Lorrin Thomas is an associate professor of history at Rutgers University-Camden, where she teaches Latin American and Caribbean history and the comparative history of the Americas. Her research explores ideas about rights and equality in the twentieth-century Americas. Her first book, Puerto Rican Citizen: History and Political Identity in Twentieth-Century New York City (2010), traces the complex meanings of citizenship for colonial migrants in the U.S. metropole. She is currently working on two books: a study of Puerto Rican politics and civil rights in the United States, with Aldo Lauria Santiago, and an examination of the politics of human rights in the Americas in the 1970s.
This lecture examines how the presence of Latinos in the U.S. since the 19th century has challenged assumptions about the United States as a nation that is primarily black and white. One version of the lecture focuses on New York City and emphasizes the role of Puerto Ricans in the Harlem riot of 1935; another version is broader, and includes discussion of the history of Mexican Americans and race relations in the West and Southwest as well.