Fighting for Caucasian Rights: Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and the Transnational Struggle for Civil Rights in World War II Texas

In the spring of 1943, the Texas state legislature unanimously passed and Gov. Coke R. Stevenson signed a peculiar civil rights resolution, the “Caucasian Race—Equal Privileges” resolution. It stated that “all nations of the North and South American continents are banded together in an effort to stamp out Nazism and preserve democracy”; that “our neighbors to the South are cooperating and aiding us in every way possible”; and that “the citizens of the great State of Texas are interested in doing all that is humanly possible to aid and assist the national policy of hemispheric solidarity.” For all those reasons, the resolution declared, “all persons of the Caucasian Race within the jurisdiction of this State are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of all public places of business or amusement.” Since the state of Texas had, at various points, officially accepted people of Latin American descent as white, or Caucasian, the resolution was aimed at them—”our neighbors to the South.”[1]

This resolution and similar bills that failed to pass the legislature in 1941, 1943, and 1945 were important parts of the Mexican and Mexican American wartime civil rights struggle in Texas. The prominent League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) leader M. C. Gonzales apparently authored versions of the legislation, and other LULAC leaders and councils across Texas lobbied hard for it. So did the Mexican government—its foreign minister, Ezequiel Padilla, its embassy in Washington, and its many consuls throughout the state—and “Mexican” newspapers and civil rights and community organizations on both sides of the border. Those activists worked, sometimes in tandem, sometimes independently, toward a legal remedy for rampant discrimination against Mexicans and Mexican Americans. By examining the battle for this legislation and the legislation itself, we can learn much about a crucial strand of the modern Mexican American civil rights struggle.[2]

Figure 1
Manuel C. Gonzales is pictured in a February 1954 article from LULAC News, published by the League of United Latin American Citizens. Gonzales (whose name was sometimes spelled with a final z) led LULAC’s fight for Mexican American rights in Texas. Courtesy League of United Latin American Citizens/Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas, Austin.

Drawing on State Department records (which offer a wealth of information on activities in Mexico and the United States) as well as other rich archival sources in Texas and Washington, D.C., I argue that this struggle was more transnational than many scholars have recognized. The transnational dimension suggests that some conventional wisdom about the so-called Mexican American generation, the cohort of largely United States–born community leaders active from the 1930s through the 1950s—especially the notion that it was always far more concerned with America and Americans than with Mexico and Mexicans—might need tweaking. I also suggest that the struggle’s Caucasian calculation—the decision to fight for white rights for some, rather than equal rights for all—reflected not only what the activists deemed a pragmatic political strategy but also a form of self-identification that some Mexicans and Mexican Americans clutched firmly.

Such a strategy was not unique to people of Mexican origin. A white southerner resisting the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, an Italian immigrant signing a racially restrictive covenant, an Asian Indian petitioning the government for naturalization as a “free white person,” a light-skinned African American passing as white to secure a better job—all are examples of people fighting for Caucasian rights. Indeed, in a nation where for so long those rights were the only ones worth having, it should come as no surprise that an assortment of people desperately wanted them. But the various political struggles were by no means identical. Some people (for example, the Asian Indian and the African American) struggled to obtain Caucasian rights; others (the white southerner and the Italian American) fought to protect those they already had. The story here about Mexicans and Mexican Americans is about the first kind of struggle, not the second. After all, if the state accepted people of both Mexican and European descent as white, or Caucasian, only those of Mexican descent had to launch a transnational struggle to make that acceptance a daily reality. This essay, then, seeks to clarify precisely where the shifting boundaries of whiteness lay and the critical, concrete differences between being “white on arrival” and being “in-between.”[3]

This essay also speaks to World War II historiography. Virtually all general treatments of World War II and even several studies that focus on race in the war years mention Mexican Americans not at all or only in passing, usually in reference to the Los Angeles zoot suit riots in 1943.[4] And yet as scholars have long suggested, to understand the nature of race in the United States—during World War II or at any time—one must look beyond blacks and whites. Mexicans and Mexican Americans occupied a very different position from that of African Americans or that of whites in the developing racial orders of the U.S. South and Southwest, a difference that profoundly shaped their identities, politics, and everyday opportunities. Similarly, to understand the wartime experiences of Mexicans and Mexican Americans, a cursory discussion of Los Angeles will not do. During the war more people of Mexican descent lived in Texas than in any other state. It is their experiences, which differed in some important respects from those of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in other parts of the country, that are the focus of this essay.

Finally, this essay builds on civil rights scholarship, especially recent attempts to place ostensibly United States–based civil rights struggles in their global context. Since much of this splendid scholarship has focused on African Americans, this essay seeks to show what difference it makes to talk about other groups of color.[5] Following the work of the historian Justin Hart, this essay challenges some assumptions of the recent Cold War civil rights scholarship, even if the focus here is less on U.S. government officials than on Mexicans and Mexican Americans. When we broaden our notion of civil rights to include people of Mexican descent, we learn that government officials began seriously considering the international ramifications of domestic race problems during World War II—not during the Cold War. And they did so in the context of the Good Neighbor Policy, the need for hemispheric solidarity, and the growing wartime interdependence of the United States and Latin America—not solely in the context of Asian and African decolonization and America’s global struggle with Communism. In contrast to the U.S. government’s response to the black freedom movement in the Cold War years, officials’ wartime concerns about “Latin Americans” in Texas led to few concrete civil rights gains. Indeed, officials turned out to be more obstacle than ally in Mexicans’ and Mexican Americans’ fight for Caucasian and other rights. They were nonetheless centrally involved in attempts to manage and, in their view, to improve state and local race relations.[6]

To understand Mexicans’ and Mexican Americans’ wartime struggle, one must grasp their complicated location in the racial orders of the U.S. South and Southwest, more particularly, Texas. On the one hand, all federal and Texas state laws either accepted people of Mexican descent as white or refrained from explicitly defining them as “Negro” or “colored.” Therefore Mexicans were entitled to naturalize as free white people. Both they and Mexican Americans were entitled—sometimes in theory, sometimes in practice—to attend white schools, travel on white railroad cars, adopt white children, marry white partners, and serve time in white prisons. By the war years, the U.S. Census Bureau officially categorized them as white—albeit only after Mexican American activists, with help from Mexican consuls, the U.S. State Department, and local, state, and federal politicians, forced the bureau to change its classification schemes in 1936 and again in 1939. And some exceptions notwithstanding, Mexican Americans voted in the state Democratic party’s white primaries.[7]

On the other hand, in comparison with the state’s other legally white group—Anglos—Mexicans and Mexican Americans generally received lower wages, worked more difficult jobs, attended separate and worse-funded schools, lived in less desirable neighborhoods, enjoyed less formal representation in politics and in the courts, faced racialized violence regularly, and were subject daily to segregation and exclusion in countless public accommodations. In addition, powerful ideas, attitudes, assumptions, and stories about so-called Mexicans circulated around the state that not only demeaned and dehumanized them but also explained, justified, and nurtured the system of inequality.[8] Not all Mexicans and Mexican Americans experienced this system the same way; gender, class, nationality, skin color, and other factors all mattered. Yet, although few Mexicans and Mexican Americans encountered the full power and force of discrimination and prejudice—the legalized and more pervasive forms of disfranchisement, segregation, exclusion, and violence that blacks experienced—still fewer enjoyed the full power and privileges of whiteness. Here, then, was a truly in-between people, neither black nor white, and truly disadvantaged.

But disadvantage and in-betweenness, as a generation of social historians has reminded us, rarely meant passivity and powerlessness. Throughout the early twentieth century in Texas, Mexicans and Mexican Americans had been contesting the rise and development of the racial order through secessionist movements, court cases, boycotts, workplace activism, unionization, consul pressure, mutualistas (mutual aid associations), and music and art.

Such activism increased in the early 1940s because the war presented more opportunities than obstacles. First, both America’s embrace of the Good Neighbor Policy in Latin America and its need to secure hemispheric solidarity against the Axis threat endowed the fight for Mexican and Mexican American equal rights with newfound patriotic purpose.[9] Second, and related, as U.S. wartime labor shortages grew ever more acute and Mexico’s braceros, or temporary contract workers, ever more essential, Mexico gained a new and powerful bargaining chip in its efforts to secure better treatment for its citizens in the United States, in particular, in Texas.[10] Third, hundreds of thousands of young Mexican and Mexican American men and women—perhaps a half million—served in the armed forces, often in higher proportions than their Anglo counterparts, often dying in higher proportions as well. This patriotic sacrifice and service only further fired Mexicans’ and Mexican Americans’ determination to gain first-class citizenship befitting the war veterans and heroes they now were. Fourth, America’s wartime propaganda celebrated democracy over totalitarianism, and tolerance over hatred. In so doing, it armed activists with another potent rationale for their work and offered them another opportunity to place their fight squarely in line with America’s stated war aims. Finally, as with African Americans, the government’s concern about the morale of Mexicans and Mexican Americans—especially since Axis propagandists using shortwave radio broadcasts were playing up the contradictions between American race rhetoric and reality—made government agencies such as the Office of War Information (OWI), the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC), the U.S. State Department, and the newly formed Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA) more attentive to Mexicans’ and Mexican Americans’ needs and demands.[11]

Figure 2
A 1942 sign outside the Tarrant County Court House, Fort Worth, Texas, shows that Mexican Americans were outsiders to the privileges of whiteness. Courtesy National Archives (059-State Dept-250-33-7-4, box 3806, Decimal File 811-4016-337).

Taking full advantage of this mix of opportunities was a transnational group of activists: Mexican American statewide civil rights groups, most notably LULAC, but also organizations in close coalition with LULAC, such as the League of Loyal Americans or the Committee of One Hundred; smaller, local allies, such as the American Citizens’ Union of Latin Extraction of Weslaco or the Victory War Mothers Club of San Antonio; Spanish-language newspapers and magazines on both sides of the border; Mexican government officials from the foreign minister, Ezequiel Padilla, and the Mexican ambassador in Washington to consuls and consuls general throughout Texas; two important civil rights groups that formed in Mexico during the war, Comité pro Mexico de Afuera (Committee for the Protection of Mexicans Abroad) and Comité Mexicano Contra el Racismo (Mexican Committee against Racism), and diverse Mexicans and Mexican Americans unconnected to any formal organizations. This mix of people and institutions did not always work in perfect unison or agree on everything. But they were participants in the same struggle, I would argue, because they all shared an abiding desire, first, to gain greater rights for people of Mexican descent in Texas; second, to leverage government power in Austin, Washington, and Mexico to achieve this; and third, especially late in the war, to pass state legislation to guarantee Mexicans and Mexican Americans equal access to all public places of business and amusement in Texas.

