OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Max Krochmal

Portrait of Max Krochmal

Max Krochmal is Associate Professor of History and founding Chair of the Department of Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies at Texas Christian University. His research centers on social movements and coalition-building among Chicanx-Latinx, African American, and white community organizers from the 1930s to present. Krochmal is the author of Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era (2016), winner of the OAH’s Frederick Jackson Turner Award, the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas Foco Non-Fiction Book Award, and other prizes. He is co-editor of Civil Rights in Black and Brown: Histories of Resistance and Struggle in Texas (2021), a collaborative, interpretive volume which draws on over 500 new interviews with activists in every corner of the state. Krochmal also directs the oral history project and digital humanities website undergirding the text--all of which was supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research Grant (crbb.tcu.edu). His newest projects bookend this previous work, exploring a radical, multiracial union of the 1930s-40s on the one hand and, on the other, examining the role of Chicanx-Latinx activists in the Central American sanctuary/solidarity movement and the Rainbow Coalition of the 1980-90s (and since). In spring 2022, Krochmal will assume the Fulbright-García Robles Chair of U.S. Studies at the Universidad de las Américas, Puebla, México. Applying his scholarship in the community, Krochmal co-chaired the Fort Worth Independent School District Racial Equity Committee, consulted on the district’s Latinx Studies curriculum overlay, and serves on the board of United Fort Worth, a multiracial grassroots social justice organization. A native of Reno, Nevada, he majored in Community Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, before earning graduate degrees in History at Duke University.


Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

Max Krochmal's *Civil Rights in Black and Brown Oral History Project* collected more than 500 new interviews from grassroots activists in every corner of Texas in order to tell the stories of the state’s intersecting African American and Mexican American liberation struggles. Far from the gaze of the national media, Black and Brown activists combated the twin caste systems of Jim Crow and Juan Crow. These insurgents worked chiefly within their own racial groups, yet they also looked to each other for guidance and, at times, came together in solidarity. The movements sought more than integration and access: they demanded power and justice. The testimonies speak in detail to the structure of racism in the state's huge metropolises as well as it small towns—both the everyday grind of segregation and the haunting acts of racial violence that upheld Texas’s state-sanctioned systems of white supremacy. Through their memories of resistance and revolution, activists reveal previously undocumented struggles for equity, as well as the links Black and Chicanx organizers forged in their efforts to achieve self-determination. This lecture surveys the key themes that emerged in the research team's writing of a new collaborative book: life under segregation, the role of state-sanctioned violence, struggles for equity in public services, political self-determination and agency, and Black-Brown coalition building. It also includes a deep dive into the case of San Antonio, where a new generation of Black Power activists propelled the struggles against police brutality and for independent representation by joining forces with Chicano/a movement activists, including in La Raza Unida Party and the San Antonio Committee to Free Angela Davis.
Contrary to popular belief, Texas has a long tradition of organic radicalism, antiracist community organizing, and multiracial political coalitions. Yet the true stories of grassroots activism and of building alliances across the color line have been silenced and erased. This workshop will help participants recover that tale across the history of 20th century Texas and also shed light on one local example of present-day organizing, in the unexpected locale of Fort Worth. Mixing interactive workshop with conventional lecture, Dr. Krochmal will first lead a discussion of common (mis)perceptions of Black/Brown relations, including the mass media narratives of immutable competition and the historical/social scientific myth of Mexican American whiteness. The scholar and audience will next examine intra-racial tensions and forces that produce possibilities for inter-racial coalition-building. Next, Krochmal will present several forgotten examples of Black/Brown alliances in Texas history, including in San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas from the 1930s to the 1970s, and then share the more recent history of United Fort Worth, a multiracial grassroots organization that is rapidly dragging Cowtown into the 21st century. Last, the group will brainstorm how these examples can inform present-day struggles against racism/xenophobia in their local communities and governments, public school districts, and higher education.
This lecture draws on Max Krochmal's award-winning book, *Blue Texas*, to survey both the mid-twentieth century and the recent history of civil rights and political organizing in the Lone Star State--as well as its future. With versions tailored for audiences within or outside Texas, the lecture explores the connections between grassroots social movements and formal electoral politics, the process of multiracial coalition-building, the best-practices of campaign field operations, the returns from recent elections (since 2016), today's major social movements (including Black Lives Matter and the immigrant rights movement), and the state and national futures of Beto O'Rourke, Julian Castro, and other prominent Texas Democrats.
Max Krochmal's *Civil Rights in Black and Brown Oral History Project* collected more than 500 new interviews from grassroots activists in every corner of Texas in order to tell the stories of the state’s intersecting African American and Mexican American liberation struggles. Far from the gaze of the national media, Black and Brown activists combated the twin caste systems of Jim Crow and Juan Crow. These insurgents worked chiefly within their own racial groups, yet they also looked to each other for guidance and, at times, came together in solidarity. The movements sought more than integration and access: they demanded power and justice. This lecture narrates the origins of the collaborative oral history project and explains its methodology as well as the development of its innovative digital humanities website. Geared for both scholars and community-based oral history practitioners, it provides nitty-gritty details on how Dr. Krochmal and his partners planned and coordinated the massive fieldwork required as well as how they consciously planned to distribute the interviews to a wide general public. While most oral history interviews remain lost in archives, CRBB created a free, user-friendly, publicly-accessible database of video clips, each with their own narrow subject terms and other metadata. The result: unprecedented access to previously hidden tales of race, racism, and community organizing--a true people's history of the state's intersecting Black and Chicanx liberation struggles.
This lecture addresses the Chicano/a Movement of the 1960s and 70s, an example of the new style of Latino/a politics and culture marked by growing collective agency; the use of confrontational tactics; and the embracing of indigenous origins, bilingualism/biculturalism, anti-imperialism, and non-white racial identities. Drawing inspiration from the "los cinco" in Crystal City, the United Farm Workers, and the land grant movement in New Mexico, urban activists transformed old organizations and created new ones such as the Brown Berets, the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO), La Raza Unida Party, La Alianza Federal de Mercedes, and the Crusade for Justice. Youth and student activists led many of these “Brown Power” movements, including school walkouts and campaigns for the creation of Chicano Studies. They also built coalitions with Black Power activists. At the same time, the movimiento engendered stringent critiques from within and without, including discussions of the limits of cultural nationalism, the need to better address gender and sexuality, and the ongoing struggle for incorporation and acceptance in the dominant society.
This lecture uncovers 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 of African American, Mexican American, and white labor and community activists who discovered multiracial coalition-building as the secret weapon in their separate struggles for justice. At the ballot box and in the streets, they gradually came together to demand not only integration but labor rights and real political power for all. Dr. Krochmal's book, *Blue Texas*, won the OAH's Frederick Jackson Turner Award (2017), among other prizes.