Historian brings 1960s labor coalition to SE

By Tyler Poda/ reporter

A mixed group of citizens joined to make a difference in Texas history, a history professor from Texas Christian University told SE Campus students April 20.

Max Krochmal wrote the award-winning Blue Texas, which describes the Democratic coalition of the 1960s, a group of people from different races and different backgrounds who joined to fight for civil rights and democracy in Texas. The book outlines how these people set aside their many differences and disagreements and work together to achieve a common goal.

“We need to do a better job of building coalitions so that we can help working people deal with all the different issues in their lives,” Krochmal said as one of the reasons he chose to write this book.

He opened his presentation by reading an excerpt from the book that explained why and how the coalition came to be and why it became so successful. Krochmal said the African-American, Mexican-American and white laborers did not come together out of sheer goodwill but because they understood they needed to work together to improve their situations.

“It wasn’t vague rhetoric or similar histories of oppression that brought these groups together but years of struggling side by side in the trenches,” he said.

Krochmal said the coalition had many struggles throughout its existence. It would often fall apart due to the many differences from within the group and because people would fail to put other people’s issues before their own. Nevertheless, out of desperation for democracy and equality, the coalition would always find a way to build itself back up, he said.

Ultimately, the coalition was effective in breaking down the doors of the Democratic Party and achieving a level of racial equality and democracy that was unprecedented in that time period, Krochmal said.

“They achieved a degree of economic justice and political power in Texas that was scarcely imaginable just a few years before,” he said. “At the same time, these activists hit a ceiling that limited how much power they could wield, leaving work that remains to be done today and a blueprint for how to do it.”

Krochmal said the blueprint involves finding out what changes need to be made, figuring out how to make that change, getting people registered to vote and making sure they show up on Election Day. In addition, protests play an important role in promoting change, he said.

“We have in Texas a tradition of not just cowboys and conservatism but of other people who had a different vision for what the state could become,” he said. “Ordinary people can come together across lines of difference and find ways to work together to build a world that we all want to live in.”