The last goal became central to the wartime struggle. While Mexicans and Mexican Americans faced a dizzying array of disadvantages at work and in schools, neighborhoods, politics, and the courts, segregation and exclusion in public accommodations often attracted the most heated and sustained opposition. In the final four months of 1943, the state’s Good Neighbor Commission (GNC), which addressed discrimination against Latin Americans, received 117 formal complaints about discrimination from LULAC, the Mexican consuls, and individuals. At least 110 of them involved discrimination in public places of business and amusement.[12] And of the scores of letters that Mexicans and Mexican Americans sent to Governor Stevenson protesting discrimination, the largest number and often the most poignant dealt with public accommodations. On July 19, 1943, for example, Fred Martinez Sr. wrote:
Corporal Alexander Martinez, my son, citizen of the United States, was denied a haircut by the City Barber Shop, Rotan, Texas. I resent this with my whole soul. Two other sons are in the army…. Six sons and three daughters are tilling the soil with all their might. My wife and I have lived in Texas for forty two years and toiled on the same ranch for thirty seven years. We realize that we are in a Holy War against the enemies of Christianity and Civilization, but are unhappily fighting, too, for the freedom of those at home, that are persecuting us unto death.[13]

The concern about public accommodations—part of a larger and growing fight by people of color for greater equality at the point of consumption—may appear middle- and upper-class, since many of the poorest Mexicans and Mexican Americans probably lacked the money to patronize such places as theaters and restaurants, integrated or not. And yet the struggle, while led primarily by middle-class Mexicans and Mexican Americans, had a more varied rank and file. Protest letters to Stevenson, for example, came from U.S. citizens and Mexican nationals, professionals and laborers, Spanish speakers and English speakers, men and women, young and old, from all over state. That diversity stems in part from the fact that segregation and exclusion were most common in “fourth- and fifth-class” establishments, the only places that many poor and working-class Mexicans and Mexican Americans could afford.[14]

The letters to Stevenson, themselves a form of activism, often concluded by explicitly asking—sometimes demanding—that the governor take immediate action to end discrimination. Many activists were even more specific. Inspired by the wartime passage of antidiscrimination laws in various states and by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8802 creating the FEPC, they wanted a law that not only outlawed discrimination against people of Mexican descent in public accommodations but also levied fines on all violators.[15]

The campaign began in early 1941 when two of the most prominent Mexican American civil rights leaders, M. C. Gonzales of LULAC and Alonso S. Perales of the League of Loyal Americans, convinced Fagan Dickson, a state representative from their hometown of San Antonio, to introduce a “Racial Equality Bill” (also called the equal accommodations bill and the equal rights bill) in the statehouse on April 14. Clearly a precursor to the 1943 Caucasian race resolution, House Bill 909 stated: “All persons of the Caucasian Race within the jurisdiction of the State are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of all public places of business or amusement.” The bill also stipulated that a Caucasian victim of discrimination could sue for “an amount not less than his actual damages and One Hundred ($100.) Dollars.” Finally, the bill was carefully crafted to have no effect on laws segregating “Caucasians” from “Negroes”; the draft stipulated that the law would “not apply to persons, corporations, or associations owning or operating public places of business or amusement exclusively for the benefit of persons of the Negro Race and persons of the Caucasian Race may be lawfully excluded from all such places.”[16]

Although Dickson’s introduction of the bill in the Texas house was “met by laughs, murmurs of disapproval and a few shouts of dissent,” the house voted to send it to the State Affairs Committee. Activists from both sides of the border lobbied hard for the bill. Alonso Perales, following the advice of Dickson, wrote Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles twice in one week, enclosed a copy of the bill, and urged him, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and President Roosevelt to write members of the Texas house committee in support of 909. LULAC councils also wrote their representatives. The group in Kenedy, for example, called on Fred Klingeman, their local congressman, to support 909, since it would “strengthen the bonds of friendship between the United States and the Latin American Republics” and because “we, the American Citizens of Mexican descent are of the Caucasian race.”[17]

The Mexican embassy and Mexican newspapers did their part as well. In a memorandum to the U.S. State Department in May 1941, the embassy stated: “the Government of Mexico and public opinion in the United Mexican States view with the greatest sympathy the efforts which are being made in Texas, with the purpose of putting into effect an anti-segregation law.” The following month the embassy urged the State Department to “use all your valuable influence with the Government of the State of Texas to the end that its legislature may not close its present session without first approving the [909] bill.” Newspapers in Mexico also expressed their hearty support for 909. In April 1941 Novedades, one of Mexico City’s largest and most respected newspapers, opined: “The Bill presented before the Legislature of Texas … constitutes a just compensation for the many indignities which our citizens residing in the southern part of the United States have sustained.” El Universal, another large Mexico City newspaper, agreed in an April 23, 1941, editorial: “We salute the Texas legislators in the forward steps … which they have taken so that all obstacles may be eliminated from the road that leads to a true and mutually advantageous understanding.”[18]

Despite this solid support, the Texas house never brought 909 to a vote, and the measure died a quiet death. LULAC’s subsequent attempts to get Governor Stevenson to call the Texas legislature into a special session for one more crack at the bill also failed. House Bill 909 received little coverage from the mainstream Texas press, little support from the legislature, and no help from the State Department.[19] The bill suffered from activists’ still-limited leverage, especially in formal state politics. Many “Mexicans” were unnaturalized immigrants who could not vote; others—a smaller minority—were disfranchised by white primaries; a larger number could not often afford the poll tax; still others no doubt became disillusioned with formal politics and dropped out of the electoral process altogether. Whatever the exact causes, the consequence was that during the war, in a state that was roughly 14 percent “Mexican” (including people born in Mexico and those of “Spanish Mother Tongue”), the state senate had no Spanish-surnamed people and the house—with 150 members— had only 3.[20] And yet activists could gain a modicum of power even without major representation in the legislature. The events of 1943 would prove as much.

When the Texas legislature next met in early 1943, much had changed. Both Mexico and the United States were now at war, fighting as allies against the Axis powers and closely cooperating on labor, trade, foreign debt, and defense matters. Indeed, it was in this context of war and cooperation that the two countries signed the landmark Bracero Agreement, systematizing Mexican workers’ migration to, and wages and working conditions in, the United States. It was also in this context that activists once again attempted to pass a Caucasian race measure. On January 20, Pat Dwyer of San Antonio introduced House Bill 68 in the Texas house, and a month later Clem Fain introduced Senate Bill 203 in the Senate; both were identical to 909, with the clauses about Caucasians, sanctions, and Jim Crow laws kept intact.[21]

Many of the key players of 1941 were involved in lobbying for the 1943 bills. Prominent Mexican American leaders such as Alonso Perales, George I. Sánchez, M. C. Gonzales, and Carlos Castañeda all wrote politicians and government officials in attempts to rally support for the bill, often buttressing their appeals with explicit war-related arguments.[22] Perales and Gonzales also appeared before the senate’s State Affairs Committee in mid-April to testify to the depth of discrimination facing Mexicans and Mexican Americans in Texas and the desperate need for legislative protection. At the end of the month, Sánchez, as newly appointed director of the Committee on Inter-American Relations in Texas (a group funded by the OCIAA), sponsored a conference in Austin attended by thirty experts from educational, health, welfare, and religious agencies, among them Perales, Gonzales, and Castañeda, all of whom lobbied for legislation. Meanwhile, the Mexican embassy in Washington contacted key U.S. government leaders to drum up support and to make crystal clear the Mexican government’s unqualified support for legislation.[23]

Figure 3
George I. Sánchez in the 1930s. During World War II Sánchez, a leader in the League of United Latin American Citizens, directed the Committee on Inter-American Relations in Texas, lobbying for passage of a bill granting Mexicans and Mexican Americans the privileges of the “Caucasian Race.” Courtesy Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas, Austin.

But perhaps the most compelling evidence of the Mexican government’s (and activists’) commitment to the bill’s passage comes, not from the legislative deliberations, but from their aftermath. On April 29, after having amended the bill by eliminating the $100 sanction clause, the house passed 68 unanimously. The senate stalled 203 when Ben Ramsey of San Augustine referred the bill to a subcommittee to determine the exact meaning of “Caucasian race” and then rejected it, never allowing it to get out of the State Affairs Committee. Both houses of the legislature did offer an alternative: House Concurrent Resolution 105, the “Caucasian Race—Equal Privileges” resolution, which passed the house on April 15 and the Senate on May 5 and was signed by Stevenson the following day. An abridged version of 68 and 203, the resolution declared, as noted, that “all persons of the Caucasian Race” are “entitled to equal accommodations” in “all public places of business and amusement” and that “whoever denies to any [Caucasian] person” those equal accommodations “shall be considered as violating the good neighbor policy of our State.” The final sentence seemed to say it all: Although the matter was far from decided, many activists feared that 105—as a concurrent resolution as opposed to a traditional bill approved by the legislature—was not law. Was a violation of state policy, they wondered, also a violation of state law?[24]

With the answers to those questions unclear, many activists were, at least in private, angered by the resolution. In a letter to Carlos Castañeda written eleven days after Stevenson signed 105, Perales confessed: “All the [Texas Legislature] … did was to pass a resolution stating that they disapproved of racial discrimination in Texas, or words to that effect. This means that we did not get the law we wanted and which our nation needs in order to unite the peoples of the Americas. Needless to say I feel very much discouraged.” Other Mexican Americans voiced similar frustrations. In one letter to the McAllen Evening Monitor in south Texas appearing in April 1944, “AN AMERICAN (of Latin descent)” wrote: “It is shameful to say that all our good president, our good government, our congress or state legislature have done towards the American (of Latin descent), is to pass resolutions, proclamations and recommendations…. If instead … the [Texas state] legislature had passed a law to make it an offense to discriminate against races here, it would have done more good, and much quicker.”[25]

The Mexican government expressed its deep dissatisfaction with 105 to the U.S. embassy in Mexico City.[26] It also decided to act. Angered by, and politically vulnerable at home because of, the ongoing discrimination against Mexicans and Mexican Americans in Texas and frustrated by what it deemed Austin’s refusal to do anything significant about it, the Mexican government played its trump card: braceros. In June 1943 it notified all consuls in Texas that the state would not be permitted to receive contract laborers under the Bracero Agreement signed a year earlier. Foreign Minister Padilla made the reason for the ban clear. According to a June 17 memorandum from the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, George S. Messersmith, Padilla expressed
regret that this order had been issued which would not make possible the going of any Mexican workers under the agreement to Texas. He said, however, that they had these reports of increasing discriminations in Texas…. he referred to a recent bill in the Texas Legislature which would have prevented such discriminations or imposed penalties in case thereof, and he said that the failure of the Legislature to pass the bill has created a bad impression here [Mexico]. He understood the Legislature had contented itself with a mere resolution which was ineffective.
In a note to a State Department official in Washington shortly after this conversation, Messersmith recognized the underlying meaning of the ban: “To my mind the Mexican government has seized upon an issue with which the State of Texas is very much concerned in order to try to get something done about discrimination. I think Dr. Padilla feels that if anything is ever to be accomplished with regard to discrimination it must be done during the war when our needs from Mexico are so great and so urgent.”[27]

