Colored Men and Hombres Aquí: Hernández v. Texas and the Emergence of Mexican American Lawyering
Sheds light on an important civil rights case that has been overshadowed by the more compelling case, Brown v. Board of Education.
Edited by Michael A. Olivas
Publication Date: February 28, 2020
Format: Trade Paperback
This collection of ten essays originally published in 2006 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of an important but almost forgotten U.S. Supreme court case, Hernández v. Texas, 347 US 475 (1954), is now available in trade paperback for the first time. Involving Mexican Americans and jury selection, this major case was published just before Brown v. Board of Education in the 1954 Supreme Court reporter.
This landmark case, the first to be tried by Mexican American lawyers before the US Supreme Court, held that Mexican Americans were a discrete group for purposes of applying Equal Protection. Although the case was about discriminatory state jury selection and trial practices, it has been cited for many other civil rights precedents in the intervening 50 years. Even so, it has not been given the prominence it deserves, in part because it lives in the shadow of the more compelling Brown v. Board case.
There had been earlier efforts to diversify juries, reaching back at least to the trial of Gregorio Cortez in 1901 and continuing with efforts by the legendary Oscar Zeta Acosta in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Even as recently as 2005 there has been clear evidence that Latino participation in the Texas jury system is still substantially unrepresentative of the growing population. But in a brief and shining moment in 1954, Mexican-American lawyers prevailed in a system that accorded their community no legal status and no respect. Through sheer tenacity, brilliance, and some luck, they showed that it is possible to tilt against windmills and slay the dragon.
Edited and with an introduction by University of Houston law scholar Michael A. Olivas, Colored Men and Hombres Aquí is the first full-length book on this case. This volume contains the papers presented at the Hernández at 50 conference that took place in 2004 at the University of Houston Law Center and also contains source materials, trial briefs, and a chronology of the case.