Overview of the Collection
Arrangement of Materials:
Scope and Contents
Overview of the Collection
Collection Title: Leonard Fierro Papers
Bulk Dates: 1966-1995
Physical Description: 9.76 linear ft
Language of Materials:
Special Collections & University Archives
5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego, CA, 92182-8050
Leonard Fierro was born in El Paso, Texas in 1918 but spent 72 years of his life as an educator and activist in San Diego,
California. He attended San Diego High School and in 1941 graduated from San Diego State College with a bachelor's degree
in history. During his college years he was a founding member of the Tolteca Athletic Association, also known as Tolteca
Fraternity, "a Hispanic social organization that would become a powerful force in city athletics and politics." After graduating,
Fierro served in the Army during World War II and was awarded a Purple Heart in January of 1945 for wounds received in Germany.
However he, as well as many returning soldiers with varying cultural backgrounds, was surprised when he arrived back home.
"We'd just fought a war for liberty and justice, and when we came home we found that we didn't have it in our own city," Fierro
said. After the war, Fierro returned to San Diego State earning his master's degree in history in 1956. He began his teaching
career at Kearny High School and transferred to Clairemont High in 1959 where he taught history and government.
In 1967, Fierro served as coordinator and then director for the English as a Second Language (ESL) Bilingual-Bicultural Demonstration
Center for San Diego County, where he stayed until 1970. Over these years, he developed resource materials for teachers and
students and worked to award college credit for bilingual education summer programs in conjunction with local colleges. He
also provided consultant services to schools and produced a nation-wide newsletter on ESL bilingual education. In 1970, Fierro
became director of project Curriculum Adaptation Network for Bilingual Bicultural Education (CANBBE) Far West Region, where
he conceptualized, planned and developed culturally relevant supplementary materials for grades 1-3 which included readers,
coloring books, and games that he field-tested and approved for nation-wide distribution. In 1975, he served as Co-director
for the San Diego State University Bilingual Bicultural Resource Center which would later become the National Origin Desegregation
Assistance Center (NODAC or Lau Center) in the Institute for Cultural Pluralism. The Center provided consulting services to
schools across California and coordinated with federal as well as state and local agencies to help develop and implement comprehensible
educational plans to meet the needs of language minority students.
Aside from his professional achievements, Fierro was an active community organizer. He helped to establish the Association
of Mexican-American Educators (AMAE) and played a critical role in founding the San Diego County Chicano Federation as well
as the Mexican-American Advisory Committee (MAAC), a San Diego County anti-poverty organization. After his retirement in 1987,
he began work on a book about local Latino activists, some of which he interviewed, but never finished. Leonard Fierro passed
away on November 20, 1995.
This collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Genre/Form of Material:
Conditions Governing Use:
The copyright interests in some of these materials have been transferred to or belong to San Diego State University. The nature
of historical archival and manuscript collections means that copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine.
Copyright resides with the creators of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. Requests for permission to publish
must be submitted to the Head of Special Collections, San Diego State University, Library and Information Access. Permissions
is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission
of the copyright holder(s), which must also be obtained in order to publish. Materials from our collections are made available
for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including
but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials.
Conditions Governing Access:
This collection is open for research.
Identification of item, folder title, box number,
Leonard Fierro Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Library and Information Access, San Diego State University.
Rene Nuñez Memorial Collection, 1968-2008
Carmen Sandoval Fernandez Poster Collection, 1974-1983
Arturo Casares Papers, 1968-2007
Maria Garcia Papers, 1968-1997
Chicano Federation of San Diego County Records, 1968-1980
Chicana and Chicano Studies Department Records, 1968-2003
MANA of San Diego County Records, 1986-2002
Enriqueta Chavez Papers, 1955-2000
Arrangement of Materials:
I. Professional, 1964-1992
1. Education, 1964-1990
2. Organizations, 1964-1992
II. Personal, 1939-1995
III. News Clippings, 1950's-1995
IV. Book Project Files, 1927-1995
Scope and Contents
Leonard Fierro Papers (1927-1995) document Fierro's work as an educator, activist and advocate for bilingual education. The majority of the material
dates from the early 1960's through 1970's, with very sparse documentation of the 1950's. These files illustrate Fierro's
development of bilingual education teaching materials for San Diego County. His papers include reports, correspondence, teaching
supplements, newspaper clippings, and audio cassettes. Highlights include materials relating to the efforts of the National
Origin Desegregation Assistance Center (NODAC or Lau Center) in the Institute for Cultural Pluralism and personal correspondence
during his military service through WWII. The collection consists of four series:
Professional Files (1964-1992),
Personal Files (1935-1995),
News Clippings (1950's-1995), and
Book Project Files (1927-1995).
Professional Files (1964-1992) are divided into two sub-series,
Education (1964-1990) and
Organizations (1964-1992). These files document Fierro's work as an advocate for bilingual education primarily in San Diego during the
1960's and 1970's, and his membership and association with multiple educational and community organizations. The
Education sub-series, alphabetically arranged, includes teaching supplements as well as reports and publications documenting his work
and research concerning the development and implementation of a language-sensitive curriculum for English-learning students.
These materials include bilingual lesson plans for Spanish-speaking preschool students as well as school integration reports
from across the country from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Also alphabetically arranged, the
Organizations series documents Fierro's affiliation and participation with local and national groups that shared his outlook on bilingual
education. Among these groups are the Chicano Federation and Association of Mexican-American Educators. This sub-series includes
correspondence, memorandums, and reports released by the various organizations.
Personal Files (1935-1995), document Fierro's time in the military and his family life. A large portion of the material dates from the 1990's,
after Fierro's retirement, and focuses on membership materials to the San Diego Historical Society and National Timberwolf
Association, "an association of World War II Veterans of the 104th Infantry Division, U.S. Army." The series also contains
alphabetically arranged correspondence, resumes, and photographs of Tolteca Athletic Association reunions. The majority of
correspondence are letters Fierro exchanged with family and friends while serving in the Army during WWII. Letters were addressed
to Fierro while in Camp Roberts, California in 1944 and to Luxembourg and Belgium in 1945. Also, included is an order from
general headquarters for his award of a Purple Heart for wounds while in Germany.
News Clippings (1950's-1995) series exhibit Fierro's research interests especially in education, local politics and racial discrimination.
They are arranged alphabetically by subject and include articles from the San Diego Union Tribune, L.A. Times, The New Mexican,
San Diego Free Press, and other newspapers documenting varied issues from local student enrollment statistics to the murder
of local Black Panther Party member Sylvester Bell in 1969. The majority of the files date between the late 1980's and early
1990's with particularly few clippings from the 1970's.
Book Project Files (1927-1995) document Fierro's research for an unfinished manuscript that would highlight local Latino activists. The series
consists of audio cassettes, notes, articles, interview questionnaires, and photographs, all of which are alphabetically arranged.
The records cover topics such as Camp Oliver, Neighborhood House, the Tolteca Athletic Association, and the post-WWII period.
The cassette tapes contain interviews of individuals such as David and Mary Naranjo, Natalie Coronado, Raul Almera, and Totleca
founder Frank Peñuelas.