PBS American Experience is showing a documentary on the Mexican American Civil Rights struggle in Texas. In Houston, the program will be at 8 pm Central Time on Channel 8 - KUHT.
Most of my younger students don't know anything about this part of Texas history.
PBS looks at Mexican-Americans’ struggle
By DAVID BARRON Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Feb. 22, 2009, 11:41PM
February is Black History Month, and it seems each February offers a supplement to the vast record of civil rights documentaries that reached its peak with Eyes on the Prize, the landmark 14-hour film that traced the movement from the Montgomery bus boycott into the mid-1980s.
By comparison, films about Mexican-Americans and other Latinos who struggled and prevailed against segregation and discrimination are few and far between. That scarcity emphasizes the significance of documentaries such as A Class Apart, which premieres at 8 p.m. Monday on KUHT (Channel 8) as part of PBS’ American Experience series.
Produced by New York filmmakers Carlos Sandoval and Peter Miller, A Class Apart concerns the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Hernandez v. Texas, which established Mexican-Americans as a protected class under the 14th Amendment.
It’s only one hour in a saga that deserves a multi-part vehicle to rival Eyes on the Prize in scope. But, especially for Texans, it is a critical starting point.
“Eyes on the Prize was a huge landmark achievement, the product of a generation of dedicated filmmakers and activists,” Miller said. “We’re fortunate now to be at a moment where PBS is showing more programs about the Latino civil rights struggle. This is one story among many, and it would be nice if someday down the line there could be a series devoted to these stories.”
Hernandez v. Texas stemmed from the case of Pete Hernandez, a farmworker accused of killing a man in a bar fight in the Jackson County town of Edna in 1951. His case drew the attention of a group of San Antonio and Houston attorneys, who saw the case as a vehicle to break down the Jim Crow-style laws and customs that oppressed Mexican-Americans in the same fashion as African-Americans.
The attorneys argued that Hernandez could not receive a fair trial because Jackson County had systematically eliminated Mexican-Americans from juries. The state countered that Mexican-Americans were lumped in with Anglos under the law and thus were not entitled to special treatment under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
The case, the first to be argued by Mexican-American lawyers before the Supreme Court, was heard during the same term as the Brown v. Board of Education case seeking to outlaw segregation in public schools. In a decision that was overshadowed nationwide by the Brown decision a week later, the court ruled that Mexican-Americans were a distinct group entitled to the same constitutional protection as other minority groups. more