Alexandria Digital Research Library

"Mississippi West": Race, Politics, and Civil Rights in California's Central Valley, 1947-1984

Rosales, Oliver Arthur
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara.History
Degree Supervisor:
Garcia Mario T
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Ethnic studies and American history
Civil Rights
Black-Brown Relations

The history of race, politics, and civil rights in California's Central Valley is an important yet understudied aspect of multiracial history in the American West. Kern County and the city of Bakersfield were critical epicenters of civil rights activism during the twentieth century. Simultaneously, an equally active and sometimes hostile, conservative resistance toward labor and civil rights existed in the region. In the immediate post-World War II era, Mexican Americans built racial coalitions with African Americans and white liberals to challenge racial segregation and discrimination in housing and employment. In the ensuing decades, the war on poverty, farmworker, and Chicana/o power movements impacted racial coalition building and civil rights reform in complex ways, including struggles over increased political representation for racial minorities, expansion of rural-migrant health care, and school desegregation.

Since World War II through the rise of the modern political right, Mexican immigrants and their descendants shaped rural and urban civil rights reform in California's interior. This dissertation draws upon several archival repositories related to labor and civil rights history in California's Central Valley, including the collected papers of the United Farm Workers (UFW), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Region I, West Coast Branch (NAACP-WC), the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), as well as previously unexamined personal paper collections of Bakersfield civil rights leaders and politicians. Referred to pejoratively as "Mississippi West", given the county's vibrant history of civil rights activism and antistatist opposition toward civil rights, Kern County is ground-zero for a massive demographic transformation from a white to Hispanic majority; a trend other U.S. regions will experience in the coming decades. The history of race relations, civil rights, and politics in the region sheds light on the importance of a burgeoning Latino population, as well as marks a bellwether for future U.S. social and political trends in California and beyond.

UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
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