Padilla was right. With a bumper cotton crop soon in need of picking, powerful Texas growers descended on the offices of their congressional leaders in Washington, their state representatives in Austin, U.S. State Department officials on both sides of the border, and even Padilla in Mexico City in an attempt to lift the ban.[28] Not surprisingly, things began to happen. Having consulted closely and extensively with federal officials from the State Department and the OCIAA, with Cullen W. Briggs, a federal district judge who represented growers in Nueces and San Patricio counties, and, through the American embassy in Mexico City, with Padilla himself, Coke Stevenson made carefully orchestrated moves in the summer of 1943: On June 25 he publicly proclaimed the Good Neighbor Policy to be the “public policy of Texas as laid down in House Concurrent Resolution No. 105” and enjoined all Anglo Texans to abide by this policy and resolution “to the fullest extent in both spirit and letter”; a month later he issued “instructions to all law enforcing agencies of the Government of the State of Texas to be especially vigilant in order to prevent discriminations against Mexicans”; on July 29 he exchanged much-publicized letters with Padilla, in which Stevenson not only stressed the state’s need for farm workers but also attempted to assure the foreign minister that “every effort is being made to wipe out such discrimination as may exist” against “Mexicans resident in Texas”; on August 9 he appointed a six-member Good Neighbor Commission, which was charged with investigating and addressing discrimination against Latin Americans in Texas; and in early September he embarked on a two-week goodwill tour of Mexico to take part in the country’s Independence Day celebrations on September 16 as a special guest of the government.[29]

This spasm of good neighborliness nearly encouraged Mexico to lift its ban in summer 1943 and again in spring 1944.[30] And yet nothing ever panned out. Why? For one thing, Padilla and President Manuel Avila Camacho of Mexico apparently recognized that the ban was immensely popular in Mexico. When it was announced, every major newspaper in Mexico City lauded the move, prompting an American embassy official there to remark: “It is rare to witness such unanimity of opinion with regard to a subject with which the [Foreign] minister has had to deal.” As a result, it became far too politically risky to lift the ban, especially given both Padilla’s controversial coziness with the United States and the stories of anti-Mexican discrimination that continued to make headlines. (Indeed, the zoot suit riots in Los Angeles in June 1943, which broke out just after the blacklisting of Texas was announced, gave rise to a new round of harsh criticism of Padilla and his friendliness to the United States.)[31] Moreover, despite the proclamations and letters, goodwill tours and resolutions, the Mexican government had not received what it wanted most—antidiscrimination legislation with sanctions.

This point was only confirmed in early February 1944, when the Fourth Court of Civil Appeals in Texas overturned a lower court decision, ruling that, as activists had suspected all along, the Caucasian race resolution was legally meaningless. “We must presume,” stated the court, “that if the Legislature of this State had desired to change the common law as it has always existed in this State and enact a ‘civil rights’ law regulating who should be admitted to private places of amusement, that it would have done so by the well-known and exclusive method of enacting a ‘Bill’ to that effect and would not have passed only a resolution.” M. C. Gonzales appealed to the state supreme court, which in October 1944 refused to hear the case, siding with the Fourth Court’s ruling.[32]

The decision was neither a surprise nor a setback. From the beginning, Gonzales and Sánchez—both were centrally involved in preparing the court cases, and Gonzales in litigating them—well knew that, in the former’s words, “this is a case which, if we win, we are ahead, and if we lose, we are still ahead.”[33] While a win would have given the activists the law they were looking for; the loss underscored the need to do much more to protect Mexicans’ and Mexican Americans’ civil rights.

Figure 4
Using his character Cantinflas, the cartoonist Ernesto García Cabral commented on racialized access to restaurants on both sides of the Texas/Mexico border. On the Texas side, the sign may be translated “No Mexicans Served”; on the Mexican side, “Anyone May Eat Here, Even Texans.” “Cabral’s Cantinflas on Jim Crow Restaurants,” first published in the Mexico City newspaper Novedades; reprinted in Time, Feb. 7, 1944. Courtesy Estate of Ernesto García Cabral.

With the next session of the Texas legislature less than a year away, activists pushed on with greater energy, purpose, sophistication, and power than ever before. The Mexican government renewed its pro-legislation lobbying efforts as soon as the bills failed and 105 passed. The effort became particularly clear at the Conference on Inter-American Relations held at the University of Texas in December 1943. In attendance were Governor Stevenson; Rafael de la Colina, the Mexican ambassador to the United States; all Mexican consuls in Texas; William Blocker of the State Department, the U.S. consul general in Ciudad Juárez; Thomas Sutherland of OCIAA; Texas state officials; and all members of the newly formed GNC. Mexican consuls from across the state all spoke and stressed the need for the Texas legislature to pass a civil rights law in its next session. And in a motion that concluded the conference, Colina urged “the Good Neighbor Commission of Texas [to] recommend at an early date the passage of an appropriate legislative measure containing sanctions for those who violate its provisions.” At subsequent GNC meetings, Mexican consuls continued to push hard for legislation.[34]

And, as usual, they received plenty of help from Mexican American activists, who also lobbied vigorously for legislation long before the next Texas legislature met in January 1945. Key leaders such as Perales remained centrally involved, but others participated as well. On September 8, 1944, for example, the Victory War Mothers Club of San Antonio—”consisting of two hundred Latin mothers, whose sons are in the service of their country in all the theaters of war”—wrote Governor Stevenson, urging him “to include in your next message to the Texas Legislature the passage of a law that will protect from embarrassment and indignity not only the returning heroes of Latin extraction, but those who remained at the home front engaged in defense work and all Latin people who are now being subjected to unwarranted discrimination in public places on purely racial grounds.” A month later, LULAC Council no. 2, also from San Antonio, organized a meeting in which over a dozen local organizations appeared, including the Council of Pan American Relations, the Mexican Businessmen’s Association, Confederación de Latino Americanos, Order of the Sons of America, Club Democratico, and Defensor de Los Obreros. Together they drafted a joint resolution that read in part: “Resolved to respectfully petition His Excellency, Governor Stevenson, to include in his message to the Texas Legislature on January, 1945, a strong recommendation for the early passage of a law designed to protect from abuse and humiliation the people of Mexican extraction, whether they be citizens of Mexico or native American.”[35]

Opposition to legislation also mobilized fast. Many Anglos who never either accepted the Good Neighbor Policy or believed that discrimination was very bad hated the idea of appeasing “agitators,” especially when among the agitators was the Mexican government, which they viewed as continually meddling in internal Texas state affairs. Numerous letters poured in to Governor Stevenson and the GNC to that effect.[36] But early resistance also emerged from more powerful people and groups, some of whom were supposed to be friendly, if not central, to the larger good neighbor campaign. Governor Stevenson, for example, always firmly believed that “more can be accomplished by a process of education and training than by direct legislative action,” and the OCIAA and State Department officials agreed.[37] Indeed, the latter’s memoranda were riddled with remarks from Blocker, Messersmith, and others on the “snipers” and “demagogues” in LULAC, the inanity of antidiscrimination laws, and the need for gradualism, education, and discreet negotiations. As Messersmith told Blocker in March 1945: “It is too bad that a question of discrimination should be made the subject of politics.”[38]

The GNC, which was appointed by Stevenson with direct and extensive input from both the State Department and the OCIAA, came over time to accept those views as gospel. By the end of 1944 it had quietly drafted its own bill, which would make the commission a more permanent institution fully funded by the Texas state government (the OCIAA had been bankrolling it) and stressed education over legislation. The GNC bill was introduced in the next Texas legislature as a clear alternative to what Blocker denominated the “more radical” antidiscrimination legislation.[39]

In this charged atmosphere Sen. J. Franklin Spears of San Antonio introduced Senate Bill 1 in the Texas senate on January 10, 1945. A variation on the earlier bills, the Spears bill stated no public place of business or leisure “shall deny to any person because of his or her Mexican or Latin-American origin equal facilities, privileges, accommodations or services.” The bill also stipulated that violators of the law would be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined “not more than Five Hundred Dollars or imprisoned for a period of not more than thirty days or both.” Guilty parties would in addition be “liable to the person or persons discriminated against for the actual damages suffered, plus the sum of One Hundred Dollars.” In the bill’s original form, the term “Caucasian” never appeared nor did the clause exempting all Jim Crow laws. But in May 1945 an amendment offered by Spears himself passed to protect “all persons of Mexican or Latin American origin or of the Caucasian or Indian race.”[40]

Word from Mexico was immediate and enthusiastic. All the country’s major newspapers—Excelsior, El Universal, El Nacional, Novedades, and La Prensa—covered the news of the bill’s introduction in front-page stories and expressed hope that the Spears bill would pass. In a press statement, the recently formed Comité Mexicano Contra el Racismo (CMCR) also praised the bill as “the first transcontinental step to eliminate the segregation practices that Mexicans and Latin Americans suffer in this state.” And Consul General C. A. Calderon in San Antonio immediately contacted Pauline Kibbe, executive secretary of the GNC, to convince her to fight for the bill.[41]

The Mexican government’s lobbying grew more intense over time. On March 8 on the floor of the Texas senate, Lt. Gov. John Lee Smith read a communication in Spanish from the Mexican senator Antonio Villalobos, president of the National Party of the Revolution, in which he urged the legislature to pass Spears. Perhaps the most unusual “lobbying” move came a few weeks later, on March 21, when Eugenio Prado, president of the Mexican federal congress; Teofilo R. Borunda, who served in that congress; and Arturo Flores, former mayor of Ciudad Juárez, were all turned away at the Lone Star Café in Pecos, Texas, and advised to try the “colored” restaurant across the street instead. This set off a colossal cross-border controversy, leading to yet another round of angry editorials in Mexico and frantic exchanges between Mexico City, Austin, and Washington.[42] Privately, some Anglo officials were less than concerned. Shortly after the story first broke, Blocker, in a dispatch to the secretary of state, speculated that “Congressman Borunda deliberately … staged this show for Senator Eugenio Prado of Chihuahua, who accompanied him, in an effort to aid the sponsors of the Spears Anti-Discrimination Bill.”[43]

Whether Blocker was right about Borunda’s intentions is hard to say, but activists surely, as he suggested, made great use of the Pecos incident. CMCR, which for months had been featuring pro-legislation editorials in its monthly, Fraternidad, fired off a telegram to Stevenson on March 20, protesting “vigorously against the outrage committed by the owner of a restaurant in Pecos, Texas…. We hope that this unjust and reprehensible act of discrimination against a Mexican will arouse the determination of the legislators of Texas to the point of passing Spears’ Bill.” Perales issued a press statement on behalf of the Committee of One Hundred and the League of Loyal Americans, decrying the discrimination at Pecos—which should “make every right thinking and fair-minded American blush with shame”—and calling on the legislature to pass the Spears bill.[44]

