The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement for the Hispanics

Do they benefit from it?

Seminar Paper, 2006

17 Pages, Grade: 2,3



A. Introduction
Are there real trends/movements within the Hispanics to fight
for equal rights by orientating on the civil rights movement?

B. Main part
1. The (imputed) Role Model
2. Hispanic Efforts in the Past
3. The Booster for a new Movement/Action Group
4. Coalition or Competition?
5. The Meaning of the Hispanics for the U.S
6. Different Types of Immigration
7. A new civil rights movement on the national political scene?

C. Conclusion
What will be the possible Future Outcome of these Actions
within the Hispanic Community?

D. Appendix
1. References
2. Photo credits

A. Introduction

The latest effort of the U.S. Congress to pass a new immigration law to reduce illegal immigration have caused numerous protest above all by Hispanic People who on the one hand have become the largest ethnic minority in the meantime but on the other time make up the largest number of illegal immigrants to the U.S. They feel threatened by the prospects of being criminalized for only trying to make a better living by temporarily working in the U.S. hired by American Companies searching for cheap employees. But they have ignored the laws, as conservative politicians justified the need of a new bill. This has created one of the most important factors why some Hispanics now feel the time has come to stand up and march for more equal rights in a country where they provide substantial contributions to the economic growth and almost nobody cares about their legal status. But the federal authorities tend to punish for that. Some of the affected people won’t accept these developments and are keen to start a movement that can stop these attempts to destroy all they worked hard for. It recalls somehow the actions the Black People undertook between 1955 and 1970 to assure the acknowledgement of their American citizenship as it was considered in the constitution. Is this of similar meaning what occurs now first of all in America’s big cities and where many Hispanics live as well and can this be the beginning of a so-called social movement as political scientists put it? Or ist just a try of interested observers and participators to exaggerate the impact of a ethnic minority group on political developments happening in Washington, D.C to prevent them from thinking they are not welcome in the U.S. and so on? This paper will discuss this question and wants to find about the status the efforts of actively engaged Hispanics and what are the qualities of their organization, (action) group or if it even applies to the cluster of something like the civil rights movement after a strict check. To put it in other words, have the achievements of the civil rights movements cast such big shadows to make Hispanic immigrants benefiting from this success story by implementing this role model in their own struggle for justice? The following chapters will focus on trying to give a straightforward analysis and answer to this question.

B. Main part

1. The (imputed) Role Model

The (black) Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s & 60s broke the back of white supremacy that prevented black Americans who owned the citizenship from enjoying the rights guaranteed to them under the Constitution. Undeniably, the freedoms codified by civil rights- era legislation have improved life for all Americans, no matter what skin colour, gender or national origin they have.1

But almost ironically, Hispanic Immigrants seem(ed) to think they acquire inherit rights by sneaking into the country. This is a huge difference to the Blacks position and causes some doubts about their true intentions. In short: Is just it about temporarily working in the US and then going back home or is it about fighting for becoming true and equal Americans? The Civil Rights Movement (CRM) showed that framing was everything. Protesters made race equality a foreign relations issue, that’s why the government jumped on board. The U.S. government must have the impression that granting citizenship to illegal immigrants will benefit their national security objectives in this case to do so. Illegal immigrants in the US have very few rights guaranteed to them by any legal document. The Black People only wanted the rights guaranteed to them on paper to be put into practice. Illegal immigrants were never promised those rights in the first place.2

The obvious efforts the several Hispanic Groups have made to appear on the national surface and empower their issues such as for voting rights or immigration relief constituted them as social movements. Ever since they have lived in the US they were a dominated group because they have been excluded from the decision- making processes within the society where they other wisely could have benefited from. So from one point on they had to make their minds about how they could change their powerlessness. Either they would try to challenge the power holder with unusual methods or even by non- legitimized means. Then they would fit in the model of a social movement.3

Moreover, such a movement has to correspond to four criterions to have the opportunity to become a powerful group:

1. The use of already existing organizations to reduce costs and provide stability and the existence of a network with money, skilled leaders and passionate followers to be able to resist activities of the dominant groups.
2. The need of social activists who seize the occasions when they have to draw attention to the group’s subordinate status or even create these events.
3. The access to external resources no matter if it is about money or personnel can be important when sustaining the movement or spreading out the issue.
4. A general strategy and a list of tactics to follow it and being able to force the powering system to a distinctive change is indispensable.4

These preconditions have to be kept in mind when it’s up to decide if a new civil rights movement was initiated by the Hispanics. Specific examples for such groups will be given in the next chapter.

2. Hispanic Efforts in the Past

Since World War II, Hispanics have increasingly turned to politics as a way of trying to modify their circumstances of life. In 1949, Mexican Americans in Los Angeles formed the Community Service Organization (CSO) to elect a Mexican American to the city council.

