Research

I study race, class, and social change.

I study the interaction of race and class in a multiracial context.  Moving beyond the black/white and Anglo/Mexican binaries, I examine the history of community organizing and coalition building.  These research interests require that I extensively use oral history and that I am an active participant in present-day social and political struggles.  Everything else flows from there.

Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era

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. Blue Texas cov4Beginning 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.

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Civil Rights in Black and Brown Oral History Project

Not one but two civil rights movements flourished in mid-twentieth century Texas, and they did so in intimate conversation with one another. While most research on American race relations has utilized a binary analytical lens—examining either “black” vs. “white” or “Anglo” vs. “Mexican”—Civil Rights in Black and Brown collects, interprets, and disseminates new oral history interviews with members of all three groups.

cropped-civilrightsbb-colorfinal.jpgWith support from a National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research Grant as well as private funding, project faculty and staff are conducting interviews in twenty interviews across Texas, in every major city and in smaller towns from Amarillo in the Panhandle to El Paso in far west Texas, from the Rio Grande Valley and the piney woods of Deep East Texas.

Our website, the Civil Rights in Black and Brown Interview Database, is a publicly accessible, free, and user-friendly multimedia digital humanities website that provides digital video clips from the interviews to researchers as well as teachers, journalists, and the general public. Rather than simply streaming full interviews or displaying transcripts, this site indexes short clips and embeds a number of detailed thematic metadata codes and tags. End users are able to easily search for detailed subject information across the entire interview collection and add their own tags to help future users.  For more information, visit crbb.tcu.edu or “Like” the project on Facebook.

The UCAPAWA/FTA Project

I am working on a collaborative research project co-directed with Erik Gellman of Roosevelt University and Jarod Roll of the University of Mississippi: a national synthetic history of the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packinghouse, and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA) of the 1930s and its successor organization of the 1940s, the Food, Tobacco, and Allied Workers of America (FTA).  Influenced by the nascent industrial union and Popular Front movements of the 1930s, their vision was expansive: they sought to organize the agricultural commodity industry from the fields to the processing factories across the United States. In a time of immigration restriction, structural white supremacy, and masculinist state policy, UCAPAWA organizers reached out to diverse groups of female and male workers, including African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and native-born and ethnic whites, many of them excluded from the protections of New Deal labor law. These groups pioneered a form of “civil rights unionism” that not only pressed for better wages and conditions on farms and in factories, but also articulated an anti-fascist culture and working-class politics in the face of rampant race and gender discrimination. UCAPAWA’s effort required a geographical and occupational reach that no union had attempted before. By 1940, UCAPAWA’s membership included Campbell’s Soup workers in New Jersey and Illinois, cotton farmers and gin workers in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee, tobacco workers in the Carolinas, pecan shellers in Texas, sugar beet workers in Colorado, cannery row workers from California to Alaska, and pineapple pickers in Hawaii, among many others.

The whole story of UCAPAWA has never been told. Historians have studied some of the constituent unions, but usually in isolation; no national history of UCAPAWA exists. The history of the union’s path-breaking effort to win economic justice and civil rights for the most vulnerable workers across 1930s and 1940s America not only sheds new light on the possibilities and limitations of social movements in mid-twentieth century America but also speaks to food and economic justice issues in the United States today.  To advance the project, we convened the 43rd Annual Porter Fortune, Jr. Symposium, “Organizing Agribusiness from Farm to Factory: Toward a New History of America’s Most Ambitious Labor Union,” at the University of Mississippi on March 1-3, 2018.

The Radical 1980s: The Rainbow Coalition and its Grassroots Movements

This monograph in progress explores the members of the loose political alliance behind Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns. The book then circles outward, following a sampling of activists who led the disparate, often-transnational social movements of that tumultuous decade. Leaders of the Central American sanctuary movements in the Southwest appear alongside the organizers of the nationwide anti-apartheid solidarity struggle, while anti-racist environmental justice pioneers of the rural South brushed shoulders with trade unionists battling corporate-led globalization. In northern and western cities, African American community leaders resisted the rising carceral state just as anti-AIDS activists demanded access to affordable healthcare. Each of these groups waged separate struggles toward disparate ends, but together they offered an alternative vision for America’s future. Their stories rewrite the history of the Age of Reagan, shifting it from an era of conservative hegemony toward a new interpretation of the decade as a moment of possibility. Despite Jackson’s later personal scandals, his platform radically contested the white liberalism of Michael Dukakis and the future triangulation of Bill Clinton. Some 7 million people cast votes for him in 1988, earning him 13 primary victories and a stunning second-place finish. The Radical 1980s looks to the forgotten social movements behind that unlikely alliance in order to reveal a road not traveled—and to connect that history to Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights struggles, and “the Resistance” today.

Articles & Book Chapters

“San Antonio Chicano Organizers (SACO): Labor Activists and El Movimiento,” in The Chicano Movement: Perspectives from the Twenty-First Century, ed. Mario T. Garcia (Routledge, 2014).

“Chicano Labor and Multiracial Politics in Post-World War II Texas: Two Case Studies,” in Life and Labor in the New New South, ed. Robert H. Zieger (University Press of Florida, 2012).  Digital reprint by permission of the University Press of Florida.

An Unmistakably Working-Class Vision: Birmingham’s Foot Soldiers and Their Civil Rights Movement,” Journal of Southern History LXXVI, no. 4 (November 2010): 923-960.

“Connecting to Activists and the Public through the Civil Rights in Black and Brown Oral History Project,” LAWCHA Watch column in Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 13, no. 3-4 (December 2016): 15-17.

“Larry Goodwyn, Texas, and Me,” chapter in book edited by Wesley Hogan and Paul Ortiz. Submitted.

 

Op-Eds & Media

 

Conference Papers, Invited Talks, Public Presentations, etc.

Past Talks & Events archive (prior to summer 2016)

Fellowships and External Grants

Summerlee Fellowship in Texas History, Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, 2013-2014, $45,500.

National Endowment for the Humanities, Collaborative Research Grant, $200,000, 2015-2018, for Civil Rights in Black and Brown: Oral Histories of the Multiracial Freedom Struggle in Texas, 1954 – Present (principal investigator). Awarded September 2015.

Private gift, Summerlee Foundation, Dallas, for “Civil Rights in Black and Brown: Oral Histories of the Multiracial Freedom Struggle in Texas, 1954-Present,” $40,000.  Awarded September 2014 for two-year project.

Private gift, Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, for “Civil Rights in Black and Brown: Oral Histories of the Multiracial Freedom Struggle in Texas, 1954-Present,” $100,000.  Awarded and received June 2014.

Latino Americans: 500 Years of History grant program, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and American Library Association, grant in collaboration with the City of Fort Worth, $10,000, September 2015 (sub-contracted services to Civil Rights in Black and Brown, ~$5,000).

Post-Doctoral Fellowship, United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney (Australia), 2011-2012, $86,000 AUD. Declined.

Alternate, Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, 2010-2011.

Walter Rundell Research Award, Western History Association, 2010, $1,500

Trennert-Iverson Conference Scholarship, Western History Association, 2010, $750

Future Projects

I have a long list of possible future book projects.  They include:

  • A community study of race, space, and privatization in Fort Worth
  • A People’s History of Texas in the Zinn tradition, from the beginning to the present
  • A history of life and labor along the Texas-Mexico border since the 1960s
  • A history of race, labor, and politics in the NFL Players Association since its inception
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