Meanwhile other Mexican Americans continued to work hard to pass Spears. Perales, Castañeda, and Gonzales all appeared before the senate Committee on State Affairs in early March, calling for the passage of legislation because such existing institutions as the GNC were ineffective. Less prominent people got involved too. On May 6, 1945, Joe Mitchell wrote the governor to protest the refusal of the Naylon Coffee Shop in San Angelo to serve him and a friend. He explained that his friend, Mr. Castillo, “has a son in the Service of our Country and I have five brothers also fighting, ready to sacrifice their lives that the world will be free once and for all of the warped sentiments the unfairness and injustice that prevail here and are dealed mostly on us citizens of mexican extraction.” Mitchell concluded his letter with this appeal:
My friends and I are all citizens of this Country and expect to be heard by the Honorable Legislature that the Anti discrimination Bill be passed…. All we want from our fellow citizens, is the rights to enjoy the educational advantages, to be able to buy a cup of coffee or a soda pop with our well earned money; we want equal Rights under the Constitution and Laws of the U.S. and our Native State of Texas.
Tellingly, Mitchell also sent a copy of his letter to Luis Duplan, the Mexican consul in Austin.[45]

Yet opposition continued to mount. In January a newspaper leaked the story that the GNC, the supposed paragon of good neighborliness, “had no connection to the [Spears] Bill, and might even oppose it in committee if called upon to express an opinion.” At the same time, the Anglo press in Texas, if it commented editorially on the bill at all, raised serious questions about its potential effectiveness. “Promotion of good will,” argued the San Antonio Light on March 9, “is largely an educational process. It has got to change the hearts and minds of people who are in need of being changed. It cannot be done by passing a law.” Three days later the San Antonio Express agreed: “people cannot be compelled by law to do that which they dislike with sufficient intensity.”[46] The senate finally passed the Spears bill in early May, but with an amendment that made the bill all but meaningless. It stated that the bill “shall not apply to any country or to citizens or relatives of any country which does not have a law or laws granting to citizens of Texas and of the United States the same privileges and rights in such country as are contained in this law.” When the amendment was proposed, Spears complained to the press that it was “an obvious attempt to kill his bill.”[47]

The wrangling in the senate proved irrelevant since the house, on its third reading, rejected the Spears bill “forty-six ayes to sixty-three noes” on May 29. Given the transnational lobbying efforts for the Spears bill, it seems only fitting that some of the bitterest reaction to the bill’s final defeat came from Mexicans in Mexico. In early June, students at Puebla University staged a strike to protest the admission of forty-two American students. Protesters declared: “Since the legislature of the State of Texas had refused to approve a law which would have put a stop to discrimination against Mexicans in Texas, the Puebla students would attempt to impede at all costs the presence of Texas students in Puebla.”[48]

Activists, while moving on to other battles, refused to give up the legislative fight. With their continued support, legislators introduced antidiscrimination bills before the Texas legislature into the 1950s, but every attempt failed, and none came as close to passage as Spears had in 1945.[49]

Yet this story is hardly one of unmitigated defeat. If an antidiscrimination bill with sanctions never passed, activists gained minor concessions along the way, including the Caucasian race resolution, the good neighbor proclamation, and the GNC. Numerous observers at the time and since have viewed those moves as a direct result of Mexico’s ban on braceros. And with the notable exception of the Caucasian race resolution, which was passed over a month before the ban was announced, that argument has some validity. Stevenson would almost certainly not have acted so aggressively if the Mexican government had not forced his hand. And yet the ban cannot be understood outside the context of the larger struggle outlined here. The Mexican government reluctantly issued its ban because Mexicans were outraged by the continuing discrimination their compatriots faced in Texas. Knowledge of discrimination no doubt came from many sources, but perhaps the most important were the consuls, in coalition with Mexican American activists, who recorded, documented, and publicized every case of discrimination they could get their hands on. If Stevenson would not have acted without the ban, the Mexican government would not have issued the ban without a transnational struggle that compelled it to act.[50]

This transnational frame is critical. Indeed, the Mexican American civil rights struggle—perhaps a more accurate if awkward term, at least during the war years, would be the Mexican and Mexican American civil rights struggle—can be known only by examining developments, institutions, and ideas on both sides of the border. The struggle not only enlisted key Mexican and American individuals, governments, newspapers, and civil rights groups but also depended on international issues and developments to advance its cause—the Good Neighbor Policy, the need for hemispheric solidarity, the U.S. demand for cheap labor from Mexico, and the growing need of the United States, in its global fight with totalitarianism, to put its own deeply undemocratic house in order.[51]

This transnational focus and this story more generally alter some conventional wisdom about the Mexican American generation and particularly LULAC. Numerous scholars have characterized both as more focused on America and American citizens than Mexico and Mexican citizens.[52] It is certainly true that the ultimate goal of such activists as Sánchez, Perales, and Gonzales—all of whom rarely missed an opportunity to play up their Americanness—was to secure civil rights in the United States by leveraging state and federal government power.[53] But to do so, they shrewdly nurtured and made great use of connections with Mexico. Instead of casting “their lot decisively with the United States” to avoid “the dangers of statelessness,” as one historian has recently put it, Mexican American activists skillfully drew on any useful personal and professional relationships they had, many of which were with Mexican civil rights groups, Mexican newspapers, and Mexican consuls and other government officials.[54] If a fear of statelessness was a motivating factor for lulacers and the Mexican American generation, they addressed it, I would argue, by working closely with two states, not one.

Furthermore, their battle for Caucasian rights legislation sought to protect all people of Mexican or Latin American descent, not simply those who were citizens of the United States. Not only did their legislative proposals never discuss citizenship; their private correspondence rarely did so. One goal and selling point of the legislation was that it would protect our “neighbors to the South”—all of whom, it was assumed, were legally Caucasian (or Indian, according to the Spears bill). Ironically, this inclusiveness as to nationality may have resulted from an exclusiveness as to color. By insisting that public accommodations should serve people primarily on the basis of Caucasianness or Indianness, they implicitly argued that citizenship should have nothing to do with it. All Caucasians and Indians—of the foreign and domestic varieties—deserved the same rights and services.

As the 1945 inclusion of Indians might suggest, the Caucasian rights campaign was never entirely about Caucasianness. Of the scores of letters, memoranda, editorials, and speeches activists wrote and gave to protest discrimination in public accommodations, many made no reference to whiteness at all. Instead, like the Victory War Mothers, Fred Martinez, Joe Mitchell, and others cited earlier, many activists simply wished to end daily indignities in cafés and restaurants, pools and parks. In addition, some activists, even as they fought for a Caucasian rights bill, conceived of rights, equality, and potential allies more broadly. In preparing legal cases contesting segregation, restrictive covenants, and jury selection, the Mexican American leaders Sánchez and Gonzales were in occasional contact with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Gonzales wrote Sánchez that if they could win a case, “it may be that we can lay a predicate for pressing the case later on in behalf of our down-trodden colored brethren.”[55] In a letter to Stevenson, Eloísa Galán commended the governor for his policies regarding Mexican Americans but chided him for not doing more for African Americans: “A better treatment of colored people will result in better appreciation of our officials by nationals who are neither of anglo-american extraction or colored.” And in Mexico Fraternidad consistently purveyed an incipient “people of color” identity and politics, speaking out against all forms of racial discrimination and often featuring, on its cover, drawings of “todas las razas unidas.”[56]

Yet many of the same Mexican and Mexican American activists made a calculated, if often unspoken, decision: to fight for Caucasian (and, in 1945, Indian) rights for some, not equal rights for all. One could achieve the former, after all, by leaving the Texas state constitution and the state’s jumble of Jim Crow laws wholly intact. And in a state as rabidly and rigidly antiblack as wartime Texas, that was no small advantage. In 1944 when the GNC and officials from Austin and Washington met to debate the relative merits of legal versus educational remedies to anti–”Latin American” discrimination, the GNC’s legal consultant R. W. Fairchild asked: “Will not passage of laws prohibiting private discrimination against persons of Latin-American extraction or nationals of Latin-American countries presage attempts for passage of a similar law protecting the ‘Negro race’?” He also wondered whether “Negro” citizens of Latin American countries might be protected under such a law and thus undermine existing segregation statutes. Those prospects were of grave concern to Fairchild and the entire GNC.[57]

Figure 5
The June 1944 cover of Fraternidad, published by the Comité Mexicano Contra el Racismo (Mexican committee against racism), shows cartoon figures on a globe holding a banner bearing a quotation from the ancient Roman author Cicero that may be translated: “Men differ in what they learn, but they are equal in their capacity to learn; there is no race that, guided by reason, cannot arrive at virtue.” Courtesy National Archives (059-State Dept-250-33-7-4, box 3806, Decimal File 811-4016-337).

Although Governor Stevenson worked with and made some concessions to Mexican and Mexican American activists, he either ignored and dismissed the aspirations of African Americans or worked vigorously to undermine them. As he purportedly told one OCIAA official regarding his support for the GNC: “Meskins is pretty good folks. If it was niggers, it’d be different.”[58] Such steadfast Anglo opposition to African American rights no doubt convinced many Mexican and Mexican American activists to distinguish what could from what could not be realistically challenged—de facto segregation of brown from white, yes; de jure segregation of black from white, no.

But more than pragmatism may have been at work. Also influential was some Mexicans’ and Mexican Americans’ long-standing connection with whiteness and their equally long-standing desire to distance themselves, or at least their politics, from blackness. Scholars have skillfully traced the roots of such feelings back to Mexico and documented their deep influence on middle-class Mexican Americans, especially LULAC members, throughout the mid-twentieth century.[59] Indeed, although those scholars have never (as far as I can tell) received credit for it, they are among the earliest practitioners of whiteness studies—at least in the field’s most recent phase.

