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Guide to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund records M0673
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Sponsor Information
  • Processed by:
  • Restrictions
  • Arrangement and Description
  • Scope and Content
  • Forward
  • Introduction
  • Historical Note
  • Access to Collection
  • Publication Rights

  • Title: Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund records
    Identifier/Call Number: M0673
    Contributing Institution: Dept. of Special Collections & University Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 3415.0 Linear feet (1189 cartons, 2691 boxes, 35 flat-boxes, 12 half-boxes, 55 oversized flat-boxes, 11 card-boxes, 9 photo-boxes, 2 cassette-boxes, 36 large map-folders, 10 small map-folders)
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1968-1995
    Date (inclusive): 1967-2000
    Abstract: The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund records contain the administrative records, litigation files, and special program files of one of the most influential and effective civil rights organizations focusing on defining and protecting the civil rights of Mexican Americans throughout the United States.
    General Physical Description note: 3,415 linear ft.
    Creator: Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund Records, M0673, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

    Acquisition Information

    This collection was given by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund to Stanford University, Special Collections in 1984, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, and 2002 (accessions 1984-072, 1995-138, 1996-207, 1996-111, 1999-110, 1999-182, 2000-072, 2000-086, 2001-010, 2002-073).

    Sponsor Information

    Collection addenda (accessions received 1996-2002) were processed under a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

    Processed by:

    Steven Mandeville-Gamble, Theresa Mesa, and student processing staff 1993 - 1995; collection addenda processed by Joseph Geller; with Adelina Acuña, Destin Jenkins, Kimberly Koshiyama, Ashley McDonnell Lawyer, Beth Noyes, Liam O'Hanlon, and Rebecca McNulty Skirvin 2011 - 2013.


    A small amount of material that contains privacy and confidentiality issues has been closed for 75 years from the date the material was created. Within this guide, this material will be marked with a Restricted Material note at the file level, specifying the extent of the closure period.

    Arrangement and Description

    Addenda to existing record groups have been added as an additional series to that record group. Materials within an addenda series or subseries have been arranged alphabetically by box title. Box titles and subtitles may include a general description (i.e. financial), a format term (i.e. pleadings) a subject term (i.e. immigration), or the name of a specific legal case or individual person. Legal cases are alphabetized by the name of the primary plaintiff or defendant. As a second level of arrangement, some boxes have been organized chronologically (i.e. meeting files and similar types of material have been arranged chronologically when possible and relevant).
    The bulk of the addenda received between 1996-2002, has been described at the box level. Descriptions are meant to give researchers an overall sense of what will be found in the entire box but are not exhaustive and do not list the contents of every folder.

    Scope and Content

    The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund records contain the administrative records, litigation files, and special program files of one of the most influential and effective civil rights organizations focusing on defining and protecting the civil rights of Mexican Americans throughout the United States. Included in the collection are more than 2000 linear feet of litigation case files focusing on such issues as employment discrimination, education rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, and other related civil rights issues.


    On behalf of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund Board of Directors and staff, I want to personally thank the library at Stanford University for agreeing to archive our historical records and for producing this excellent guide. I also thank the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Anheuser-Busch Companies for their generous and continued support.
    The new millenium is fast approaching and the importance of these archives becomes more and more evident. The history and accessibility of MALDEF's civil rights achievements and struggles and that of our sister organization, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, is critical in the education and empowerment of those who follow us in the continued challenge of equality.
    As the voice of the nation's 26 million Latinos, MALDEF works unceasingly to safeguard the rights and enable the community to fully participate in American society. These archives allow the voices of our community to be heard by all.
    Antonia Hernández, President and General Counsel


    MALDEF is a product of both the modern Civil Rights Movement and the Chicano Movement. The legal victories of the civil rights era combined with an emerging ethnic solidarity movement among Chicanos in the late 1960s to create an environment for its founding in 1967. Though the history of advocacy for the civil and legal rights of Mexican Americans dates back to the nineteenth century, MALDEF stands out as the single most important organization committed to the protection of rights for the nation's second largest ethnic minority group. MALDEF has engaged in litigation, public policy advocacy, and development of programs in a variety of areas critical to the well being of Mexican Americans: educational equity, equal employment, voting rights, immigration legislation, leadership develop-ment, Chicana rights, and others. MALDEF continues to play a key role in defending Mexican Americans against discriminatory treatment and securing equal rights and opportunities for them in American society.
    The Texas civil rights attorney Pete Tijerina was appointed the first executive director, and he and his colleagues founded the first MALDEF office in San Antonio. During the first five years of its operation, the organization depended largely on a $2.2 million grant from the ford Foundation. During the early years of its development, the organization relied on a small cadre of committed staff attorneys and other professionals who laid the foudation for litigating several important court cases, primarily involving educational segregation and employment discrimination in Texas and in California.
    In 1973 Vilma Martinex, who had worked with the organization since 1968, and who had previously served as a staff attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense fund, assumed the position of president and general counsel of MALDEF. During the decade of Martinez's leadership, MALDEF achieved greater financial stability by attracting more corporate and foundation giving, and expanded the scope of its work. Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, MALDEF continued to play a key role in several court cases --from defending the right of Mexican American students to bilingual education and to voting rights cases.
    Martinez's able leadership of MALDEF ended in the early 1980s when Joaquin Avila, an attorney with the organization for several years, assumed the role of president and general counsel. During the periods of change in leadership --from Martinez to Avila and, after a few years, to the current president, Antonia Hernandez --MALDEF maintained its primary goal of advocacy and litigation.
    Throughout its history, MALDEF either took the lead role in litigating many court cases or joined together with other advocacy and civil rights groups in various legal cases. MALDEF was influential, for example, in advocating for the extension of the Voting Rights Act during the early 1980s, defending the educational rights of children of undocumented immigrants, and together with the U.S. Department of Justice, successfully litigating the case leading to the redistricting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
    The organizational records of the MALDEF collection will provide a rich source of documentation for scholars to examine the complex political history of Mexican Americans and other civil rights advocacy groups during the last third of the twentieth century. The MALDEF collection, together with the other collections housed in the Department of Special Collections at Stanford University relating to the Mexican American experience, constitutes a treasure chest of materials for understanding the history of the largest ethnic group in the western United States.
    Albert Camarillo,Professor of History at Stanford

