Room 350, Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics (133 S. 36th Street)
Food provided / Free and open to the public
Katie Rader (Penn Political Science)
"Reframing the Ideology of Civil Rights: Early Twentieth Century Debates over Employment Policy"
Jaime Sanchez (Princeton University Department of History)
"'What are We?': Latino Politics, Identity, and Memory in the 1983 Chicago Mayoral Election"
ACHIEVEMENTS LIKE THE BROWN V. BOARD DECISION and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are frequently celebrated as both the pinnacle of the Civil Rights Movement and as the result of a linear strategy and a coherent ideology. Yet the question of what would become the dominant ideology for racial equality politics in the U.S. was not a foregone conclusion in the first half of the twentieth century. Ideas worked their way into policy and politics through debates among advocates whose visions for racial egalitarian politics ranged from notions of a social democracy, focused on a broader economic egalitarian agenda, and advocates of more narrowly focused agenda for eliminating racial discrimination and disparity. In other words, the path was neither linear nor pre-determined, but the result of the conflicting ideas, decisions, actions, and resources of the organizations and individuals promoting various strategies and ideologies. Katie Rader seeks to complicate standard narratives of civil rights activism by exploring the ideological positions and tactics of the organizations involved in debates over employment law and policy in the U.S. at two critical moments: the defeated anti-discrimination clause to the 1935 Wagner Act and the workplace seniority debates in 1944. By examining the legislative and organizational debates within Congress, congressional committees, trade unions, the NAACP, the Urban League, A. Philip Randolph’s Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and others, Rader demonstrates the ideological diversity and early tensions over race and class in the first half of the twentieth century. The result of the ideological conflict extended beyond these organizations and radically shaped the racial equality projects of what we have come to know as the Civil Rights Movement, not to mention the strategies and tactics, that groups pursued in an effort to shape and reform governing institutions.
THE CAMPAIGN PERIOD LEADING UP TO THE 1983 Chicago mayoral election stands as the historically significant period of development for panethnic Latino identity and engagement in electoral politics. Historians of this election, along with popular memory, have come to perpetuate an idealized narrative of the Black-Latino coalition that was forged, with Latinos from all backgrounds coalescing with one another to help elect Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington. However, Latino voters’ support of Washington varied greatly depending on racial identity, differing levels of anti-black racism, generation in the United States, and national heritage; all complicating the efforts of Latino political elites and the Washington campaign to create a cohesive Latino electorate. Through this historical case study, Jaime Sanchez argues that a panethnic Latino identity did not yet exist in the realm of formal electoral politics and that Latinos were still very much politically divided in the 1980s. Instead of assuming a natural and preexistent Latino unity in electoral politics, Sanchez critically examines the strategies used to garner the support of this contested constituency. Functioning simultaneously with the broader project of constructing panethnic Latino unity nationally, the Washington electoral campaign and Latino political elites helped reify the rhetoric of panethnic Latinidad and a “Latino vote.” Via an ambitious dissemination of literature and media, and flying-in of national Latino leaders, Washington’s campaign made a lasting and unique contribution to the rhetoric of national panethnic organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It is when we understand the actual heterogeneity of Latino voters in this context, that we can qualify the historical construction and imposition of Latino panethnicity in Chicago as well as in the national discourse of Latino politics in the late twentieth century.