The campaign for Caucasian rights clearly adds further evidence that identification with whiteness and distancing from blackness still animated Mexican American politics in the war years—especially among LULAC members and middle-class Mexican Americans, but also among some working-class people. There is the handful of letters from Mexican Americans to Texas and U.S. government officials in spirited defense of their Caucasianness and whiteness. In one man’s exasperated words, “we belong to the white race, but we are treated worse than negros.”[60] There is David Casas’s 1942 lawsuit against a housing development, not necessarily for denying him the right to purchase a home, but for denying him his whiteness. When the court ruled against Casas and his request for damages, he was still pleased, according to his lawyer, since the “judgement rendered contained finding to the effect that David Casas and his wife are members of the caucasian race which was the main issue involved from standpoint of plaintiff.” There is the construction worker Jesus Valdez, who got fired for insisting, against his boss’s orders, on drinking from the “white” water pail rather than the “Mexican” one next to it. (In an affidavit concerning the incident, Valdez reported telling his boss: “I considered myself as white as he or any other white person.”)[61]

There are the countless formal complaints from LULAC and Mexican consuls against segregating Mexicans and Mexicans Americans with blacks and apart from whites in jails, on draft boards, and in restaurants, theaters, cafés, pools, barbershops, cemeteries, and courthouses.[62] There are the occasional magazine articles by Mexican Americans in defense of their whiteness. In the Texas Outlook of June 1943, George J. Garza took issue with an earlier author’s use of the terms “white” for “Anglo” and “brown” for “Latin American.” Garza explained: “Latin Americans certainly do not answer the characteristics of either the yellow or black races, so by the simple method of elimination we arrive at the conclusion that Latin Americans are Caucasian or white. Since this is true, does it not follow logically that the reference to whites and Mexicans as a means of distinction is rather erroneous?”[63] Finally, there are the comments and insights of observers from the war years. One Works Progress Administration report noted that Mexicans object “to the use of the term ‘white’ in such a way as to exclude Mexicans. They prefer to call whites of European extraction ‘Anglo-Americans’ or ‘Anglos.’ The Mexicans are conscious of such Spanish blood as they may have, and are not ashamed of their predominantly Indian blood. They jealously guard against any move that would set them apart from the self-styled ‘white race.'”[64]

Taken together, it seems that the concerted campaign for Caucasian rights was more than mere political calculation; it was also an honest statement and reflection of how some Mexicans and Mexican Americans—at least in certain contexts and at certain times—wished to be identified.[65]In the end, the fight for Caucasian rights is a complicated story. On the one hand, there is inspiration: a deeply disadvantaged and marginalized group, organizing, acting, resisting, building a powerful, savvy, and sophisticated transnational struggle that never achieved many of its goals but still managed to squeeze concessions out of a Texas state government that rarely cared much about its concerns. On the other hand, the struggle was rooted in and dependent upon a limited and racialized sense of rights, justice, and equality.

The racial order in wartime Texas had a lot to do with these racialized limits. Lavishing rights and resources on those who could claim whiteness and profoundly disadvantaging everyone else—but especially those deemed Negro or colored—this racial order encouraged people on the border between white and black to grasp for the former and distance themselves from the latter; that is, it encouraged Texas Mexicans to fight for Caucasian rights rather than equal rights. That was particularly the case because virtually no Anglos in power were willing to address black subjugation at all. Indeed, in the 1940s in such multiracial metropoles as Los Angeles and Denver, where for decades the black-white divide had been far less pronounced, protected, and legally entrenched than in Texas (this was changing with the wartime in-migration of blacks), Mexican Americans seem to have been more willing to work with African Americans and other groups of color.[66] Similarly, in Texas, as Nancy MacLean has recently shown, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (especially its Title VII regarding fair employment) modified the state’s racial order, members of LULAC and the American G.I. Forum began reconsidering their political strategies, alliances, and long-standing Caucasian calculation.[67]

In closing it is important to reiterate that, even in wartime Texas with its imposing structural obstacles, some Mexicans and Mexican Americans rejected the Caucasian rights approach. The historians Mario García and Zaragosa Vargas have separately shown that in El Paso during World War II Mexican American Mine-Mill unionists (members of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers) joined forces with African American and Anglo co-workers to fight for and win not only a forty-hour workweek, overtime pay, increased wages, seniority rights, and a one-week paid vacation, but also a guarantee from their employer that “there shall be no discrimination against any employee because of race, creed, color, or national origin.” And in 1939 the San Antonio–born labor activist Emma Tenayuca urged all people of Mexican descent to link their struggle with African Americans since “a blow against the oppression of one will be a blow for the freedom of both.”[68] That more Mexicans and Mexican Americans in wartime Texas did not follow her advice—especially at a time when the state’s black freedom movement was flourishing—reminds us that for all the rights and resources, power and privilege that whiteness confers, there is still the “price of the ticket.”[69]

Thomas A. Guglielmo is assistant professor of American studies at George Washington University. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Research Institute for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University. For invaluable assistance, encouragement, and critique, many thanks to Susan Armeny, Ted Beatty, Shana Bernstein, Nathan Connolly, Tyrone Forman, Mario García, Mary Jane Gormley, Jennifer Guglielmo, Debbie Kraus, Amanda Lewis, Daryl Maeda, Nancy MacLean, Terry McDonald, Rebecca Montes, Shani Mott, David Nord, Monica Perales, Tom Schlereth, Al Tillery, Steven H. Wilson, the anonymous JAH reviewers, and the audience members at the 2004 Western History Association Conference, George Washington University, the University of Illinois at Chicago and at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Minnesota, the University of Notre Dame, and Williams College. Special thanks to Neil Foley, Marc Rodriguez, and Tom Romero, who read numerous versions of this essay and improved it at every turn. The University of Notre Dame provided generous research support.
Readers may contact Guglielmo at <[email protected]>.</[email protected]>

1 William P. Blocker to Secretary of State, June 17, 1943, enclosure 1, decimal file 811.4016, Records of the Department of State, RG 59 (National Archives, College Park, Md.). Matthew Frye Jacobson has argued that in the mid-twentieth century Caucasian meant “conclusively, certifiably, scientifically white”; see Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge, Mass., 1998), 95. It is therefore significant that activists and legislators in drawing up their bills and resolutions repeatedly used the term Caucasian and not white. And yet since the key actors in this story used the terms interchangeably, I have done so as well.

2 A note on terms: a Mexican American is a U.S. citizen of Mexican descent; a Mexican is a citizen of Mexico. Since it is not always possible to determine activists’ citizenship, I often refer to “Mexicans and Mexican Americans.”

3 For a sample of this debate, see Eric Arnesen, “Whiteness and the Historians’ Imagination,” International Labor and Working-Class History, 60 (Fall 2001), 3–32; James Barrett and David Roediger, “Inbetween Peoples: Race, Nationality, and the ‘New Immigrant’ Working Class,” Journal of American Ethnic History, 16 (Spring 1997), 3–44; Thomas A. Guglielmo, White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890–1945 (New York, 2003); Peter Kolchin, “Whiteness Studies: The New History of Race in America,” Journal of American History, 81 (June 2002), 154–73; and David R. Roediger, Working toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White; The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs (New York, 2005).

4 See Michael C. C. Adams, The Best War Ever: America and World War II (Baltimore, 1994), 120; John Morton Blum, V Was for Victory: Politics and American Culture during World War II (New York, 1976), 205–6; John W. Jeffries, Wartime America: The World War II Home Front (Chicago, 1996), 134–36; David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 (New York, 1999), 770; Richard R. Lingeman, Don’t You Know There’s a War On? The American Home Front, 1941–1945 (New York, 1970), 334–35; William L. O’Neill, A Democracy at War: America’s Fight at Home and Abroad in World War II (Cambridge, Mass., 1993), 239–40; and Richard Polenberg, War and Society: The United States, 1941–1945 (Philadelphia, 1972), 129–30, 243. For work that focuses on race but hardly mentions Mexicans and Mexican Americans, see Gary Gerstle, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, 2001), 187–227; Michael J. Klarman, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality (New York, 2004), 171–289; Philip A. Klinkner with Rogers M. Smith, The Unsteady March: The Rise and Decline of Racial Equality in America (Chicago, 1999), 161–201; Daniel Kryder, Divided Arsenal: Race and the American State during World War II (Cambridge, Eng., 2000); and Robert J. Norrell, The House I Live In: Race in the American Century (New York, 2005), 111–47. For exceptions to this rule, see Ronald Takaki, Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II (Boston, 2000); and Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, ed., Mexican Americans and World War II (Austin, 2005).

5 For a sample of work that has focused on activists, see Marc Gallicchio, The African American Encounter with Japan and China: Black Internationalism in Asia, 1895–1945 (Chapel Hill, 2000); Gerald Horne, Black and Red: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Afro-American Response to the Cold War (Albany, 1986); James H. Merriwether, Proudly We Can Be Africans: Black Americans and Africa, 1935–1961 (Chapel Hill, 2002); Brenda Gayle Plummer, Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935–1960 (Chapel Hill, 1996); and Penny M. Von Eschen, Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937–1957 (Ithaca, 1997). For work that focuses primarily on government officials, see note 6 below.

6 Justin Hart, “Making Democracy Safe for the World: Race, Propaganda, and the Transformation of U.S. Foreign Policy during World War II,” Pacific Historical Review, 73 (Feb. 2004), 49–84. See also Shana Beth Bernstein, “Building Bridges at Home in a Time of Global Conflict: Interracial Cooperation and the Fight for Civil Rights in Los Angeles, 1933–1954” (Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 2003); and Emilio Zamora, “Mexico’s Wartime Intervention on Behalf of Mexicans in the United States,” in Mexican Americans and World War II, ed. Rivas-Rodriguez, 221–43. For a sample of the Cold War civil rights literature, see Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge, Mass., 2001); Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton, 2001); Azza Salama Layton, International Politics and Civil Rights Policies in the United States, 1941–1960 (Cambridge, Eng., 2000); and Renee Romano, “No Diplomatic Immunity: African Diplomats, the State Department, and Civil Rights, 1961–1964,” Journal of American History, 87 (Sept. 2000), 546–79. The experiences of certain Asian Americans also substantiate this article’s “World War civil rights” argument. The wartime alliance of the United States with China, for example, helps explain the 1943 repeal of Chinese exclusion. See Takaki, Double Victory, 118–20; and K. Scott Wong, Americans First: Chinese Americans and the Second World War (Cambridge, Mass., 2005), 109–24.

7 On Mexicans’ and Mexican Americans’ legal status, see Clarence A. Miller to Secretary of State, June 10, 1942, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Neil Foley, “Straddling the Color Line: The Legal Construction of Hispanic Identity,” in Not Just Black and White: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States, ed. Nancy Foner and George M. Fredrickson (New York, 2004), 341–57; Gary A. Greenfield and Don B. Kates Jr., “Mexican Americans, Racial Discrimination, and the Civil Rights Act of 1866,” California Law Review, 63 (Jan. 1975), esp. 680–83; and George A. Martinez, “The Legal Construction of Race: Mexican-Americans and Whiteness,” Harvard Latino Law Review, 2 (Fall 1997), 321–47. On the census, see M. L. Austin to George Wythe, Aug. 29, 1939, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Miller to Secretary of State, June 10, 1942, ibid.; LULAC News, 6 (Dec. 1939), 24; and Mario T. García, “Mexican Americans and the Politics of Citizenship: The Case of El Paso, 1936,” New Mexico Historical Review, 59 (April 1984), 187–204. On the white primary, see James V. Allred to Bryan Blalock, July 25, 1934, Opinions no. 65, p. 548 (Texas State Archives, Austin); “The White Man’s Union Association of Wharton County, Texas,” George I. Sánchez Papers (Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas, Austin). The Sánchez Papers were being reorganized when I viewed them, and so I have not provided box numbers below. Pauline R. Kibbe, Latin Americans in Texas (Albuquerque, 1946), 227; State Department, memo, Sept. 12, 1941, p. 30, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; and New York Times, July 27, 1934, p. 6.

