• LULAC and Veterans Organize for Civil Rights in Tempe and Phoenix, 1940-1947

      Marín, Christine; Arizona State University (University of Arizona, Mexican American Studies and Research Center, 2001)
      World War II had a dramatic impact on Americans, including Mexican Americans in Arizona. It challenged families and communities to make sacrifices during wartime. Mexican Americans served in large numbers and with distinction in the war, and after it ended they sought to defend their rights as Americans, and to eliminate the discriminatory behavior and acts that kept them within ethnic boundaries. The segregation at Tempe Beach, the “brilliant star in Tempe’s crown,” and its “No Mexicans Allowed” policy, initiated in 1923, was one of them. Another ethnic boundary was the segregated housing policy for veterans established by the City of Phoenix in 1946. In Tempe and Phoenix, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council 110, led by Placida Garcia Smith, and the American Legion Thunderbird Post 41, led by Ray Martinez, were at the front lines in the fight against racism and discrimination in the 1940s. Mexican Americans confronted public elected officials over racist practices and policies of exclusion, and utilized the court system to provide them equal justice under the law. They exercised their right to seek equality after years of segregation, and to secure their civil rights as Americans. Their actions are examples of American-style civic activism, a devotion to the United States and the ideals of freedom and democracy. The search for that freedom and holding the government accountable to its laws and ideals are what drove LULAC Council 110 and American Legion Thunderbird Post 41 as they organized and agitated for the civil rights of Mexican Americans in Tempe and Phoenix during the 1940s.