Under a Black Light: Implications of Mexican American School Segregation Challenges for African Americans in Texas Academic Article uri icon


  • Background/Context: School segregation scholarship underlines that litigation challenging the segregation of Mexican American students in Texas schools stressed their legal racial identity as white. The other white race strategy, as scholars call it, granted Mexican Americans the right to access resources designated for the countrys dominant racial group. Put differently, a defining feature of this argument pivoted on Mexican Americans non-Blackness. An emerging body of more critical history scholarship has engaged almost exclusively the concept of whiteness to interpret this legal strategy. Few to no comparative analyses, however, examine Mexican American civil rights struggles outside this lens of whiteness, raising questions about Blacknesss relationship to Juan Crow and the other white race strategy. Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This historical essay examines analyses of Mexican American school segregation litigation in Texas to consider how these legal arguments affected Black Texans. Positioning these considerations in the history of education to address this historiographical silence, I emphasize four notable court cases from 1930 to 1970: the 1930 Salvatierra case, the 1948 Delgado case, the 1957 Hernandez case, and the 1970 Cisneros case. I highlight how accounts of Mexican American legal strategies against Texas school segregation implicate African Americans. This critique represents an effort to grapple meaningfully with the groundbreaking, extant scholarship on Mexican American education and suggest new vantage points and considerations that interrogate and challenge antiBlackness. Research Design: Conceptually, I couple antiBlackness with Toni Morrisons literary metaphor of the Africanist presence to reveal that a writers choice to leave Blackness unarticulated does little to invalidate its existence or significance. This historical essay engages particular elements of historiography, framing that affords greater latitude for innovation than the parameters of historiography in and of itself. The chronological organization I use demonstrates links between specific cases and the legal strategy underpinning them in a way that the thematic organization expected of a historiography would obscure. Although much of the scholarship I examine is situated within the history of education, I use wider, interdisciplinary perspectives and other forms of evidence for deeper insight, support, and analysis. Specifically, I integrate primary source evidence alongside germane perspectives from other fields, including legal studies, human geography, Black studies, educational policy, and literary studies. Conclusions/Recommendations: I argue that this historiography has understated the antiBlack implications of the other white race strategys racial dimension, that is, the specific ways this litigation tactic excused and perpetuated African American segregation. I demonstrate that a conceptualization of school de/segregation in Texas history is more illuminating from a Black/non-Black perspective than from a white/non-white one. This emphasis clarifies how white supremacy has historically worked in tandem with antiBlackness to shape social, cultural, and political behavior and outcomes in education, even for non-Black peoples of Color. This analysis (1) clarifies the central role race and racial identity have historically played in U.S. history, (2) illustrates the possessive investment in whiteness as a valuable form of property that has historically determined access to key resources in this country, and (3) reveals the primacy of antiBlackness that has historically undergirded claims refuting discriminatory treatment experienced by non-Black peoples of Color. This examination represents a clarion call for scholars interested in justice and equity to admit, interrogate, and contest any adherence, witting or unwitting, to antiBlackness.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 2

author list (cited authors)

  • James-Gallaway, A.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • James-Gallaway, ArCasia DD

publication date

  • December 2022