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George I. Sánchez

George I. Sánchez: The Long Fight for Mexican American Integration

Carlos Kevin Blanton
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    George I. Sánchez
    Book Description:

    George I. Sánchez was a reformer, activist, and intellectual, and one of the most influential members of the "Mexican American Generation" (1930-1960). A professor of education at the University of Texas from the beginning of World War II until the early 1970s, Sánchez was an outspoken proponent of integration and assimilation. He spent his life combating racial prejudice while working with such organizations as the ACLU and LULAC in the fight to improve educational and political opportunities for Mexican Americans. Yet his fervor was not always appreciated by those for whom he advocated, and some of his more unpopular stands made him a polarizing figure within the Latino community.Carlos Blanton has published the first biography of this complex man of notable contradictions. The author honors Sánchez's efforts, hitherto mostly unrecognized, in the struggle for equal opportunity, while not shying away from his subject's personal faults and foibles. The result is a long-overdue portrait of a towering figure in mid-twentieth-century America and the all-important cause to which he dedicated his life: Mexican American integration.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-21042-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    This book is more than a chronicle of George I. Sánchez’s life. In discovering the surprising depth and breadth and very human flaws of one brilliant Mexican American intellectual and activist, I arrive at an approximation of the entire twentieth-century Chicana/o experience. Biography can draw out larger themes of an era or specific topics in an academic field as effectively as any other kind of historical study. And delving into the personal as well as the professional can enliven the sometimes dry, academic subjects scholars devote themselves to in ways that are elegant and inspiring. There is, I realize, a...

  6. PART I 1906–1930s

    • 1 Early Life and Education 1906–1930
      (pp. 13-25)

      George I. Sánchez was born in New Mexico as the state shed its frontier status. At the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century rural New Mexico seemed not so altered from the frontier days of the Spanish colonial era, especially for its native Spanish-speakers. Life was hard; little economic or educational opportunity existed. However, the rustic land and ancient people that produced George Sánchez were undergoing rapid, tumultuous change, including an industrial revolution and a demographic revolution. As new industries devoured natural resources, an influx of immigrants arrived from across the United States and around the world. Large-scale...

    • 2 New Mexico Schools and New Deal Politics 1930–1935
      (pp. 26-45)

      George I. Sánchez was a New Deal man. The Great Depression of the 1930s and the Roosevelt administration’s New Deal response—with its tensions between radicalism and conservatism, between thought and action—greatly in-fluenced Sánchez. It was a political attitude, if not quite an outright ideology, espousing experimentalism and reform that most shaped the young Sánchez. Decades later he still believed the lessons of the New Deal were the primary lessons all activists and scholars should learn. Sánchez’s career during the first half of the thirties took as many twists and turns as a protagonist in an up-from the bootstraps...

    • 3 Exile, Recognition, and Underemployment 1935–1940
      (pp. 46-66)

      After the demise of his position in the New Mexico State Department of Education, what was to become of George I. Sánchez? The GEB and President Zimmerman agreed that he needed to get away from New Mexico for a while. They wanted him to publish more in order to reenter educational politics from the vantage point of a safe, tenured professorship at the University of New Mexico. Sánchez had exciting experiences from 1935 to 1940. He left the State Department of Education as a victim of politics, became an employee of major national foundations and then an educational administrator in...

  7. PART II 1940s

    • 4 Sánchez’s War of Ideas 1940–1944
      (pp. 69-85)

      The Second World War was one of the busiest and most damaging times of George I. Sánchez’s life. He took advantage of opportunities to expand his burgeoning national reputation through government service. Yet he experienced the limits of that civic participation in that the nation he loved was not willing to lay aside racism in order to achieve war time unity. The war almost destroyed Sánchez. When the war began he was an up-and-coming academic with a young family and a bright future at a university that regarded him highly; by war’s end he was emotionally burned out, physically disabled,...

    • 5 Sánchez’s War of Activism 1940–1944
      (pp. 86-101)

      During the Second World War George I. Sánchez advanced Mexican American civil rights. This much might seem predictable. After all, I have documented how Sánchez fought the war against racism and fascism with his pen. However, rather than limiting himself to such an academic direction, Sánchez also took on Jim Crow more confrontationally. With a few exceptions this record is hidden from historical memory. These few exceptions, however, represent a rapidly growing and important trend in Chicana/o historiography. If the Mexican American war of ideas through education is scantily documented and underappreciated, then its war of activism for civil rights...