    Historical Note

    The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund was incorporated in 1967 by Pete Tijerina, following a meeting convened by Jack Greenberg of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, between Tijerina, San Antonians Albert Peña and Roy Padilla, and Bill Pincus, a Ford Foundation representative. When Pincus said that the Foundation would be willing to consider a proposal for funding a Mexican American legal organization, Tijerina filed the papers for incorporation, conducted research for writing the proposal, and made an organizing tour of five southwestern states. Tijerina organized MALDEF committees in California, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well as his native Texas. In May 1968, MALDEF received a 2.2 million dollar grant from the Ford Foundation to be used over five years, and in August 1968 MALDEF began work.
    For the first two years MALDEF had headquarters in San Antonio and a branch office in Los Angeles. The board of directors was comprised of people from the organizing committees of the five states to which Tijerina had traveled; in addition to Tijerina, Greenberg, and Peña, there was Carlos Cadena, Albert Armendáriz, State Senator Joe Bernal, Gregory Luna, and Father Henry Casso from Texas; Louis García, Richard Ibañez, and Frank Muñoz, from California; Manuel Garcí of Arizona and Dan Sosa of New Mexico. The Ford Foundation had included $250,000 in their grant to establish a scholarship fund; a committee was set up to administer this grant, giving funds to Chicano law students, in the hope of increasing the number of Chicano lawyers who might engage in civil rights work on behalf of Mexican Americans. Pete Tijerina was MALDEF's first president, and Mario Obledo was named general counsel of the organization.
    In 1970, the Ford Foundation told MALDEF that further funding was contingent on the organization making certain changes. The Foundation asked that the positions of president and general counsel be merged, that the organization's headquarters be moved to New York or Washington, and that the litigation strategy not be like that of a legal aid office. The Board of Directors complied with the merging of positions and named Mario Obledo head of MALDEF. They also moved the main office to San Francisco, retaining the San Antonio office as a branch office. Obledo added impact litigation and community outreach to MALDEF's programs, and added staff to handle administrative and fundraising activities. MALDEF added new branch offices, in Denver in 1971, and in Albuquerque and Washington in 1972.
    In 1973, Obledo resigned, in part because of negative rulings that MALDEF received on important litigation under his leadership. The board hired Vilma Martinez to replace Obledo; Martinez had been a lawyer for the NAACP-LDF, served on MALDEF's board, and assisted with fundraising. Her first priority on taking the position was to "reorganize to increase effectiveness", and to that end she created an intern/extern program for lawyers, instituted a Chicana Rights Project, and a Voting Rights Project, during her first two years in office. She focused litigation on important test cases, as the NAACP-LDF had done, to develop a body of favorable precedent on which to argue more far-reaching cases.
    In 1976 MALDEF createdthe Community Education and Activation Project, with a Public Policy Research component, which later spun off into a separate department. Both programs, while non-legal, were intended to enhance what MALDEF accomplished legally: CEAP was to inform the Mexican American community of both newly won rights, and those that they were not currently exercising, while the program that became the Policy Studies and Research Department in 1978 was to conduct research into what litigation was required to accomplish certain goals most effectively. The Leadership Development and Advocacy Program was also a spin-off of CEAP, and was created in 1980 to prepare a pool of Chicanos for appointments to commissions and boards by increasing their sophistication about the political process in their communities.
    AS MALDEF continued to grow both in program and in personnel, Martinez reorganized the reporting structure once again in 1980, creating three vice presidencies: a vice president for legal programs, a vice president for research, development, and public affairs, and a vice president for finance and administration. In 1980, MALDEF also added a regional office in Chicago, replacing a small program office that had been set up there in 1979 to do a census awareness project. In 1981 Maritnez announced she would be resigning in 1982.
    Joaquin Avila was named president and general counsel in 1982; he had been with MALDEF since 1976, serving as a staff attorney, as the director of the Voting Rights Project, and as the Associate Counsel in charge of the San Antonio office. Avila led MALDEF’s efforts to extend the power of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by advocating for the addition of an amendment that changed the definitions of discriminatory practices, thus opening the door to future voting rights litigation that would allow Latinos greater access to the political process. During his tenure, Avila also made significant contributions to the further development of MALDEF's growing leadership programs.
    Avila was succeeded by Antonia Hernández, who became president and general counsel in 1985. Hernández began working for MALDEF in 1981 as a staff attorney in its Washington, D.C. office. She later became employment litigation director in the Los Angeles office prior to beginning her tenure as president. Under Hernández’s leadership, MALDEF continued pursuing strategic advocacy programs related to employment, immigrants' rights, education, and language rights, with a particular emphasis on the importance of increasing political access and representation for Mexican Americans.
    Significant litigation from this period included Overton v. City of Austin, a voting rights case aimed at improving political access for Latinos. MALDEF also continued work on Gomez v. City of Watsonville, which argued that the Latino population was not adequately represented in local government. Successful litigation related to employment and immigration issues included International Molders' Union v. Nelson, a case in which MALDEF represented a class of Latino workers in the Bay Area, who were victims of workplace raids by the INS. The trial court held that the that open-ended warrants the INS was using to search workplaces suspected of employing undocumented immigrants were unconstitutional and found that the INS had instituted a systematic policy of Fourth Amendment violations including unlawful detention, unreasonable force, and discrimination against Latinos. MALDEF also continued working for education rights through lawsuits such as Edgewood v. Kirby, a case relating to public school financing and educational equality, as well as other notable education cases including U.S. v. Texas, LULAC v. Richard/Clements, and Keyes v. School District No. 1, Denver, CO.
    During the mid-1980s MALDEF monitored the impact of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) and worked to reduce its negative effect on immigrants. MALDEF also continued to monitor the Voting Rights Act to ensure the enforcement of measures aimed at increasing the political voice of Latinos. In the late 1980s MALDEF also launched an ambitious program to encourage Latino participation in the 1990 U.S. Census, through their campaign: “!Hagase Contar! - Make Yourself Count!" Other special projects that grew during this period included the development of the Law School Scholarship Program and Parent Leadership Program. During the 1990s, the Washington D.C. office also spearheaded further expansion of the Policy Analyst Program, aimed at developing effective lobbying programs to address the impact of state and federal policy on the civil rights of Mexican Americans.

