History, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 5-2013


Vázquez Ríos, Erasmo. "The Little School of the 400: A Mexican-American Fight for Equal Access and its Impact on State Policy." MA thesis, University of Nebraska, 2013


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: History, Under the Supervision of Professor James A. Garza. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Erasmo Vázquez Ríos


Founded in 1957, the Little School of the 400 (LS400) was a Mexican-American led effort to acculturate and assimilate Mexican schoolchildren in Texas to the dominant Anglo-led society. By the mid-20th Century, more than a hundred years of discrimination and racism had produced an environment where Mexicans were treated as second-class citizens. Early 20th-Century activism had replaced armed and violent resistance such as the Cortina Wars of the 1850s but Anglo institutions ensured that any opposition from Mexicans and Tejanos toward the status-quo was met with indifference and perhaps worse.

My argument centers on the fact that while the Little School, formulated by Mexican Americans, was an Americanization project designed to incorporate Mexicans into Texas society. It was a product of its times and that time being Cold War-Era Texas, a period where opposition to the status quo was dangerous. This thesis explores the genesis of this interesting and forgotten project, an effort that may have had nation-wide implications. The LS400 was a middle-class idea that sought to alleviate enormous injustice being perpetuated on children in late 1950s and early 1960s Texas, thus gaining grassroots support. Yet while it may have functioned to perhaps train loyal and future citizens for the Lone Star State, the project had its genesis in an environment of racism and violence. The LS400 was instrumental, I argue, in proving that Mexican Americans could negotiate Americanization for themselves in an environment of confrontation and Jim Crow laws.

The Little School of the 400 came about because Mexican Americans in Texas, faced with rampant discrimination, decided to adapt and “Americanize” and this included language instruction in English. The Cold War’s accommodationist pressures also helped push the LS400 into existence. If any, the LS400 was an American enterprise for Mexicans to become Mexican Americans in a time when Mexicans were delegated second-class citizenship. And Texas adopted policy to accommodate the increasing educational needs of Spanish-speakers across the state.

Advisor: James A. Garza