Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type

Dissertation (Access Restricted)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

janann sherman

Committee Member

joseph m hawes

Committee Member

margaret m caffrey

Committee Member

guiomar duenas-vargas


This dissertation studies one segment of the tripartite public school segregation in San Antonio, Texas, from the 1930s to the 1950s. At this time, there were three sets of elementary schools:one for Anglo or "white" children; one for Mexican and Mexican American children; and another for African American children. The schools designated for Anglo children were newer, high-quality structures, while the other two were shoddy and often dangerous facilities. The students who attended these schools were segregated away from Anglos via different methods. Mexican and Mexican American children were segregated by defacto (or default) segregation, while the African American children were segregated by de jure (or legal) methods. This dissertation argues that ordinary citizens, such as Eleuterio Escobar, worked hard to eliminate this educational inequality for Mexican and Mexican American children living on the West Side of San Antonio. This argument is a break from traditional theories that paint immigrant populations as being either super-humans or docile sheep. Escobar and the consortium he led, the School Improvement League, demanded explanations and accountability from state and local leaders who sought to perpetuate the status quo. He argued that Mexican and Mexican American children were legally a "white" population, which made the city's use of "Mexican schools" illegal. He lobbied the local school district, local and state politicians, and legal professionals to improve the West Side schools. This dissertation examines related documents housed at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. Court cases that challenged Texas school districts for de facto segregation are also studied, as are the definitions of "whiteness" during the period. The issue of class within the West Side community often influenced opinions towards the "Mexican schools" debate and illustrates that the civil rights movement during the mid-20th century was not solely an African American experience.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.