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Photographs of Josefina Fierro, 1903-1987. M0784
M0784  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biography
  • Arrangement note
  • Related Collection
  • Acquisition Information
  • Publication Rights

  • Title: Josefina Fierro photographs
    Identifier/Call Number: M0784
    Contributing Institution: Dept. of Special Collections & University Archives
    Language of Material: No_linguistic_content
    Physical Description: 2.0 Linear feet (114 photographs housed in 1 manuscript box, 1 flat box)
    Date (inclusive): 1903-1987
    Abstract: Photographs of Josefina Fierro, a leader in the Mexican American community.
    creator: Fierro, Josefina

    Biography

    Born in the border town of Mexicali, Baja California during the tumultuous years of the Mexican Revolution, Josefina Fierro was raised in a familial heritage of revolutionary activism. Her father was an officer in General Francisco "Pancho" Villa's northern revolutionary army, a fact that made him largely absent from her life. Raised by her mother, who separated from her husband and immigrated to the U.S. when Josefina was a baby, the language of revolution and social justice was a constant in her young life. Her mother's family was followers of Ricardo Flores Magon, a Mexican anarchist banished from Mexico for promoting radical reforms as part of his Partido Liberal Mexicano, a movement he continued while in exile on the U.S. side of the border. As a "Magonista," Josefina's mother taught her daughter to stand up for the underdog, to speak out against injustice, and to treat others with dignity and respect. It was no surprise that Josefina would eventually use this background as a basis for assuming leadership within the Mexican American community in California as she came of age.
    Born in the border town of Mexicali, Baja California during the tumultuous years of the Mexican Revolution, Josefina Fierro was raised in a familial heritage of revolutionary activism. Her father was an officer in General Francisco "Pancho" Villa's northern revolutionary army, a fact that made him largely absent from her life. Raised by her mother, who separated from her husband and immigrated to the U.S. when Josefina was a baby, the language of revolution and social justice was a constant in her young life. Her mother's family was followers of Ricardo Flores Magon, a Mexican anarchist banished from Mexico for promoting radical reforms as part of his Partido Liberal Mexicano, a movement he continued while in exile on the U.S. side of the border. As a "Magonista," Josefina's mother taught her daughter to stand up for the underdog, to speak out against injustice, and to treat others with dignity and respect. It was no surprise that Josefina would eventually use this background as a basis for assuming leadership within the Mexican American community in California as she came of age.
    Josefina's successful organizing efforts and her emergence as a key leader in the Los Angeles Mexican community attracted the attention of Latino leaders, especially Luisa Moreno, who were preparing to launch the first-ever national Latino civil rights organization, the Congress of Spanish-Speaking People. The Congress was founded in Los Angeles in 1939, and young Josefina was elected national secretary, the second highest ranking position in the organization. For the next several years, she and her colleagues led a broad-based civil rights movement for Mexican Americans and other Latinos in California and in the Southwest. A fiery orator who could captivate an audience, Josefina traveled throughout California to participate in various demonstrations and activities aimed at bringing down the walls of discrimination against Mexicans in housing, employment, education, and other public places. She played an instrumental role, in addition, on the defense committee of the infamous "Sleepy Lagoon Case" in war-time Los Angeles (a murder trial involving several Mexican American youth accused and sentenced to prison for a crime they did not commit). The Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee eventually won the release of the defendants from state prison two years after the original convictions. A year later, in June 1943, Josefina almost single-handedly brought an end to the days of rage and physical assault on Mexican Americans in downtown and in East Los Angeles during the so-called "Zoot Suit Riots." With the L.A.P.D. unwilling to stop the brutality in the streets against Mexican American youth, Josefina flew to Washington, D.C. with a Mexican consulate official to prevail upon the Vice-President of the United States, Henry Wallace, to help bring an end to the violence unleashed against her community. Convinced by her graphic, first-hand stories about the beatings of Mexican Americans by servicemen, buttressed by an armful of newspapers she carried with sensational headlines about the riots, Wallace secured a military order that restricted all service personnel to their respective bases until order was restored.
    As Josefina's efforts to advocate for Mexican Americans attracted more notice, she was labeled as a "communist subversive" by the California Committee on UnAmerican Activities. After her divorce from John Bright, she returned to Madera where she organized on behalf of Henry Wallace's Independent Progressive party. By 1948, after being hounded by the FBI and fearing arrest and deportation, she decided to leave the United States and head to Hermosillo, the Mexican port city where she lived the rest of her life.
    As Josefina's efforts to advocate for Mexican Americans attracted more notice, she was labeled as a "communist subversive" by the California Committee on UnAmerican Activities. After her divorce from John Bright, she returned to Madera where she organized on behalf of Henry Wallace's Independent Progressive party. By 1948, after being hounded by the FBI and fearing arrest and deportation, she decided to leave the United States and head to Hermosillo, the Mexican port city where she lived the rest of her life.

    Arrangement note

    The collection is arranged in chronologically.

    Related Collection

    See M0811 for interviews of Josefina Fierro by Dr. Albert M. Camarillo, Professor of History, Stanford University.

    Acquisition Information

    This collection was given by the donor to Stanford University, Special Collections in March 1995.

    Publication Rights

    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94304-6064. Consent is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner, heir(s) or assigns. See: http://library.stanford.edu/depts/spc/pubserv/permissions.html.
    Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.
    Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Labor history
    Mexican American women
    Mexican Americans--Biography
    Photoprints.