Monthly Archive for February, 2013

Announcing Blowout!, the Enhanced E-Book

The University of North Carolina Press today announced the publication of a special enhanced e-book version of Blowout!: Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice by Mario García and Sal Castro. Produced with the cooperation of numerous individuals and institutions, the enhanced e-book features more than 150 interview excerpts, documents, and photographs, each embedded in the text where it will be most meaningful.

YouTube demo of Blowout! enhanced e-book

First published in 2011, this book tells the story of Sal Castro, a courageous and charismatic Mexican American teacher who helped organize the March 1968 protests in which thousands of Chicano students walked out of their East Los Angeles schools to protest decades of discriminatory education in the so-called “Mexican Schools.” These walkouts—called blowouts by the students—sparked the beginning of the urban Chicano Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the largest and most widespread civil rights protests by Mexican Americans in U.S. history.

This fascinating testimonio, or oral history, transcribed and presented in Castro’s voice by historian Mario T. García, is a compelling, highly readable narrative. Beginning with Castro’s experiences as a boy growing up in Los Angeles, the story takes him through a stint in the military, to his career as a teacher, his role as a key leader and facilitator of the blowouts, and his experience as the subject of a week-long sit-in at the offices of the Los Angeles School Board by students and community members who did not want to see him fired from his job because of his activism.  Castro expresses his deep commitment to instilling in young Mexican Americans a sense of cultural pride, and to encouraging their aspirations to achieve a college education and full participation in American society.

“Working with the press on producing the enhanced e-book version of ‘Blowout!’ was an extraordinary experience,” García said.  “I had never done something like this before.  It was my pleasure to provide and review as much material as possible for the enhancements and in so doing begin to understand that in many ways we were working on a new text from the original.”

Browsable and searchable from anywhere in the text, the enhancements include transcripts and additional commentary written by the author.  Featuring more than 100 audio and video clips (more than 3.5 hours total) from 10 individuals, including Castro himself, the enhanced e-book brings alive the collective nature of the blowouts through the voices of people who were at the center of the action. The compelling story told by Sal Castro with so much passion, affection, and humor in the original book is inestimably enriched by the inclusion of the voices and memories of the students whose daring and effective direct action he inspired and supported.

“Readers of the enhanced e-book will be introduced to Sal Castro and to the courageous students who participated in the historic1968 ‘blowouts’ or walkouts from the East Los Angeles public schools, perhaps  the largest high school strike in American history, in a much more comprehensive and dynamic way,” García said. “The charisma and inspiration of Sal Castro is brought to life much beyond the printed word.  The enhanced e-book is a further and fitting testimonial to a major American historical figure and a major historical moment in the history of American education.”

The enhanced e-book is available from the Barnes & Noble Nook Color and Nook Tablet, Amazon’s Kindle app for iPhone and iPad, and Google Play for desktop and laptop computers.

The enhanced e-book is published under the aegis of the Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement project, which is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The project’s first enhanced e-book was Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark by Katherine Mellen Charron.


CCC Progress Update: Jessie Daniel Ames Papers now online

Series 1 of the Jessie Daniel Ames Papers has been digitized by TRLN’s Content, Context, and Capacity project and is now available online through the collection’s finding aid. This collection of documents focuses on Ames’ work for racial justice and women’s rights, particularly related to her involvement in the Atlanta Commission on Interracial Cooperation and the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching.

Photo of Jessie Daniel Ames, 1941. J.D. Ames Papers, Folder 15, item 4.

After becoming a widow at the age of 30, Jessie Daniel Ames went on to not only raise three children on her own, but also lead an extremely active life as a civil rights activist and the founder of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL). Through ASWPL, Ames rallied Southern women in small towns, focusing on church groups and other women’s clubs, to join her in standing against a hideous practice, which was often falsely touted as “necessary for the protection of southern women.” 1

The ASWPL’s primary mission was one of education, emphasizing the need for justice to be carried out through legal processes rather than by violent means. The organization also intervened in specific cases, and was kept informed of potential lynchings throughout the South by its network of concerned women covering 13 states. Much of the extraordinary life of Jessie Daniel Ames is preserved within this collection, and we invite you to learn more by exploring its contents.


From the Archives: Asa T. Spaulding’s Audience with JFK

This post contains highlights of material from the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s CCC project, digitizing 40 archival collections related to the long civil rights movement from four area institutions. For more on this digitization project, click here.

Photograph of JFK and Asa T. Spaulding, 1963. North Carolina Fund Records, Folder 319, Scan 9

In addition to serving from 1958 to 1968 as the president of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, known as the largest and longest operating African American-owned insurance business in the United States,1 Asa T. Spaulding was a prominent leader in the Durham community and volunteered for many local projects. He was involved with organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America, North Carolina Council of Churches, and Durham’s Bi-Racial Human Relations Committee, among others. 2Spaulding was invited to the White House in September of 1963, at a time when he was working with the Community Campaigns of America. The occasion was a speech given by President John F. Kennedy in support of the United Community Campaigns project, which worked to resolve issues relating to education, health, and other community concerns in cities across the US, many chapters of which today are incorporated through the United Way foundation.

