History of the Battle for Civil Rights

It is impossible to discuss the history of the battle for civil rights for Hispanics without including Black Americans. Minorites of all backgrounds had to band together in order to fight back against the white man’s system of oppression. The battle for civil rights in the south, particularly in the state of Texas, is often associated with Texas’s two largest ethnic minorities: African Americans and Hispanic people, particularly Mexican Americans.

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Mexican Americans have made efforts to bring about better social and political circumstances since Anglo-American’s began to dominate Texas as early as 1836. Black Texans have equally fought for civil rights since the abolishment of the institute of slavery in 1865.

After the Texas Revolution, racism against Mexican Texans started to grow past the already large prevalence of hatred. They were seen by whites as outsiders in the newly established republic. Anglo Texans won and formed what they saw as their own country that had no place for Mexicans. In the 1850s, Mexican Texans or “Tejanos” where forced from their homes in central and northern Texas on the accusation that they conspired with another minority, slaves escape to Mexico. Tejanos faced more attacks from white Texans in Goliad and surrounding towns during the Cart War and in Southern region of Texas after the Mexican Juan N. Cortina’s attack and control of Brownsville. Post-Civil War, both the black freedmen and Tejanos faced further atrocities. In East Texas, white Anglo Texans used violence as a method of political control, where scare tactics and even public hanging or lynching became the common practice of legal punishment for alleged crimes by minorities that required very little proof other than support by the white populous often in the form of mobs. Mexican Americans throughout Texas very often experienced similar forms of racist hate crimes and blatant brutality. The KKK (Ku Klux Klan) and the Texas Rangers, all being agents enforcing white authority, regularly terrorized both black and Hispanic Texans.

De facto segregation was a tool implemented after emancipation to continue keeping minorities from having any sort of true equality. Hispanic and Black Americans found themselves banned from white only businesses and public areas only to be allowed in minority only spaces that were intentionally more neglected and inferior. By the beginning of the 20th century, this was common practice and became sanctioned by law. These laws were primarily focused on blacks but were extended to Latinos to keep white Americans on top of the social, political and economic food chain. African and Mexican Americans were often subject to terror tactics, given literacy exams, and often faced accusations of incompetence when any minority was able to win office. Political bosses would intentionally manipulate the poor into voting against minorities, making it even more difficult for Hispanic and black Americans to gain political power.

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