Danielle R. Olden, "Racial Uncertainties: Mexican Americans, School Desegregation, and the Making of Race in Post–Civil Rights America" (U California Press, 2022)

Summary

Mexican Americans have often fit uncertainly into the white/non-white binary that has goverens much of American history. After Colorado, and much of the rest of the American West, became American claimed territory after the Mexican-Americna War in 1848, thousands of formerly Mexican citizens became American citizens. Flash foward a century to post-war Denver. In the spring of 1969, Mexican American students staged a walk out in protest of poor quality education, racist teachers, and school segregation - they were met by police in riot gear, to beat and arrested dozens of peaceful protestors. Denver thus  became ground zero for debates over race in the American West, a city as important to conceptions of whiteness, "minority" status, and colorblindness as any place in the South.

In the award winning book, Racial Uncertainties: Mexican Americans, School Desegregation, and the Making of Race in Post-Civil Rights America (U California Press, 2022), University of Utah historian Danielle Olden tracks the history of Chicano, Latinx, and Mexican American identities through Denver's history, focusing on the lead up to the 1973 Supreme Court case, Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1. Olden tracks the remarkable and complicated story of that city's Chicano, Black, and white communities through the halting process of school desegregation, and in doing so provides an explemary lesson in the social mutability of the concept of race.

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Stephen Hausmann

Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and is the Acting Executive Director of the American Society for Environmental History.

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