8 See Kibbe, Latin Americans in Texas; Alonso S. Perales, Are We Good Neighbors? (1948; New York, 1974); George I. Sánchez, “Pachucos in the Making,” Common Ground, 3 (Autumn 1943), 13–20; and David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836–1986 (Austin, 1987).

9 For a small sample of these views, see LULAC News, 9 (May 1942), 6; Alonso S. Perales to Sumner Welles, April 19, 1941, decimal file 811.504, State Department Records; S. S. Vela to Fred V. Klingemann, April 23, 1941, box 1, Seferino Vela Papers (Benson Latin American Collection); George I. Sánchez to R. E. Smith, May 14, 1943, Sánchez Papers; Sánchez to Coke R. Stevenson, Aug. 19, 1943, box 334, Coke R. Stevenson Papers (Texas State Archives); and “Program for Cooperation with Spanish Speaking Minorities in the United States,” n.d., box 1717, entry no. 155, Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs Records, RG 229 (National Archives, College Park, Md.).

10 For primary source material, see decimal file 811.504, State Department Records. For secondary sources, see Otey M. Scruggs, Braceros,”Wetbacks,” and the Farm Labor Problem: Mexican Agricultural Labor in the United States, 1942–1954 (New York, 1988), 246–49; Otey M. Scruggs, “The United States, Mexico, and the Wetbacks, 1942–1947,” Pacific Historical Review, 30 (May 1961), 149–64; Otey M. Scruggs, “Texas and the Bracero Program, 1942–1947,” ibid., 32 (Feb. 1963), 251–64; and Barbara A. Driscoll, The Tracks North: The Railroad Bracero Program of World War II (Austin, 1999).

11 On Mexican American service, see “Spanish Speaking Americans in the War: The Southwest,” n.d., box 1082, entry no. 222, Office of War Information Records, RG 208 (National Archives, College Park, Md.); Special Services Division, Office of War Information, “Spanish-Americans in the Southwest and the War Effort,” report no. 24, Aug. 18, 1942, p. 3, box 409, entry no. 33, Committee on Fair Employment Practices Records, RG 228, ibid.; Perales, Are We Good Neighbors?, 284–96; Carey McWilliams, North from Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the United States (1948; New York, 1990), 232–35; and Raul Morin, Among the Valiant: Mexican-Americans in World War II and Korea (Alhambra, 1966). On U.S. propaganda, see Gerstle, American Crucible, 193–96; Philip Gleason, Speaking of Diversity: Language and Ethnicity in Twentieth-Century America (Baltimore, 1992), 153–87; and Richard W. Steele, “The War on Intolerance: The Reformulation of American Nationalism, 1939–1941,” Journal of American Ethnic History, 9 (Fall 1989), 9–35. For concern about Mexican American morale, see Office of War Information, “Illustration of Enemy Short-Wave Broadcasts on American Discriminations, Particularly Against Mexicans,” memo, Nov. 21, 1942, box 1802, entry no. 222, Office of War Information Records; and “Resident Latin Americans,” memo, March 7, 1942, box 1717, entry no. 155, Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs Records.

12 Kibbe, Latin Americans in Texas, 208. See also Perales, Are We Good Neighbors?, 213–23; State Department, memo, Sept. 12, 1941, p. 2, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; and Blocker to Secretary of State, Feb. 27, 1942, enclosure 1, ibid.

13 Fred Martinez Sr. to Stevenson, July 19, 1943, box 333, Stevenson Papers.

14 For the “fourth- and fifth-class” observation, see Kibbe, Latin Americans in Texas, 211. For a sample of protest letters to Stevenson, see George M. Villareal to Stevenson, Nov. 19, 1943, box 333, Stevenson Papers; Richard M. Garza to Stevenson, Aug. 29, 1943, ibid.; Fred Garcia to Stevenson, Aug. 5, 1943, ibid.; M. L. Garcia to Stevenson, Aug. 4, 1943, ibid.; Pete Muzquiz to Stevenson, July 31, 1943, ibid.; C. Castillo B. to Stevenson, July 22, 1943, ibid.; Mrs. Petra L. Martinez to Stevenson, Feb. 2, 1943, ibid.; Leocadio Duran to Stevenson, Oct. 16, 1943, Sánchez Papers; Joe Mitchell to Stevenson, May 6, 1945, box 1989/59-19, Good Neighbor Commission Files (Texas State Archives); and Roddy Villecas to Stevenson, June 6, 1945, ibid. On African American consumer politics in the mid-twentieth century, see Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (New York, 2003).

15 See Franklin D. Roosevelt, Exec. Order No. 8,802, 6 Fed. Reg. 3109 (June 27, 1941). On the wartime passage of state antidiscrimination laws, Will Maslow, “The Law and Race Relations,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 244 (March 1946), 75–81; Carey McWilliams, “Race Discrimination and the Law,” Science and Society, 9 (Winter 1945), 1–22; John H. Burma, “Race Relations and Antidiscriminatory Legislation,” American Journal of Sociology, 56 (March 1951), 416–23; and Anthony S. Chen, “‘The Hitlerian Rule of Quotas’: Racial Conservatism and the Politics of Fair Employment Legislation in New York State, 1941–1945,” Journal of American History, 92 (March 2006), 1238–64.

16 See House Bill 909, Bill File (Texas State Archives). On the importance of M. C. Gonzales and Alonso S. Perales to the bill’s introduction, see Fagan Dickson to Perales, April 16, 1941, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; and San Antonio Light, April 15, 1941, transcription, attached to Blocker to Secretary of State, Feb. 27, 1942, ibid.

17 San Antonio Light, April 15, 1941, transcription, attached to Blocker to Secretary of State, Feb. 27, 1942, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Vela to Klingeman, April 23, 1941, box 1, Vela Papers. See also Perales to Welles, April 19, 1941, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Perales to Welles, April 25, 1941, ibid.; Perales to Richard M. Kleburg, Jan. 10, 1941, transcription, attached to Blocker to Secretary of State, Feb. 27, 1942, ibid.; Adela S. Vento to Welles, April 29, 1941, ibid.; and Vento to Homer Leonard, April 26, 1941, ibid.

18 Mexican Embassy memos and Mexican newspaper articles cited here and below are State Department translations and transcriptions. Embassy of Mexico, memo, May 6, 1941, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Embassy of Mexico, memo, June 11, 1941, ibid.; Novedades [April 1941], attached to Blocker to Secretary of State, Feb. 27, 1942, ibid.; El Universal, April 23, 1941, ibid.

19 See House Bill 909, Bill File; and Blocker to Secretary of State, Feb. 27, 1942, incident 47, enclosure 1, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records. On the State Department, see Welles to Perales [April 1941], ibid.; Allan Dawson to Vento, July 5, 1941, ibid.; Herbert S. Bursley, memo, May 16, 1941, ibid.; and Allan Dawson, memo, June 11, 1941, ibid.

20 On politics, see Ozzie G. Simmons, Anglo-Americans and Mexican Americans in South Texas (New York, 1974), 277–78; Edgar Greer Shelton Jr., “Political Conditions among Texas Mexicans along the Rio Grande” (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1946); Paul S. Taylor, An American-Mexican Frontier: Nueces County, Texas (1934; New York, 1971), 230–40; Paul S. Taylor, “Mexican Labor in the United States: Dimmit County, Winter Garden District, South Texas,” University of California Publications in Economics, 6 (no. 5, 1930), 398–410; and Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 129–55. For the population figure, see Special Services Division, Office of War Information, “Spanish-Americans in the Southwest and the War Effort,” 1. On the Texas legislators, see Members of the Texas Legislature, 1846–1962 (n.p., n.d.), 379–86.

21 For the Bracero Agreement of August 4, 1942, see U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Appropriations, Farm Labor Program, 1943: Hearings, 78 Cong., 1 sess., 1943, pp. 49–53. On U.S.-Mexico cooperation, see Zamora, “Mexico’s Wartime Intervention on Behalf of Mexicans in the United States,” 223–24. On the introductions of Senate Bill 203 and House Bill 68, see Bill File.

22 See Sánchez to Smith, April 30, 1943, Sánchez Papers; Perales to Welles, Jan. 26, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Carlos E. Castañeda to Perales, April 30, 1943, box 38, Carlos Castañeda Papers (Benson Latin American Collection); Castañeda to M. C. Gonzales, April 30, 1943, ibid.; Perales to Castañeda, May 3, 17, 1943, ibid.; Victor Borella to Joseph E. Weckler, memo, March 30, 1943, box 1717, entry no. 155, Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs Records; Perales to Nelson A. Rockefeller, Jan. 26, 1943 (microfilm: reel 5), Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs Control Slips, Nelson A. Rockefeller Papers, RG 4 (Rockefeller Archive Center, Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.); and Gonzales to Rockefeller, March 27, 1943, ibid.

23 See El Paso Herald-Post, April 15, 1943, clipping, attached to Blocker to Secretary of State, April 16, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Sánchez to Elmore R. Torn, March 31, 1943, Sánchez Papers; “Inter-American Relations in Texas at the University of Texas: Report of Activities, 1943–1945,” n.d., ibid.; Castañeda to Perales, April 30, 1943, box 38, Castañeda Papers; “Observations of Mr. Robert G. McGregor Jr., Secretary of Embassy,” n.d., p. 5, decimal file 811.504, State Department Records; and Weckler to Borella, memo, March 30, 1943, box 1717, entry no. 155, Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs Records.

24 For information on the Texas legislature’s dealings with bills 68 and 203, see Everett Ross Clinchy Jr., Equality of Opportunity for Latin-Americans in Texas (1954; New York, 1974), 180–81; Blocker to Secretary of State, April 16, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; and Blocker to Secretary of State, June 17, 1943, enclosure 1, ibid.

25 Perales to Castañeda, May 17, 1943, box 38, Castañeda Papers; McAllen Evening Monitor, April 4, 1944, attached to Henry G. Krausse to Secretary of State, April 8, 1944, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records. See also Blocker to Secretary of State, June 17, 1943, ibid.; and J. A. Garcia to Stevenson, July 29, 1943, box 333, Stevenson Papers.

26 Mexican Embassy to U.S. State Department, memo, July 23, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records.

27 George S. Messersmith, memo, June 17, 1943, attached to Robert G. McGregor Jr. to Secretary of State, June 21, 1943, decimal file 811.504, ibid.; Messersmith to Joseph F. McGurk, July 23, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, ibid. For more on the ban, see State Department, memo, June 30, 1943, decimal file 811.504, ibid.; McWilliams, North from Mexico, 241; and Scruggs, Braceros, “Wetbacks,” and the Farm Labor Problem, 247–49.

28 See Cullen W. Briggs to Stevenson, July 8, 9, 1943, box 333, Stevenson Papers; Tom Garrard to Stevenson, July 30, 1943, ibid.; Corpus Christi Caller, Sept. 17, 1943, clipping, ibid.; Bursley to Secretary of State, July 21, 1943, decimal file 811.504, State Department Records.