After victory, the CSO went on to challenge discrimination in housing, employment, schools and courts of law.5

There have been only a few social movements among the Hispanics and there has never been a pan-Hispanic effort to do so. Cesar Chavez was the most popular leader of the CSO and a worker for civil rights. In 1962 he helped organize the National Farm Worker’s Association. It was La Huelga, the militant struggle for farm workers in California led by Chavez in 1965 that showed the whole nation the oppression of the Hispanics. Chavez was a master of modern communications. He helped to break down walls between middle-class Hispanics and poor ones. La Huelga was more than a struggle for better working conditions and higher salaries. Thereby the poor fought for ending racism and inequality. It was the first successful national boycott in the history of American labour. By the end of the strike in 1969, the success was decent, but the symbolic meaning it caused throughout the whole nation was massive and groundbreaking.6

The most important movement of those social movements was the Chicano (term used for Hispanics having immigrated from Mexico) movement in the 1960s, which put up by the Mexican Americans in the Southwest tried to attract attention to the needs of their people. These developments profited directly from the engagement of Chicanos in the civil rights movement as well as indirectly from the common tendency during the 60s in the US to start an action group if the issue was worth it. This movement was, however, limited to the Southwest States such as California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The second problem limiting a lasting endurance of this movement was the lack of organizational resources as most of the success of the movement was achieved thanks to the energy of all the young people participating. Despite all the good results the mentioned Hispanic social movements could rely on there has never been a nation-wide movement that compromised all different types of Hispanic People or one that lasted longer due to the lack of at least one precondition ment ioned in the chapter before.7

But there had been improvements nevertheless. By the Extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1970 the US Government reacted to the increasing demands of the Hispanics. In Constituencies where at least 5 % of the population was Hispanic ballots had to be available in Spanish as well from that point on. Since the 1970s Hispanic Action Groups for more civic rights and other needs have followed the non-violent example of Chavez and also often lent effective means from the CRM.8

To be able to achieve a better representation in national political issues the Congressional Hispanic Caucus was established in 1977. It was supposed to observe legislation and further political issues of interest for the Hispanics and in addition to start programs and other activities off which were suitable for improving the opportunities of the Hispanics to take part in the American political system or at least contribute to it.9

During the 1970s the CRM started to spread out by including women, homosexuals and several ethnic minorities even though race was an integral part of it. Without the progress that the African Americans had made since 200 years an acclaimed new direction of this movement would have been and will be nearly impossible. They laid foundations that other ethnic groups could easily adapt to for their goals. The establishment of valuable precedents and governmental structures gave subsequent groups or movements the means to create conditions within the organisation applying to their demands. Clearly, Hispanics have referred successfully to the laws and the juridical structures introduced by the Black People to fight for their civil rights, as they consider them to be. But concerns primarily arose due to their limited language skills and missing citizenship. 40 % of the Hispanics were not born in the US and unsurprisingly most of them don’t have the knowledge of the English language to fulfil their civic duties. In the last 10 or 15 years especially state and federal authorities have missed to support the reduction of difficulties for the Hispanics caused by minor language skills or racial discriminations. A further important step to represent their complaints to the federal government is if the ability exits to get naturalized. Only one quarter of the Hispanics not born in the US are American citizen making 70 % of all Hispanics (added are the native-born) American citizen. Most of the remaining group is proven to be illegally in the US.10


1 See Hicks: Civil Rights?, How about lawlessness?

2 See Rickett: Next Civil Rights Movers, page 1 of 2 and see also Hicks again

3 See McClain & Stewart: “Can We Get Along?”, p. 42

4 Ibid, pages 42-44

5 see Ida Hickerson: Chicanos Struggle for Justice, page 1-2 of 3

6 Ibid, pp. 2-3 and see also Hicks

7 See McClain & Stewart, pp. 50-51

8 See Kernell & Jacobson: The Logic of…, p. 133 and see also Hickerson: Chicano Struggle, p. 3

9 See McClain & Stewart, p. 204

10 Kernell & Jacobson, pp. 133-135

Excerpt out of 17 pages


The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement for the Hispanics
Do they benefit from it?
University of Hamburg  (Institute of Political Science)
Mittelseminar: Introduction to the American Political System (Lecturers: Ph. D. M. Pfau/Dr. Beckmann-Schulz)
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ISBN (Book)
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This is a seminar paper from the July of 2006 which arose of a presentation on the complicated hispanic issue in the US in the seminar above and tries to show ways of improving the living conditions of the largest ethnic minority in the US. The background of this developement is the xenophobic policy of the Bush administration which wants to keep away Hispanics/Latinos from the american borders no matter which political status they own.
legacy, civil, rights, movement, hispanics
Quote paper
Ivo Jarowinsky (Author), 2006, The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement for the Hispanics, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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