Tribute to JFK by Asa T. Spaulding, 1963. North Carolina Fund Records, Folder 319, Scan 8

Spaulding was honored to be present and witness the event, and in this photograph he can be seen sitting to President Kennedy’s left. 3 The United Community Campaigns broadcast occurred on September 22, 1963, just two months before Kennedy’s assassination on November 22. The photograph later appeared in the 1963 Christmas edition of The Whetstone, a quarterly publication produced by North Carolina Mutual, along with a heartfelt tribute to President Kennedy written by Spaulding. In his essay, Spaulding wrote that the ideals epitomized in Kennedy’s life and death had sparked a torch that “will ever brighten a path for all wandering, freedom-loving peoples in search for a better way of life.”4 Praising Kennedy’s bravery and his actions in office, Spaulding expressed his hope that other men and women would continue the works that Kennedy began with the same level of courage and devotion. Spaulding wrote of Kennedy that perhaps “time may prove him to have been more triumphant in death than he could have ever been in life… What he lived for and died for will shine with greater luster in the years ahead.”4


“A Nation That Forgets God Will Fall”: Debating Engel v. Vitale

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that school segregation was not “separate but equal” but instead an unconstitutional practice.  This decision infuriated many, especially in the South, who thought that the Supreme Court had overstepped its bounds.  Included among the disgusted was Congressman Basil Lee Whitener, an outspoken “Dixiecrat” (a member of the Democratic Party who supported segregation as well as socially conservative positions).

Members of Congress who opposed integration did not have the political power to pass any sort of Constitutional amendment to counter the Supreme Court’s ruling.  The frustration of Whitener and fellow Dixiecrats only intensified as integration began across the South.

Another ruling in 1962 further infuriated social conservatives throughout the country and led some to seek extraordinary solutions.  In Engel v. Vitale, the Supreme Court ruled in a six-to-one decision that school-sponsored prayer in public schools was unconstitutional.  Justice Hugo Black, writing the majority opinion, stated his objection to the prayer instituted by the state of New York thus:

We think that, by using its public school system to encourage recitation of the Regents’ prayer, the State of New York has adopted a practice wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause. There can, of course, be no doubt that New York’s program of daily classroom invocation of God’s blessings as prescribed in the Regents’ prayer is a religious activity. It is a solemn avowal of divine faith and supplication for the blessings of the Almighty.

Justice Black’s constitutional logic may have been sound, but his rationale did not mollify the anger of social conservatives who balked at the Court’s perceived abridgment of the right to pray at any given location.

Petition regarding prayer in school, sent to Congressman Basil Lee Whitener, circa 1962. Basil Lee Whitener Papers, Box 144, Folder 4, blwms03004083.

Congressman Whitener received petitions from his constituents, including the document shown on the left in which several North Carolina residents ask for a constitutional amendment to re-legalize state-sponsored prayer in public schools. In part, the petitioners claimed that, “Our Nation was founded upon God and has prospered more than any nation in the world.  History has proven that a Nation That Forgets God Will Fall” (emphasis in original).  This document found a sympathetic ear in Congressman Whitener.  In fact, Whitener introduced one of many House resolutions that included a constitutional amendment overturning Engel v. Vitale. The proposed amendment that gained the most political traction was one officially introduced in 1964 by Congressman Frank Becker (R-NY).  The Becker Amendment read in part:

Nothing in this Constitution shall be deemed to prohibit the offering, reading from, or listening to prayers or biblical scriptures, if participation therein is on a voluntary basis, in any governmental or public school . . .

Whitener’s constituents gathered their support behind the Becker Amendment. Religious groups such as Project America: International Christian Youth – USA sent a large number of form letters to Whitener’s office asking the congressman to support the Becker Amendment. One such letter is shown below:

Form letter, Cliff Wright to Congressman Basil Lee Whitener, circa 1964. Basil Lee Whitener Papers, Box 147, Folder 4, blwms04004006.

As one might expect, Whitener was a fervent supporter of the Becker Amendment. However, most of Congress did not share that position. A campaign against the amendment, ironically led by the National Council of Churches and the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, effectively killed the amendment’s momentum.

Ultimately, it is true that Whitener’s opposition to integration and enthusiasm for prayer in school went against the policy of the nation. Yet both the Brown v. Board of Education and Engel v. Vitale decisions were crucial events in developing a social conservative movement characterized by a hybridization of small-government ideology with religiously influenced policy recommendations.

Furthermore, as part of the CCC Project, it is important to look not only at the successes of those who fought for civil rights. The context of those successes is, in part, the reaction of those who felt betrayed by their government and how that resentment changed American politics.

Encyclopedia of Civil Liberties (Becker Amendment)
The Oyez Project (Engel v. Vitale)
Justia U.S. Supreme Court Center (Engel v. Vitale)