    Access to Collection

    The materials are open for research use. Audio-visual materials are not available in original format, and must be reformatted to a digital use copy.

    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 94305-6064. 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.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Apodaca, Jerry.
    Armendariz, Albert.
    Avila, Joaquin.
    Baca, Paul.
    Baca, Polly, 1941-
    Bakke, Allan Paul.
    Baller, Morris J.
    Barnett, Peggy Hynd.
    Bell, Griffin B., 1918-2009
    Bernick, Michael, 1953-
    Cadena, Carlos C.
    Cantú, Norma V.
    Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
    Chavez, Cesar, 1927-1993
    Contreras, Joel G.
    Couch, Jane.
    de Necochea, Fernando.
    Dimas, Nicasio.
    Espino, A. Michael.
    Estrada, Carmen.
    Estrada, Esther.
    Exelrod, Alan.
    Fajardo, Ricahrd P.
    Galarza, Ernesto, 1905-1984
    Greenberg, Jack, 1924-
    Hanten, Linda.
    Hayes-Bautista, David E., 1945-
    Heidelberg, James.
    Hernández, Antonia.
    Huerta, John E.
    Idar, Eduardo.
    Kantor, Michael, 1939-
    Kantor, Valerie.
    Kauffman, Albert.
    Klutznick, Philip M., 1907-1999
    Korbel, George.
    Lozano, Ignacio.
    Luna, Gregory.
    Marenco, Eduardo.
    Martinez, Vilma S.
    Martínez, Virginia.
    Mendelson, Michael.
    Méndez, Miguel A.
    Nabarrete, Charles D.
    Navarro, Susana.
    Nogales, Luis G.
    Obledo, Mario G., 1932-
    Oliveira, Annette.
    Ortega, Joe C.
    Peña, Albert.
    Peña, Federico.
    Reyes, Remigio Pete
    Rocha, Juan.
    Rodriguez, Maria
    Romero, Raymond G.
    Roos, Peter
    Rosen, Sanford Jay.
    Samora, Julian, 1920-1996
    Sanders-Castro, Judith A.
    Sonnenberg, David F.
    Soria, Juan.
    Steiner, William.
    Tijerina, Pete.
    Velarde-Muñoz, Felix.
    Vásquez, Patricia M.
    Wong, Linda J.
    Mexican Americans--Civil rights.
    Mexican Americans.