Professor Max Krochmal
I am Associate Professor of History and founding Chair of the Department of Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. My research examines coalition-building among African American, Chicanx-Latinx, and white community organizers across the long civil rights era, from the 1930s to the 1980s. I explore how a wide range of activists organized their separate bases and how and why they frequently built alliances across the color line. I weave together traditional written records from buried archives with new oral history interviews. With these sources, I write narrative histories that combine scholarly analysis with accessible prose for popular audiences. My work uses a relational framework to contribute to the separate fields of U.S. African American, Chicanx-Latinx, and labor and working-class histories, to 20th Century U.S. history as a whole, and to the regional histories of the U.S. West and South. I also engage with the interdisciplinary fields of Latinx, African American, and Comparative Ethnic Studies. Putting these diverse fields into conversation reveals deeper insights into each of them.
My current project, Civil Rights in Black and Brown: Histories of Resistance and Struggle in Texas, uses more than 530 new interviews with on-the-ground organizers to reconstruct the history of the intersecting African American and Chicanx liberation movements across the Lone Star State. Ordinary men and women in the Lone Star State confronted directly the twin caste systems to which they had been assigned, transcending the tradition of state-sanctioned racial violence in a bold attempt to transform their communities from the ground up. They built not one but two liberation movements, and they did so, often, in intimate conversation with one another. Surviving and even thriving despite Juan Crow and Jim Crow, they withstood reprisals as they demanded not only access but also equity. They organized in creative ways for fair public services and created new institutions in their quest for educational and political self-determination. While most activists came together first and foremost within their own racial groups, our interviews show that they also created Black/Brown alliances that offered each partner support in their respective struggles against institutionalized racism. The research was supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research Grant and is featured on NEH for All.
My first book, Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era, follows diverse activists as they organized their communities and built a formidable political coalition by the mid-1960s. Avoiding the poles of Black/Brown cooperation or conflict, the text recasts coalition-building as a process, one fraught with missteps but also immense potential. I show that intra-racial conflicts raged within each group, leading the most liberal, aggressive activists to cross the color line in order to outflank their self-declared “race leaders.” African American, Mexican American, and white activists forged a statewide alliance, the Democratic Coalition, which together took to the streets and revolutionized Texas politics. Their story reconnects the economic justice struggles of the 1930s and 70s to the “classical phase” of the Black freedom struggle in the 1950s and 60s, and it unveils militancy and pro-Black activism among members of the ostensibly conservative post-WWII Mexican American Generation. It reveals ongoing dynamism in the postwar Southern labor movement and shows how grassroots struggles reconfigured U.S. liberalism in the region and nation. Blue Texas won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award of the Organization of American Historians and best book awards from several state scholarly societies, including the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas Foco.
My teaching draws on this research to create a democratic, inquiry-based learning environment. I teach community-engaged courses on oral history methods and the TCU Justice Journey, a distinctive experiential-learning course on the African American and Chicanx liberation struggles.
My service centers diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus and beyond. I was the founding Chair of our Department of Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES), which grew from a mere idea in 2015 to a full-fledged department with 4.5 dedicated positions, and more to come. In the community, I serve as co-chair of the Fort Worth Independent School District Racial Equity Committee and am an active member of United Fort Worth, a multicultural, grassroots organization advocating for immigrant rights, police accountability, and civic power for communities of color. A native of Reno, Nevada, I majored in Community Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, before earning my graduate degrees in History at Duke University.