WWW: Latinos & Black History Month

by: Xinem http://www.flickr.com/photos/christinestephens/3953165390/

by: Xinem flickr creative commons     http://www.flickr.com/photos/christinestephens/3953165390/

For the next few weeks, my WWW posts will focus on resources that provide ideas to teach Black History Month through a Latino lens. What I mean by that is two-fold:

1) Focusing on Latino peoples, cultures and experiences that are also centered on an African identity and history. Afro-Caribbean cultures — from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and numerous other Caribbean islands —  have a deep history in helping to shape Afro-Latino identity, society, culture, history and tradition. Yet, even when the US has designated a special month for celebrating Black History, these cultures are largely left out of this dialogue. Black History Month generally focuses on the contribution of African-Americans, as well it should, as they themselves are largely left out of cultural studies and discourse to the detriment of all. However, what about the experiences of Afro- Puerto Ricans/Cubans//Dominicans/Haitians who also identify as estado unidenses (Americans)? Their history is equally important and should be researched and brought into our classroom discussions.

2) During the Civil Rights Movement, when Dr. King, Malcolm X, and millions of others were fighting for equality in the South and Eastern US, in the West, Latinos were fighting for the same. Their story, however, is also largely left out of the civil rights dialogue when in fact, the fight put on by Latinos and African-Americans (and Caribbean-African-Americans) goes hand in hand. Court cases from both factions helped support wins for the other; marches, protests, walk-outs and more were centered on the same beliefs: equality. We must expand our Civil Rights Umbrella to include the struggles, identities and successes of these two groups in order to round out our history and teach our kids that all groups can and do fight for justice.

With that being said, I want to start out our conversation (as this topic will encompass a few WWW posts) by bringing to light the first successful desegregation case in US History: The Lemon Grove Incident. In 1931, Mexican-Americans challenged the school board of San Diego for the desegregation of classrooms and the equal right and opportunity to education as their Caucasian counterparts.There are a few, though sadly not enough, resources for teaching on Lemon Grove:

It goes without saying, though sometimes in this world we have to say these things anyway, that there is no contest going on between which groups of people were more successful at combating racism and segregation in the US during the 20th century. Latinos, African-Americans, Puerto-Ricans, Native Americans, and numerous other groups were all fighting for the same end result: equal opportunity, equal access, equal protection and an equal say in their own government and lives. It’s not a zero-sum game: success on the part of one group does not take away the success of another. I illustrate that Lemon Grove was the first desegregation case not to somehow place it “above” Brown V. Board of Education but rather, to highlight the fact that history is told through the dominant discourse lens, which until recently (and certainly not when I was in school) has left Lemon Grove out of the dialogue surrounding the civil rights struggle. The goal then, should be to change the hegemonic discourse surrounding all education and bring in incidents that add to our understanding of more groups, more struggles, more successes. There is always — always! — more to learn, more to teach and more to include. Lemon Grove is of paramount importance, equal to Brown V. Board; the fight was the same. Our fight now, is to include Lemon Grove in the large repertoire of the civil rights movement.

–Highlighting Civil Rights luchadores of all types,


5 thoughts on “WWW: Latinos & Black History Month

  1. You’re right. Lemon Grove was an important case, even if it had limited precedential value. I studied 20th Century American history, particularly the Civil Rights Movement, extensively in college (even writing my senior thesis on the desegregation of Northern Virginia), and yet hadn’t heard of Lemon Grove until I took a Latino Civil Rights course in law school. The contribution of Latinos to the development of our civil rights laws is significant, not only in the immigrant rights arena, but also in voting rights, education law, and many other areas.

    • A.M.B: You couldn’t be more right about the contribution of Latinos! That is also extended to the contribution of Native Americans, Immigrants, Women and the LGBTQ community, groups that are often over looked in the Civil Rights discourse. Often times discourse becomes stagnant and instead of curriculum evolving with the times, they are ignoring not only the current time, but the underneath history as well.
      That sounds like a very interesting thesis!!
      Thank you for reading/commenting!

  2. ¡Mil gracias! Just the comment I made to my 5th grade dual language students as we wade in the civil rights movement. I was thinking, “I need to research specifics” to share with them and here comes your timely post. I look forward to your follow-up posts.

    • Marilyn, that’s wonderful on two levels: 1) I’m so glad our resources are timely! 2) That you are teaching this facet of the Civil Rights movement is not only incredibly useful, but accurate and all encompassing. Please keep us posted as to how the resources worked out for you and how your kids responded, we’re very interested!
      Thank you!

  3. Pingback: En la Clase: Black Indians, Sugar and Slavery | Vamos a Leer

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