29 Blocker to Laurence Duggan, June 29, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Coke R. Stevenson, “Open Letter to Peace Officers in Texas,” n.d., ibid.; Coke R. Stevenson and Ezequiel Padilla, “The Good Neighbor Policy and Mexicans in Texas,” in The Mexican Americans and the Law, ed. Carlos E. Cortés (New York, 1974), n.p. The close involvement of the State Department and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs in the vetting and publicizing of the Stevenson-Padilla exchange is clear from numerous documents in decimal files 811.504 and 811.4016, State Department Records. McAllen Evening Monitor, Aug. 10, 1943, clipping, attached to Krausse to Secretary of State, Aug. 17, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Good Neighbor Commission of Texas, Statement of Policy, n.d., box 334, Stevenson Papers. On the Texas Good Neighbor Commission, see George N. Green, “The Good Neighbor Commission and Texas Mexicans,” in Ethnic Minorities in Gulf Coast Society, ed. Jerrel H. Shofner and Linda V. Ellsworth (Pensacola, 1979), 111–28; George Robert Little Jr., “A Study of the Texas Good Neighbor Commission” (M.A. thesis, University of Houston, 1953); and Nellie Ward Kingrea, History of the First Ten Years of the Texas Good Neighbor Commission and Discussion of Its Major Problems (Fort Worth, 1954). On Stevenson’s trip to Mexico, see Messersmith to Stevenson, Sept. 17, 1943, box 333, Stevenson Papers; Messersmith to Ezequiel Padilla, July 17, 1943, ibid.; Stevenson to Messersmith, July 17, 1943, ibid.; Walter Prescott Allen to Sánchez, Sept. 21, 1943, ibid.; and “Bad Neighbors,” Time, Feb. 7, 1944, p. 34.

30 See, for example, State Department, memo, July 26, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Messersmith to Blocker, June 20, 1944, decimal file 811.504, ibid.; Blocker to Messersmith, June 17, 1944, ibid.; Messersmith to Secretary of State, March 15, 1944, ibid.; and Messersmith to Secretary of State, Aug. 4, 1943, ibid.

31 Bursley to Secretary of State, Aug. 4, 1943, decimal file 811.504, State Department Records. On the political risks, see Messersmith, memo, June 17, 1943, ibid.; Blocker to Secretary of State, Aug. 20, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, ibid.; Scruggs, “Texas and the Bracero Program,” 257–59; and David G. Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity (Berkeley, 1995), 140. On the zoot suit riots, see the newspaper article transcriptions attached to Guy W. Ray to Duggan, June 21, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Messersmith to Secretary of State, June 11, 1943, ibid.; and Messersmith to Duggan, June 21, 1943, ibid.

32 “Court Upholds Pool in Ban on Latins,” clipping, Feb. 2, 1944, box 1, M. C. Gonzales Collection, LULAC Records (Benson Latin American Collection); Terrell Wells Swimming Pool v. Rodriguez, 182 S.W. 2d 824 (1944). On the initial lower court ruling, see San Antonio Express, Aug. 4, 1943, transcription, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records. On the State Supreme Court, see David Thomasson to Secretary of State, Oct. 9, 1944, ibid.; and El Paso Times, Oct. 5, 1944, transcription, ibid.

33 Gonzales to Louis Joughin, Jan. 19, 1944, Sánchez Papers. See also Sánchez to Roger Baldwin, Aug. 23, 1943, ibid.

34 “The University of Texas Conference on Inter-American Relations in Texas,” report, Dec. 17–18, 1943, box 296, Stevenson Papers. See also Austin Statesman, Dec. 18, 1943, p. 7; Helen Jean Nolan, “On the Home Front,” Inter-American, 3 (March 1944), 39; and Blocker to Secretary of State, Aug. 23, 1944, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records. For further evidence of Mexican government lobbying, see Luis L. Duplan to Kleburg, July 16, 1943, ibid.; State Department, memo, July 26, 1943, ibid.; and Carlos Palacios Rojí to Stevenson, July 27, 1943, box 333, Stevenson Papers.

35 Victory War Mothers Club to Stevenson, Sept. 8, 1944, box 296, Stevenson Papers. For the resolution, see attachment to Albert U. Treviño to Stevenson, Nov. 10, 1944, ibid. On Perales, see Perales to Stevenson, Feb. 25, 1944, ibid.; Messersmith to Blocker, Aug. 11, 1944, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Novedades, Nov. 27, 1944, attached to Thomasson to Secretary of State, Nov. 29, 1944, decimal file 840.1 (microfilm), ibid.; Fraternidad, Sept. 1, 1944, pp. 4–5; Perales to Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 10, 1944, in Perales, Are We Good Neighbors?, 280–81; Perales to Roosevelt, March 17, 31, 1944, ibid., 281, 278–80.

36 See, for example, W. S. Gandy to Stevenson, n.d., box 333, Stevenson Papers; Will F. Evans to Stevenson, July 29, 1943, ibid.; Chris P. Fox to Time, Feb. 19, 1944, box 296, ibid.; “An American Texan” to Association of Commerce, El Paso, Texas, April 24, 1944, ibid.; and L. A. Wicks to Stevenson, March 24, 1943, box 333, ibid.

37 Ernest J. Boyett (Stevenson’s executive secretary) to Perales, Feb. 17, 1944, box 296, Stevenson Papers. See also Maurice E. Turner (secretary to the governor) to Joe Hopkins, Aug. 5, 1943, box 333, ibid.

38 Messersmith to Blocker, March 12, 1945, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records. For officials’ views of activists, see Kibbe to Blocker, Sept. 28, 1943, ibid.; Messersmith to Blocker, Aug. 11, 1944, ibid.; Blocker to Bursley, Jan. 23, 1942, ibid.; and Bursley to Duggan, March 4, 1942, ibid.

39 Blocker to Secretary of State, Jan. 11, 1945, ibid. See also Fourth Meeting of the Good Neighbor Commission of Texas, minutes, May 12, 1944, ibid.; Blocker to Secretary of State, Aug. 23, 1944, ibid.; Kibbe to Joseph Wearden, Nov. 10, 1944, box 1989/59-18, Good Neighbor Commission Files; and Sánchez to Baldwin, May 28, 1945, Sánchez Papers.

40 See Senate Bill 1, Bill File; El Paso Herald-Post, May 29, 1945, p. 1; San Antonio Express, May 8, 1945, p. 8.

41 Hensley C. Woodbridge, “Mexico and U.S. Racism: How Mexicans View Our Treatment of Minorities,” Commonweal, June 22, 1945, p. 236. On Mexican newspapers’ support for the Spears bill, see Excelsior, Jan. 11, 1945, clipping, box 1989/59–26, Good Neighbor Commission Files; and Novedades, Jan. 12, 1945, in Perales, Are We Good Neighbors?, 129–30. C. A. Calderon to Kibbe, Jan. 17, 1945, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records.

42 On John Lee Smith and Antonio Villalobos, see El Paso Herald-Post, March 9, 1945, transcription, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; and Messersmith to John Willard Carrigan, March 14, 1945, ibid. On the controversy over the Lone Star Café in Pecos, see Messersmith to Secretary of State, March 24, 1945, ibid.; Blocker to Secretary of State, April 2, 1945, ibid.; Joseph C. Grew to Sen. Thomas Connally, n.d., ibid.; Novedades, March 26, 1945, attached to Thomasson to Secretary of State, March 27, 1945, ibid.; Novedades, March 27, 1945, ibid.; El Nacional, March 26, 1945, ibid.; El Nacional, March 27, 1945, ibid.; El Popular, March 27, 1945, ibid.; Excelsior, March 27, 1945, ibid.; El Universal, March 26, 1945, ibid.; and box 1989/59-19, Good Neighbor Commission Files.

43 Blocker to Secretary of State, April 2, 1945, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records. See also Pauline Kibbe, “Report to the Good Neighbor Commission Re: Incident in Lone Star Café, Pecos, Reeve County, Texas,” March 30, 1945, box 1989/59-19, Good Neighbor Commission Files.

44 The telegram from the Comité Mexicano Contra el Racismo is quoted in Kibbe, “Report to the Good Neighbor Commission Re: Incident in Lone Star Café, Pecos, Reeve County, Texas”; Perales, Are We Good Neighbors?, 265–66.

45 San Antonio Express, March 7, 1945, p. 5; Mitchell to Stevenson, May 6, 1945, box 1989/59-19, Good Neighbor Commission Files. See also Blocker to Secretary of State, March 6, 1945, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Austin American, March 6, 1945, p. 2; ibid., March 7, 1945, p. 3; and Sánchez to Baldwin, March 8, 1945, Sánchez Papers.

46 On the newspaper leak about the Good Neighbor Commission, see Kibbe to Blocker, Feb. 8, 1945, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; San Antonio Light, March 9, 1945, quoted in Little, “Study of the Texas Good Neighbor Commission,” 14; San Antonio Express, March 12, 1945, p. 4.

47 Austin American, May 2, 1945, p. 9. On the legislative wrangling over the Spears bill, see, in addition to the articles already cited, Fraternidad, July 1, 1945, p. 10; San Antonio Express, May 8, 1945, p. 8; Austin Statesman, May 12, 1945, p. 4; El Paso Herald-Post, Jan. 10, 1945, transcription, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Robert C. Eckhardt to Blocker, May 26, 1945, ibid.; Blocker to Secretary of State, Jan. 11, March 6, 7, 1945, ibid.; Messersmith to Blocker, Jan. 18, 27, Feb. 2, March 12, 1945, ibid.; Kibbe to Blocker, Feb. 8, 1945, ibid.; El Paso Herald-Post, April 5, 1945, transcription, ibid.; Helen Jean Nolan, “On the Home Front,” Inter-American, 4 (April 1945), 38; Clinchy, Equality of Opportunity for Latin-Americans in Texas, 182–84; and Kibbe, Latin Americans in Texas, 232–33.

48 El Paso Herald-Post, May 29, 1945, transcription, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Carrigan to Dr. Munre, memo, June 21, 1945, ibid.

49 See “Resolution of the League of United Latin American Citizens at the Texas Regional Convention,” Jan. 27, 1951, box 1989/59-42, Good Neighbor Commission Files; and Clinchy, Equality of Opportunity for Latin-Americans in Texas, 169–70, 183.

50 See Blocker to Bursley, Jan. 23, 1942, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Blocker to Secretary of State, Feb. 27, 1942, pp. 5–9, ibid.; Blocker to Secretary of State, Aug. 24, 1943, ibid.; State Department, memo, Sept. 12, 1941, p. 30, ibid.; Scruggs, “Texas and the Bracero Program,” 121; Woodbridge, “Mexico and U.S. Racism”; Ezequiel Padilla to Stevenson, July 20, 1943, in Mexican Americans and the Law, ed. Cortés, n.p.; and Perales, Are We Good Neighbors?, 139–213.

