Cecilia Márquez, New York University and Jennifer A. Jones, University of Notre Dame | Newberry

Cecilia Márquez, New York University and Jennifer A. Jones, University of Notre Dame

Friday, September 23, 2016


Center for American History and Culture Programs
Borderlands and Latino/a Studies Seminar

“Not a Negro”: The Problem of Ethnicity in the 1940s South”

Cecilia Márquez

This paper is a study of Latino/as in Washington D.C. during the 1940s. In it I examine the story of Karla Galarza, a young Mexican-American woman who was kicked out of a “colored” vocational school in order to maintain Washington D.C.’s schools Jim Crow segregation. Combined with census data the study of the Karla Galarza case is a story about the messiness of Jim Crow segregation and how a system that was represented as a rational expression of a black/white divide was filled with internal dissonance. While there were moments in which Karla’s racial status proved ambiguous, in Washington, D.C. her position as Mexican-American in no way precluded her from the benefits of whiteness. So long as she was clearly “not-black,” Karla would be categorized as white. Latino/as, often markedly foreign either by appearance or language, fit uneasily into this system that was at once both tightly policed and surprisingly flexible. The Karla Galarza case allows more in depth analysis of how white and black residents of the District of Columbia thought about race and Latinos. Black and white school board members, the black and white press, the ACLU, and the NAACP, all struggled to make meaning of a case that frustrated their narratives about segregation and racial hierarchy.

Race, Immigration and Civil Rights: The Role of Interracial Coalitions in Shaping Immigration Policy in the New South

Jennifer A. Jones, University of Notre Dame and Hana E. Brown, Wake Forest University

Our research suggests that as Latino immigration has transformed from a racial binary to a multi-ethnic region, inter-minority political mobilization has become a true possibility. In this study, we compare a pair of similar states, Mississippi and Alabama, with distinct outcomes- one punitive, one integrative- to evaluate the effect of interracial coalitions, immigrant civic capacity, and racial political context on these divergent outcomes. While existing research stresses the effect of political partisanship and economic conditions on state immigration policy backlash, our findings tell a different story centered on social movements and interracial alliances. Drawing on media and archival data, and some preliminary interviews, we demonstrate that a cohesive interracial coalition thwarted efforts to pass omnibus anti-immigration policies in Mississippi. Such a coalition was noticeably absent in Alabama, and the lack of such organizing and framing events provided a strategic opening for immigration foes in Alabama. Following the passage of punitive bills however, Alabama’s service providers and activists learned from Mississippi’s success and began to strategically develop a reactive multiracial coalition modeled on the Mississippi strategy. We find that their divergent outcomes are at least in part a result of the different ways that race was activated in each context, and that in the context of places like the Southeast, where large populations of African-Americans and a long-standing history of Civil Rights activism shapes the political landscape, race is a meaningful and useful framing device for shaping policy and activating political alliances. These findings provide an important counterpoint to the research on Black-Brown conflict. They also suggest that heightened cultural contact and political organizing among non-citizen and racial minority groups can facilitate immigrant political incorporation, prompt a realignment of civil rights agendas, and provide an effective barrier against anti-immigration policies. Our findings also suggest that the ability of immigrant groups to challenge anti-immigration policy depends not only on their advocacy networks, but also on their perceived position in the U.S. racial hierarchy.

Respondent: Angela García, University of Chicago

Cost and Registration Information 

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically. For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at scholl@newberry.org. Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.