History Department
History Department

Prof. Emilio Zamora's book on Mexican workers in Texas garners two awards as well as his selection as a Fellow to the Texas State Historical Association

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The Texas Institute of Letters (TIL) awarded Emilio Zamora their 2009 most significant scholarly book award for Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2009) at their annual awards banquet on May 1, 2010.

Professor Emilio Zamora's book Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs

Zamora's award-winning book Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs

"All three of the judges for the Scholarly Book Award from the Texas Institute of Letters agreed that Emilio Zamora’s Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas deserved the prize because of its innovative use of sources and its overall conception and execution," according to Professor T. Lindsay Baker, chair of the selection committee.

The prize comes with a monetary award of $2,500. The TIL was established in 1936 during the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas to foster and promote Texas literature. Their goal has been to acknowledge the exemplary literature of Texas.

To that end, the TIL has held competitions for outstanding achievements in literature since 1939 with the first book award going to J. Frank Dobie. The organization has grown in prestige and its book prizes are coveted by writers from throughout the state.

The Texas Institute of Letters logo

Texas Institute of Letters

Another organization with an illustrious history, the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), honored Zamora twice during their 114th annual convention this spring. He received the annual Coral Horton Tullis Memorial book prize for 2009, and was also selected to be a TSHA Fellow.

Professor F. Todd Smith, Chair of the selection committee noted, "Out of the 40 or so books that were submitted to the Tullis Award Committee for consideration, Emilio Zamora's was clearly the best written and had the most in-depth research. The three committee members readily agreed that Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas was the obvious choice."

Zamora was especially honored to receive this award because it is named after Professor Coral Horton Tullis. She was the TSHA's treasurer and corresponding secretary for 40 years and a member of the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin for 35 years. She taught in the 1920s when few women were employed as professors.

Officers of the TSHA also announced during the organization’s awards luncheon that Zamora had been selected to become a TSHA Fellow. The association's bylaws provide for the Board of Directors to annually honor members who have excelled in Texas history through research, teaching, and scholarship.

The Texas State Historical Association

Texas State Historical Association

Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas was the first book-length study that combined diplomatic, Mexican American, and Texas history to examine home-front experiences in the United States. The publication casts a wide net over the wartime economy, New Deal policies, the official and popular language of justice and democracy, the deleterious effect of discrimination on recovery from the Depression, Mexico’s interventionist policies on behalf of Mexicans in the U.S., and the State Department’s decision to bring the Good Neighbor Policy home as an anti-discrimination initiative in social and labor relations.

Zamora’s overarching argument is that wartime concerns in Mexico-U.S. relations raised the issue of race to a hemispheric level of importance and encouraged Mexican workers to continue their call for equal rights. As race morphed into an international issue, Mexico singled out Texas as the most important site for implementing the promise of non-discrimination in the State Department's new domestic version of its Good Neighbor Policy.

Professor Zamora at TSHA awards luncheon with Professor Frank de la Teja

Professor Zamora at TSHA awards luncheon on March 5, 2010 with Professor Frank de la Teja

The foreign policy was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's shift from interventionist politics to a conciliatory wartime approach toward Latin American countries. The home-front policy promoted goodwill and improved understanding in Mexican-Anglo relations.

The domestic Good Neighbor Policy found expression in the President’s Executive Orders 8802 and 9346, which made it illegal to discriminate in the hiring of workers in "defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin." The agency that enforced the Executive Orders, the Fair Employment Practice Committee, incorporated Mexicans into its operations and, as such, advanced good neighborliness in the United States.

The increased diplomatic cooperation that promoted good will and improved understanding in diplomatic and ethnic relations also provided the impetus for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) to emerge as one of the leading proponents of equal rights in the United States. 

Despite the persistence of racial discrimination and inequality, the unprecedented attention that Washington, D.C. directed at Mexico and the Mexican community in the U.S. raised postwar expectations for better relations. And it also encouraged further official activism in the Mexican struggle for equal rights.

Professors Emilio Zamora and Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez's latest edited book Beyond the Lation World War II Hero

Zamora & Rivas-Rodriguez's latest edited book Beyond the Latino World War II Hero

Zamora’s book Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs is particularly relevant to scholars and policy makers in the present as questions about immigrant labor, Mexican Americans, Mexico-U.S. relations, and discrimination continue to be in the forefront of the news.

Zamora's recent awards follow a long list of prior recognitions for his scholarly work. In 2007-08, he received the Fulbright García-Robles Fellowship (Mexico) to study relations between Mexican communities across the Mexico-Texas border.

He received the 1993 Bolton-Kinnaird Award for the best article on Borderlands History, the 1994 H.L. Mitchell Award for the best book on the southern working class, and the 1994 T.R. Fehrenback Award for the best book in Texas History.

Zamora also recently co-edited an anthology with Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez. The book, Beyond the Latino WWII Hero; The Social and Political Legacy of a Generation (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009), makes use of the extensive collection of oral narratives produced by the Latino and Latina World War II Oral History Project from the University of Texas at Austin.

He is currently working on a translation of a WWI diary authored by a co-founder of LULAC, Jose de la Luz Saenz. The diary was first published in Spanish in 1933. It is the only known diary written by a Mexican soldier and one of only a few written accounts by any member of the U.S. military.

As always, Zamora is continuing to illuminate the difficult conditions Mexicans have worked under and the inspiring acts of self-organization that they continue to forge into the present. No doubt, there is more to come.

Story by: M.G. Moore, web content manager

Banner photo by: Angela Valenzuela, Zamora's wife, taken on top of their daughters' school building in Guanajuato, Mexico, while he was conducting research on a Fulbright Fellowship, 2007-08.

Banner graphic by: M.G. Moore and Jacquelin Llado