    • 6 Sánchez’s War of Survival and His Transformations 1944–1949
      (pp. 102-122)

      There is a dearth of biographies in the field of Chicana/o history. But that reality has recently begun to change. Tejano/a literary figures are the subject of outstanding recent works by Leticia Garza-Falcón and John Morán González. A recent volume on Alonso Perales edited by Michael Olivas analyzes the life of a public intellectual involved in the production of books and articles as well as civil rights activism and community leadership. Chicana/o academic biography has recently grown with Félix Almaráz’s study of the University of Texas historian Carlos Castañeda, Mario T. García’s chapters on Castañeda, George Sánchez, and Arthur Campa,...

  8. PART III 1950s

    • 7 Politics and the Mexican American Generation
      (pp. 125-144)

      George I. Sánchez was a political figure. In addition to partisan politics, he performed a wider kind of political engagement as a public intellectual striving to popularize integrationist notions. All this work was connected to the liberal political ethos of the time that was shaped by two world wars, the Great Depression, and Roosevelt’s New Deal as it evolved into a moderated cold war liberalism. The historical literature on Mexican American politics in the 1950s is extensive and advances the point that cold war liberals predominated in this generational cohort. The story of George Sánchez confirms this notion with a...

    • 8 Mexican Americans and the Immigration Issue
      (pp. 145-162)

      If one were to assign to the Mexican American Generation one broadly acknowledged Achilles heel (some would say it had many), it would have to be immigration. Scholars with ample justification accuse the Mexican American Generation of being anti-immigrant. Mexican American Generation activists supported restricting Mexican immigration, including opposing the bracero program of the 1940s and 1950s and supporting crackdowns on undocumented immigrants; they maintained sharp citizenship distinctions that divided organic communities in self-defeating ways and embraced outright nativism on occasion. And George I. Sánchez was in the thick of this activism, a kind ofcitizenship sacrificeby Mexican Americans...

    • 9 Segregated Schools and Perceptions of Inequality
      (pp. 163-181)

      So prominent were his civil rights and political activism during the 1950s, one could forget that George I. Sánchez was a professor of education whose primary responsibility at the University of Texas was training future teachers. He studied as well as challenged the unequal and segregated schools provided to Mexican American children. The historical literature on the Chicana/o public school experience is a depressing read of cultural insensitivity, of teaching children to be satisfied with an inferior place in American life, of harsh corporal punishment, and of segregation. Even sympathetic educators taught in ways that would be considered grossly unacceptable...

    • 10 Mexican American Racial Identity, Whiteness, and Civil Rights
      (pp. 182-204)

      Race is the most exciting analytical category in U.S. history today. Scholars increasingly see race as a constructed category capable of great variation, not a static one. And race matters, too, as the historian Linda Gordon demonstrates inThe Great Arizona Orphan Abduction:“But the new awareness of historical and global instability in racial categories—the new critical race theory—does not mean that race isn’t ‘real.’ To the contrary, it is as real as slavery, Auschwitz, the U.S. immigration quotas. . . . Race is a social fact, one with great force. . . . Race is a strong,...

  9. PART IV 1960s–1972

    • 11 Sánchez in Camelot and the Great Society 1960–1967
      (pp. 207-238)

      The 1930s and 1940s were the height of George I. Sánchez’s academic production. The 1950s were the height of his civil rights activism. The 1960s brought a little of both and a redoubling of his involvement in electoral politics. Sánchez renewed his scholarly activity—and if it did not quite reach its earlier heights, it was enough to improve his standing at the University of Texas. He still commanded professional prestige but could not maintain the extraordinary pace of prior decades. He was getting older, and his health declined. I explore here Sánchez in Camelot, beginning with the Viva Kennedy...

    • 12 Chicanismo and Old Age 1967–1972
      (pp. 239-256)

      In the mid-1960s George I. Sánchez received a lengthy handwritten letter from a graduate student at the University of New Mexico. This young man lamented the community’s poor organization and asked why Sánchez did not try to form a national group of leaders to get the attention of authorities. Conscientious, passionate young men and women like this student would soon call themselves Chicanos and Chicanas and initiate more confrontational activism to transform the Mexican American community. Sánchez responded with a hasty, frustrated letter represented in the epigraph above. Feeling out of print and with a dented soul, Sánchez by the...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 257-262)

    What does the study of George I. Sánchez’s life say about Chicana/o history? about the broader sweep of U.S. history? What does it have to offer us in our lives here and now? These questions were first posed in the immediate aftermath of his death by his loved ones, students, and colleagues. People he had never met found ways to remember him and assign meaning to his life. They continue to do so. Scholars, in particular, remain fascinated by Sánchez.

    Several obituaries were the first to analyze Sánchez’s life. Writing to Carey McWilliams ofThe Nation,Sánchez’s old friend and...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 263-344)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 345-366)
  13. Index
    (pp. 367-383)