” in the Massive Economic Neighborhood Development (mend) in East Harlem. New York City’s Council against...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE From Racial Integration to Community Control: The Struggle for Quality Education
    (pp. 165-210)

    Soon after Evelina Antonetty founded the United Bronx Parents (ubp) in 1966, she realized that she could not change the city’s public school system by simply “cooperating” with administrators from the Board of Education. More confrontational methods were necessary. When ubp activists demanded that a child molester be removed from his teaching position in one of the schools in the Bronx, the Board of Education simply transferred him from one school to another. Livid at such a feeble response, ubp activists found the molester’s home address and demonstrated in front of his neighbor’s house. They aimed to shame him in...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Breaking of a Coalition: Institutionalizing Power and the Remaking of a Hispanic Identity
    (pp. 211-248)

    Community control leaders forged their movement based on the premise that black and Puerto Rican self-determination could remedy the fundamental inequalities shaping the education of their children. Inspired by the Black Power movement’s tenacious critique of white supremacy as the central axis of oppression in America, community control leaders believed that a greater presence of black and Puerto Rican leaders within the public schools’ administrative and teaching staff would allow their children to succeed academically. But as parents and teachers of color tried to implement their vision, significant class conflicts developed between the two groups. Black parents involved with I.S....

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 249-256)

    Black-Latino politics has become an increasingly salient topic since 2003 when Latinos surpassed African Americans as the largest minority group in the United States, and since Obama’s presidency sparked all sorts of hopeful and catastrophic predictions about an America that will soon become a “majority-minority” nation. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Latinos reached 16 percent of the nation’s population at 50.5 million, while blacks composed 13 percent at 38.9 million.¹ Those numbers, along with a growing Asian American population, led demographers to predict that racial and ethnic minorities will become the majority of the U.S. population by the middle...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 257-284)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-308)
  14. Index
    (pp. 309-332)