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Farm Labor and Migrant Citizenship in the New Deal


Farm Labor and Migrant Citizenship in the New Deal


Monday, October 19, 2020
4:00 pm


Online via Zoom
Advanced Registration Required

During the 1930s and 1940s, stringent state and local residency laws, combined with deep-seated racial and class prejudice, left migrant farmworkers without a place to enact their basic rights. Even if they were formally U.S. citizens, farmworkers were regularly denied the right to vote, send their children to school, access public aid, and receive medical care because they were considered non-residents or non-citizens of the community and state in which they were seeking services. Labor Studies scholar Verónica Martínez-Matsuda, using federal archives, innovative oral history techniques and digital history methods brought out another story in the records – how farm working families and Farm Security Administrators pushed for enfranchisement through their daily participation as citizens (regardless of formal status) in a political and social community characterized by collective responsibility and behavior.

Verónica Martínez-Matsuda, photo 2020Professor Verónica Martínez-Matsuda is an Associate Professor at Cornell University’s ILR School, where she teaches courses on Immigration, Latinx Studies, and American Labor and Working-Class History. She received her PhD in U.S. History from The University of Texas at Austin. Her dissertation—"Making the Modern Migrant”—was awarded the Barnes F. Lathrop Prize for Best Dissertation in the Department of History. It was also awarded "runner up" for the Best Dissertation Prize by Labor History (Routledge). Her article, “For Labor and Democracy: competing Visions of Migrant Farmwork, Social Reform, and American Civil Rights in the 1940s,” appeared in The Journal of American History (Sept. 2019) and was awarded the 2020 Organization of American Historians’ Binkley-Stephenson Award for the best article in the JAH during the preceding calendar year. Martínez-Matsuda is the author of Migrant Citizenship: Race, Rights, and Reform in the U.S. Farm Labor Camp Program (University of Pennsylvania Press, “Politics and Culture in Modern America” book series, 2020). Her research has received funding from the Ford Foundation, the Smithsonian, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, among other institutions.