The American Council of Spanish Speaking People was a national Mexican-American civil-rights organization founded in 1951, based in Austin, and funded by the Robert C. Marshall Trust Fund of New York. It provided grants-in-aid, legal assistance, and research to Mexican-American civil rights groups across the nation. In 1943 the Marshall Trust had funded the Texas Civil Rights Fund, a group concerned with policies affecting Mexican Americans. Its members included George P. Sánchez, and attorney M. C. Gonzales collaborated with the group. By the 1950s Sánchez reported that Mexicans and American Indians were "orphans" to foundations and were ignored by the NAACP, the National Council on Naturalization and Citizenship, and the National Council of Agricultural Life and Labor. In 1952 the chairman of the American Civil Liberties Union, Roger Baldwin, who had ties to the Marshall Fund, contacted and funded Lyle Saunders of New Mexico to help establish a Spanish-American association that would be self-sustaining. Saunders contacted Sánchez, who assembled organizers in El Paso on May 18 and 19, 1951. Those attending elected Sánchez executive director. The name American Council of Spanish Speaking Persons reflected the Marshall Fund's hope to promote unity among the "Spanish-American" community, in which it included Puerto Ricans and Cubans. The foundation believed that the Latino community needed visibility. The first board of directors included New Mexico lieutenant governor Tibo Chávez; Arturo Fuentes, the national president of the Alianza, which was especially strong in Arizona; Los Angeles publisher Ignacio López; Anthony Ríos of the Community Service Organization; and Bernard Valdez, Director for Community Councils in Colorado. Representing Texas were attorney Gustavo C. García and Sánchez. Valdez was initially elected secretary but became treasurer for the organization's duration.
The Marshall Trust Fund granted $53,000 over four years. Associate, regular, and contributing patrons contributed less than $1,000. The fund expected ACSSP to become self-supporting, but Sánchez noted that the Indigenous organizations were "still too poor." The ACSSP opened its office in downtown Austin at the Nalle Building and moved to the Driskill Hotel in 1953; when funds were short in 1954 it moved to the Littlefield Building at the University of Texas. Paid staff included Sánchez, director; Ed Idar, Jr., assistant director and state chairman of the Forum; Abraham Ramírez; and Luisa Solís, secretary. García served as legal consultant.
Despite the Marshall Trust's wishes, ACSSP directed its money and efforts to the area it believed deserved attention: litigation, especially test cases to challenge discriminatory practices. ACSPP gave grants-in-aid to fund specific cases, including a segregation case in Glendale, Arizona; Hernández v. State of Texas (1954); the Anthony Ríos police brutality case in Los Angeles (1954); the Robert Galvan alleged Communist alien deportation case in California (1954); and the Winslow, Arizona, swimming pool desegregation case (1954). In Texas ACSSP helped desegregate Austin and Houston public housing and Zavala and Nixon schools (1951). It also funded school desegregation cases in Carrizo Springs (1955), Mathis (1956), and Driscoll (1957) and worked on the Federico Gutiérrez case in Beeville, for which it covered traveling expenses for lawyers and consultants. Lawyers who collaborated with ACCSP included Gonzales, John J. Herrera, Chris Alderete, Albert Peña, Jr., James De Anda, Carlos Cadena, Ricard M. Casillas, Carlos Castillon, and, outside of Texas, A. L. Wirin of the ACLU in Los Angeles.
ACSSP funded and assisted Raza organizations. In its attempt to empower other organizations and strengthen the national cause, ACSSP's strategy was to give credit to local and state organizations for its work. This was especially true for the Forum and the Alianza. ACSSP made grants-in-aid to the CSO, the Colorado Latin-American Conference, and the Alianza. In 1954–55 the Alianza received $5,000. ACSSP also worked with the Mexican-American Council of Chicago. ACSPP can be credited with providing leadership, legal advice, and research for litigation involving desegregation and racial discrimination. Sánchez, Idar, and García volunteered much of their time. ACSPP maintained a newsletter in 1953. The ACSPP offices closed in 1956, and in 1958, when funding ceased, the council also ceased operations.
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George I. Sánchez Papers, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Cynthia E. Orozco,
“American Council of Spanish Speaking People,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 29, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 1, 1994
Most Recent Revision Date:
February 25, 2021