Blue Texas

The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era
Winner of the Frederick Jackson Turner Award, Organization of American Historians, 2017
Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for Best Book on Texas History, Texas State Historical Association, 2017
National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas Foco Non-Fiction Book Award, 2017
Ramirez Family Award for Most Significant Scholarly Book, Texas Institute of Letters, 2016

This book is about the other Texas, not the state known for its cowboy conservatism, but a mid-twentieth-century hotbed of community organizing, liberal politics, and civil rights activism. Beginning in the 1930s, Max Krochmal tells the story of the decades-long struggle for democracy in Texas, when African American, Mexican American, and white labor and community activists gradually came together to empower the state’s marginalized minorities. At the ballot box and in the streets, these diverse activists demanded not only integration but economic justice, labor rights, and real political power for all. Their efforts gave rise to the Democratic Coalition of the 1960s, a militant, multiracial alliance that would take on and eventually overthrow both Jim Crow and Juan Crow.

Using rare archival sources and original oral history interviews, Krochmal reveals the often-overlooked democratic foundations and liberal tradition of one of our nation’s most conservative states. Blue Texas remembers the many forgotten activists who, by crossing racial lines and building coalitions, democratized their cities and state to a degree that would have been unimaginable just a decade earlier–and it shows why their story still matters today.

Blue Texas… fashions a dynamic, evocative political history through extraordinary research, page-turning prose, and an exquisite reconstruction of Texas’s shifting cultural, economic, racial, and electoral landscapes from the 1930s past the 1960s. Blue Texas describes how tenuous coalitions ultimately overcame obstinate localisms, vexed personal dynamics, and the deep impress of racism among white liberals and Texas labor activists to create a broad multiracial political coalition that successfully challenged anti-black, anti-Hispanic, anti-labor prejudice in the 1960s. Krochmal’s mesmerizing personal portraits explore individual motivations behind political action, and his deft scrutiny of Texas’s regional, organizational, and cultural differences explains the outsized rise and fall of coalitions and candidates that reshaped Texas politics across several decades, tradition and internal tension to the contrary. Vivid, subtle, and affecting, Blue Texas is a compelling book that turns intricate research into an electrifying narrative about a political history that mattered.”

–OAH Frederick Jackson Turner Award Committee Citation

Media Coverage & Reviews

“It would be hard to find a more timely book about Texas political history than this dive into the coalition-building that brought together African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Anglo progressives and labor activists.”–Austin American-Statesman

“A historical blueprint for Texas activists. . . . [This] history of multiracial civil rights movements in Texas offers lessons for progressives in the age of Trump, one of which is that demography is not necessarily destiny.”–Texas Observer

“As hazy historical nostalgia became a political cudgel in last year’s election, remembering clearly and exactingly is itself a political act, resisting the reduction of the past into a simple fable. Krochmal’s narrative fills in the nitty-gritty of history’s movement: the tireless pounding of pavement, the weeks and months crisscrossing the state to rally support, the compromises and refusals, and the men and women made great by historical circumstance, elevated by their work for the common good to broaden who counts in Texas politics.” —Scalawag

“A springboard for sharing new and desperately needed information. Bubbling over with long-forgotten names, events, and facts, this archive of Texas history will be dog-eared in advance and in hindsight of many elections to come.”–Fort Worth Weekly

“Timely because of the parallels that can be drawn from the past to contemporary issues. . . . A wealth of information for students of social movements and political history. Highly recommended.”–Choice

Editorial Reviews

Blue Texas is not about progressives singing the political blues over the present right-wing domination of state offices. Rather, it has an upbeat message of recapturing the spirit of an earlier Texas–not that long ago–when the state’s feisty progressive forces (labor, African Americans, Latinos, community activists, and others) came together to organize, unionize, win elections, and change politics.” –Jim Hightower, writer, populist agitator, former Texas Agriculture Commissioner (1983-91), and editor of the Hightower Lowdown

Blue Texas is one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. A model of clarity, its narrative seamlessly weaves together social movement history, grassroots and high politics, and compelling vignettes of characters who seem almost drawn from a film. The result is a fine contribution to the literature on social movements, politics, and modern U.S. history.”–Thomas J. Sugrue, New York University

Blue Texas is a compelling account of the multiracial coalition of progressive African Americans, Mexican Americans, liberal whites, and white labor activists. Vividly detailed and painstakingly researched, this book beautifully captures a political movement that fought to empower marginalized racial minorities and workers in Texas.”–Lilia Fernandez, author of Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago

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