51 For work that appreciates transnational aspects of the Mexican and Mexican American civil rights struggle in Texas, see Zamora, “Mexico’s Wartime Intervention on Behalf of Mexicans in the United States”; Zaragosa Vargas, Labor Rights Are Civil Rights: Mexican American Workers in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton, 2005), 179, 199–202; McWilliams, North from Mexico, 235–36; Guadalupe San Miguel Jr., “Let Them All Take Heed”: Mexican Americans and the Campaign for Educational Equality in Texas, 1910–1981 (Austin, 1987), 92–93; Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors, 130–41; Carlos Kevin Blanton, The Strange Career of Bilingual Education in Texas, 1836–1981 (College Station, 2004), 96–97; and F. Arturo Rosales, Pobre Raza! Violence, Justice, and Mobilization among México Lindo Immigrants, 1900–1936 (Austin, 1999). On the Mexican consul in California, see Francisco E. Balderrama, In Defense of La Raza: The Los Angeles Mexican Consulate and the Mexican Community, 1929 to 1936 (Tucson, 1982); Gilbert G. González, Mexican Consuls and Labor Organizing: Imperial Politics in the American Southwest (Austin, 1999); and George J. Sánchez, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900–1945 (New York, 1993), 108–28. For a seminal essay on the international nature of race in the West, see Richard White, “Race Relations in the American West,” American Quarterly, 38 (no. 3, 1986), 396–416.

52 See Mario T. García, Mexican Americans: Leadership, Ideology, and Identity, 1930–1960 (New Haven, 1989); Richard A. Garcia, The Rise of the Mexican American Middle Class: San Antonio, 1929–1941 (College Station, 1991), 4–7, 283–99; Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors, esp. 143–44; Benjamin Heber Johnson, Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans into Americans (New Haven, 2003), 185–94; Benjamin Marquez, LULAC: The Evolution of a Mexican American Political Organization (Austin, 1993), 20; and San Miguel, “Let Them All Take Heed,” 68–69. For a view in line with my own, see Cynthia E. Orozco, “The Origins of the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement in Texas with an Analysis of Women’s Political Participation in a Gendered Context, 1910–1929” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1992), 6.

53 Evidence for this point is too abundant to cite here. For a sample, see LULAC News, 12 (July 1945), 36; ibid., 9 (June 1942), 2; Perales to Welles, April 19, 1941, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; D. S. Hernandez to Welles, Aug. 20, 1943, ibid.; Villareal to Stevenson, Nov. 19, 1943, box 333, Stevenson Papers; Garza to Stevenson, Aug. 29, 1943, ibid.; M. L. Garcia to Stevenson, Aug. 4, 1943, ibid.; and Gonzales to Stevenson, June 23, 1943, ibid.

54 Johnson, Revolution in Texas, 189.

55 Gonzales to Sánchez, May 13, 1943, Sánchez Papers. See also Sánchez to Charles A. Bunn, Sept. 15, 1942, ibid.; “Conference on the Scope and Power of Committee on Fair Employment Practices,” transcript, Feb. 19, 1943, ibid.; Sánchez to Gonzales, Sept. 15, 1942, ibid.; Felix D. Almaráz Jr., Knight without Armor: Carlos Eduardo Castañeda, 1896–1954 (College Station, 1999), 263; Ricardo Romo, “George I. Sánchez and the Civil Rights Movement: 1940–1960,” La Raza Law Journal, 1 (Fall 1986), 347–48; and Emilio Zamora, “The Failed Promise of Wartime Opportunity for Mexicans in the Texas Oil Industry,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 95 (Jan. 1992), 323–50.

56 Eloísa Galán to Stevenson, Sept. 18, 1943, box 324, Stevenson Papers; Fraternidad, June 1944, cover; ibid., Sept. 1, 1944, cover; ibid., July 1, 1945, cover.

57 Blocker to Secretary of State, Dec. 23, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Fourth Good Neighbor Commission Meeting, minutes, May 12, 1944, ibid. See also Robert G. McGregor Jr., memo, Aug. 4, 1943, decimal file 811.504, ibid.; Messersmith to Blocker, Jan. 27, 1945, decimal file 811.4016, ibid.; and Blocker to Messersmith, June 17, 1944, decimal file 811.504, ibid.

58 George Norris Green, The Establishment in Texas Politics: The Primitive Years, 1938–1957 (Westport, 1979), 81. For more on Stevenson’s views on African Americans, see material in boxes 315, 324, 326, and 341, Stevenson Papers; and Blocker to Secretary of State, Dec. 23, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records.

59 For examples of such scholarship, see Neil Foley, The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture (Berkeley, 1997), 206–11; Neil Foley, “Becoming Hispanic: Mexican Americans and the Faustian Pact with Whiteness,” in Reflexiones 1997: New Directions in Mexican American Studies, ed. Neil Foley (Austin, 1998), 53–70; Neil Foley, “Partly Colored or Other White: Mexican Americans and Their Problem with the Color Line,” in Beyond Black and White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, ed. Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker (College Station, 2004); Foley, “Straddling the Color Line”; García, Mexican Americans, 43; García, “Mexican Americans and the Politics of Citizenship”; Marquez, LULAC, 30–34; F. Arturo Rosales, “Shifting Self Perceptions and Ethnic Consciousness among Mexicans in Houston, 1908–1946,” Aztlán, 16 (nos. 1 and 2, 1987), 71–94; and Roberto R. Treviño, “Prensa y patria: The Spanish-Language Press and the Biculturation of the Tejano Middle Class, 1920–1940,” Western Historical Quarterly, 22 (Nov. 1991), esp. 459–60, 470–71. For the Mexican roots of this attachment to whiteness, see also Alan Knight, “Racism, Revolution, and Indigenismo: Mexico, 1910–1940,” in The Idea of Race in Latin America, 1870–1940, ed. Richard Graham (Austin, 1990); and Martha Menchaca, Recovering History, Constructing Race: The Indian, Black, and White Roots of Mexican Americans (Austin, 2002).

60 Richard M. Garza to “Gentleman,” n.d., box 333, Stevenson Papers. See also Castillo to Stevenson, July 22, 1943, translation, ibid.; Treviño to Stevenson, Nov. 10, 1944, box 296, ibid.; Vela to Klingemann, April 23, 1941, box 1, Vela Papers; Francisco J. Flores to Sánchez, May 1, 1943, Sánchez Papers; and Hernandez to Welles, Aug. 20, 1943, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records.

61 Miller to Secretary of State, June 10, 1942, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Jesus G. Valdez, affidavit, June 26, 1941, attached to Blocker to Secretary of State, Feb. 27, 1942, ibid.

62 See “Vital Statistics Recorded by Race, LULAC Is Informed,” unidentified clipping, 1941, Scrapbook 2, Refugio Lozano Collection (Benson Latin American Collection); Raul Michel to Mayor of Midland, n.d., box 333, Stevenson Papers; Michel to Mayor of Ralls, March 17, 1943, ibid.; Michel to Mayor of Seminole, March 17, 1943, ibid.; Ted Cazares and A. O. Cane to the Embassy, Republic of Peru, Nov. 23, 1940, box 2001/138–119, W. Lee O’Daniel Papers (Texas State Archives); Weckler to Sánchez, June 25, 1943, box 57, entry no. 1, Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs Records; John Roy to Borella, Sept. 7, 1943, ibid.; Adolfo G. Dominguez to Smith, March 8, 1945, box 1989/59–44, Good Neighbor Commission Files; Embassy of Mexico, memo, May 6, 1941, decimal file 811.4016, State Department Records; Embassy of Mexico, memo, March 24, 1941, ibid.; State Department, memo, Sept. 12, 1941, ibid.; Blocker to Secretary of State, Feb. 27, 1942, ibid.; and Perales, Are We Good Neighbors?, 117, 213–27.

63 George J. Garza, “Good Neighbors—Texas Version?,” Texas Outlook, 27 (June 1943), 39. For the article to which Garza was responding, see Madge Stephenson, “Education Will Make Good Neighbors,” ibid. (March 1943), 26. See also Sanchez, “Pachucos in the Making,” 13–20.

64 Selden C. Menefee and Orin C. Cassmore, The Pecan Shellers of San Antonio: The Problem of the Underpaid and Unemployed Mexican Labor (Washington, 1940), reprinted in Mexican Labor in the United States (New York, 1974), n.p. See also George M. Johnson and John A. Davis, “Spanish-Americans in the Southwest, or the Race Problem in the Southwest,” July 17, 1945, p. 3, box 409, entry no. 33, Committee on Fair Employment Practices Records.

65 On this question, see Clare Sheridan, “‘Another White Race’: Mexican Americans and the Paradox of Whiteness in Jury Selection,” Law and History Review, 21 (Spring 2003), 109–44; Steven H. Wilson, “Brown over ‘Other White’: Mexican-Americans’ Legal Arguments and Litigation Strategy in School Desegregation Lawsuits,” ibid., 145–94; and Ariela J. Gross, “Texas Mexicans and the Politics of Whiteness,” ibid., 195–205.

66 See Douglas Flamming, Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America (Berkeley, 2005), 360–61; Matt Garcia, A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900–1970 (Chapel Hill, 2001), 235–36; Kevin Allen Leonard, “‘In the Interest of All Races’: African Americans and Interracial Cooperation in Los Angeles during and after World War II,” in Seeking El Dorado: African Americans in California, ed. Lawrence B. de Graaf, Kevin Mulroy, and Quintard Taylor (Seattle, 2001), 309–40; Quintard Taylor, In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West, 1528–1990 (New York, 1998), 272–73; Vargas, Labor Rights Are Civil Rights, esp. 179, 248; and Tom I. Romero Jr., “Of Race and Rights: Legal Culture, Social Change, and the Making of a Multiracial Metropolis, Denver, 1940–1975” (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 2004), esp. chap. 3.

67 Nancy MacLean, Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace (Cambridge, Mass., 2006), chap. 5.

68 García, Mexican Americans, 188–90, esp. 190; Vargas, Labor Rights Are Civil Rights, 173; Emma Tenayuca and Homer Brooks, “The Mexican Question in the Southwest,” Communist, 18 (March 1939), 257–68, esp. 267.

69 See James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket (New York, 1985). On the black freedom movement in wartime Texas, see Melvin J. Banks, “The Pursuit of Equality: The Movement for First Class Citizenship among Negroes in Texas, 1920–1950” (Ph.D. diss., Syracuse University, 1962); Michael L. Gillette, “The NAACP in Texas, 1937–1957” (Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Austin, 1984); Darlene Clark Hine, Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary (Columbia, Mo., 2003); and Amilcar Shabazz, Advancing Democracy: African Americans and the Struggle for Higher Education in Texas (Chapel Hill, 2004).