In Defense of My People: Alonso S. Perales and the Development of Mexican-American Public Intellectuals
by Michael A. Olivas
Published: May 31, 2013
Scholars examine the work of a pioneering Mexican-American civil rights leader in this collection.Look Inside
One of the most influential Mexican Americans of his time, Alonso S. Perales (1898-1960) is the subject of this engrossing collection of scholarly essays. A graduate of George Washington University School of Law, he was one of the earliest Mexican-American attorneys to practice law in Texas and was sworn into the bar in 1926. Perales helped found the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), served his country in several diplomatic capacities and was a prolific writer.
In Defense of My People sheds light on Perales’ activism and the history of Mexican-American and Latino civil rights movements. The essays, written by scholars representing a number of disciplines from the U.S. and Mexico, touch on a variety of topics, including the impact of religion on Latinos, the concept of “race” and individual versus community action to bring about social and political change.
Edited and with an introduction and chapter by law scholar Michael A. Olivas, In Defense of My People is the first full-length book available on this trailblazing Mexican-American leader. Scholars were able to take advantage of Perales’ never-before-accessible personal archive, which his family donated to the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project and is now housed at the University of Houston’s Special Collections Department of the M.D. Anderson Library.
Originally presented at a conference on Alonso S. Perales at the University of Houston in 2012, this volume is required reading for anyone interested in the history of civil rights organizations, public intellectuals of the early 20th century and Mexican-American political development in Texas.
“All of the essays are worthy of mention and greatly contribute to Mexican American historiography. While exploring different aspects of Perales’ life, In Defense of My People provides a greater view into the social and racial conditions which affected the Texas Mexican American community. The essays further highlight the wealth of material found in the Perales archive and the opportunity available to scholars and students alike to explore further Texas and Mexican American through the works and actions of a man ‘without equal either in his community or that of the larger community’ (Introduction, x).”—The Journal of South Texas
MICHAEL A. OLIVAS is the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Houston Law Center and Director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at UH. Olivas holds a B.A. (Magna Cum Laude) from the Pontifical College Josephinum, an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Ohio State University, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. He is the author or co-author of eight books, including The Dilemma of Access (Howard University Press, 1979), Latino College Students (Teachers College Press, 1986), Prepaid College Tuition Programs (College Board, 1993), The Law and Higher Education: Cases and Materials on Colleges in Court, Third Edition (Carolina Academic Press, 2006), and “Colored Men” and “Hombres Aquí”: Hernandez v. Texas and the Emergence of Mexican American Lawyering (Arte Público Press, 2006). His next book, Education Stories, will be published by Foundation Press in 2007. He has also published widely in higher education journals.
Learn more at by visiting his faculty page.