As the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) celebrates its 75th anniversary during its National Convention it reflects back on its rich history of service to Latinos around the country. During the Diversity Luncheon today attendees were reminded of LULAC’s great accomplishments.
When LULAC was founded 75 years ago, racial discrimination, political disenfranchisement, and segregation were rampant in this country. Wishing to improve these conditions, the founders of LULAC created the organization with the principles of freedom and democracy in mind. As advancements were made in civil rights, LULAC played an important part every step of the way.
Since its inception on February 17, 1929, LULAC has championed the cause of Latinos in the United States and Puerto Rico. When LULAC was formed, Hispanics attended segregated schools, restaurants and public facilities; could not serve on juries; were often denied the right to vote; had their lands routinely taken from them; and were the objects of racially motivated lynchings throughout the southwest.
“When LULAC was created in 1929,” stated Hector M. Flores, LULAC National President, “it was a very difficult time for Latinos in the United States. Our first priority was to insist on equal treatment for our people under the law and to help our community to excel in school and in their careers.” This idea of equality for all became increasingly important as the number of Hispanics grew.
Understanding the importance of education in achieving freedom and democracy, LULAC has placed special emphasis on programs aimed to help Hispanics succeed at all levels of education. In 1957, LULAC began working on a program called the “Little Schools of the 400,” the model for what later became the Head Start Program. In 1973, LNESC (LULAC National Education Service Centers) was created to counsel young Hispanics and assist them to obtain a higher education. In considering court cases regarding schools and education, one finds that LULAC has played an essential role in many of the most crucial ones. The view of LULAC was best summarized by Mr. Flores who said, “Education is the basis for lifelong success. Without education we cannot become the leaders of our own fate.”
Looking back on the last 75 years, it becomes apparent that LULAC has played an influential role in the advancement of civil rights in this country. With regard to what lies ahead, as the number of Hispanics grows, it is increasingly clear that how Latinos fare will affect the entire nation, both now and in the future. Embracing the important duty this implies, LULAC will continue to assist in the fight for freedom and democracy.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization in the United States. LULAC advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, health, and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 700 LULAC councils nationwide.
-- Feb. 17, 1929: The League of United Latin American Citizens is formed in Corpus Christi, Texas.
-- 1930: LULAC desegregates hundreds of public places from barber and beauty shops to swimming pools, restrooms, water drinking fountains, public dinning places and hotels.
-- 1931: LULAC organized and provided funding for the Salvatierra versus Del Rio Independent School District case, the first class-action lawsuit against segregated “Mexican Schools.”
-- 1936: LULAC pressured the United States Bureau of the Census to reclassify persons of Mexican descent from “Mexican” to “White.” The 1940 census count reflected the change.
-- 1940: LULAC plays a major role in filing discrimination cases for the Federal Employment Practices Commission, the first federal civil rights agency.
-- 1946: In Santa Ana, California, LULAC files the “Mendez vs. Westminister’ lawsuit” that ends 100 years of segregation in California’s public schools and becomes a key precedent for Brown vs. Board of Education.
-- 1948: LULAC attorneys file the “Delgado versus Bastrop Independent School District” lawsuit that ends the segregation of Mexican American children in Texas.
-- 1954: LULAC attorneys take the “Hernandez vs. The State of Texas” lawsuit case to the Supreme Court, winning the right for Mexican Americans to serve on juries.
-- 1957: LULAC pilots the “Little School of the 400” project, a preschool program dedicated to teaching 400 basic English words to Spanish speaking preschool children. The program becomes the model for Head Start under the Lyndon B. Johnson administration.
-- 1966: LULAC and the American G.I. Forum join forces to organize SER - Jobs for Progress, now the largest and the most successful work power program in the nation.
-- 1968: LULAC creates the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF).
-- 1969: LULAC builds its 2,000 housing unit for low income renters.
-- 1970: LULAC files the “Cisneros vs. Corpus School District” lawsuit that defines Hispanic Americans as a minority for the first time.
-- 1973: LULAC creates the LULAC National Educational Service Centers (LNESC) to provide educational services to Hispanic students. Today LNESC serves more than 20,000 students a year at 17 educational centers.
-- 1975: LULAC forms the “LULAC National Scholarship Fund” administered by LNESC in order to centralize its scholarship gifts which date back to 1932.
-- 1980: LULAC files numerous lawsuits with MALDEF and the Southwest Voter Education Project forcing the creation of single member districts throughout the United States.
-- 1986: LULAC plays a leading role with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
-- 1995: LULAC established the “Commitment with America” to better serve Hispanic American communities.
-- 1996: LULAC establishes the LULAC Institute to provide model volunteer programs for Latino communities.
-- 2000: LULAC issues the “LULAC Challenge” to candidates for elective office in order to establish their positions on the top ten issues of concern for Hispanic Americans.
-- 2003: LULAC attorneys settle “LULAC vs. INS” class action lawsuit that provides an avenue for 100,000 immigrants to become permanent legal residents.
-- 2004: LULAC announces the LULAC Leadership Initiative to revitalize Hispanic neighborhoods from within by creating innovative grass roots programs in over 700 Hispanic communities served by LULAC Councils.