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New Faculty Research Spotlight

Casey D. Nichols, Department of History

Archival Research Brings Stories of African American and Latinx History to Light


Meeting with Civil Rights leaders in the White House LBJ Library. L-R Foreground: Martin Luther King, Jr., President Lyndon B. Johnson. Background: unidentified, Andy Biemiller, Dorothy Height, A. Phillip Randolph. Photo by Yoichi Okamoto, 1966.
Meeting with Civil Rights leaders in the White House LBJ Library. L-R Foreground: Martin Luther King, Jr., President Lyndon B. Johnson. Background: unidentified, Andy Biemiller, Dorothy Height, A. Phillip Randolph. Photo by Yoichi Okamoto, 1966. 

“What I find most exciting about archival research is making connections between seemingly disparate collections.”

Nichols
Dr. Casey Nichols

I arrived at Texas State University in the fall of 2019 as an Assistant Professor of History with an emphasis in African American History. Originally, I’m from Long Beach, California, and remained along the Pacific Coast for my education. I earned a bachelor’s degree in history from California State University, Long Beach, a master’s degree in history from the University of Washington, Seattle, and a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford University. Before joining the History Department at Texas State, I taught at a variety of institutions that included California State University, Long Beach, Dickinson College, and California State University, East Bay. As a first-generation student and scholar with several years of experience working with diverse student populations, I was excited to join the Texas State faculty and bring new courses in African American history, social justice, and race and ethnicity to campus.

I am a historian of African American history, Latinx history, urban history, civil rights, and the U.S. West. My current book manuscript in progress, Poverty Rebels: Black and Brown Protest in Post-Civil Rights America, combines these five distinct historical fields to examine the relationship between African Americans and Mexican Americans in Los Angeles since 1964. The book argues that the U.S. federal government’s War on Poverty and Model Cities programs brought greater national visibility to Black and Mexican American residents of Los Angeles after 1964. My primary aim is to narrate the impact that African Americans and Mexican Americans in Los Angeles had on local and national debates about race and poverty since 1964, which remains significant in contemporary U.S. society. This research moves beyond a long-standing ally versus enemy debate in both research and popular discourse about African Americans and Mexican Americans to explore how these groups used the War on Poverty to create local community programs, advance existing social justice movements, and participate in political debates at both the local and national levels.

Dr. Nichols giving a paper about African American and Mexican American youth activists at the Western History Association's annual conference in 2019.
Dr. Nichols giving a paper about African American and
Mexican American youth activists at the Western
History Association's annual conference in 2019.

As a historical study, the book uses research primarily based on archival collections, federal reports, municipal correspondence, oral histories, and conference proceedings. What I find most exciting about archival research is making connections between seemingly disparate collections. For example, I first got to know the greater Austin area because the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library (LBJ) is a central archive for my book project. During my time at the LBJ, I was fascinated by how much Los Angeles residents and officials reached out to the Johnson administration about local and national efforts to address race and poverty. My project brings together the Los Angeles City Archives, Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library, U.S. National Archives, California State Archives, and other local repositories to tell a story about Los Angeles and the city’s impact on the nation more broadly.

Growing up in Long Beach, California, first piqued my interest in the relationship between African American and Latinx residents. Politics, culture, and space within my multiracial community was shaped by debates about how to include both African American and Latinx residents into decisions about public schools, politics, and the economy. Earning a Ph.D. provided an opportunity to construct a scholarly profile focused on a set of issues that shaped the world I grew up in, allowing me to play a leadership role in narratives designed to tell our history.

Going in search of African Americans and Mexican Americans in historical archives has been a deeply rewarding adventure that allows me to advance the study of race, class, and social justice movements in U.S. history. My goal for this research is that it will help further develop comparative studies in race and ethnicity within the historical profession and shape K-12 and college U.S. history survey courses.