May 1, 2007
National Endowment for the Humanities
Bracero History Project Receives Grant To Establish Online Archive
The Bracero History Project, led in part by Brown University’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, has received a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The funds will support the development of a collaborative, bilingual, online archive documenting the Bracero Program, which brought millions of Mexican guest workers to the United States between 1942 and 1964. The Bracero History Archive will be the largest, most comprehensive clearinghouse of its kind.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The Bracero History Project, led in part by Brown University’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, has received a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support development of a collaborative, bilingual, online archive of oral histories, documents and images related to the 22-year Bracero Program. Brown’s project partners are the Institute of Oral History at the University of Texas–El Paso, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.
Created by executive order in 1942, the Bracero Program brought millions of Mexican men to the United States to work on short-term, primarily agricultural labor contracts. It was established because so many growers argued that World War II would cause labor shortages in low-paying agricultural jobs. Though the Bracero Program was nation’s largest experiment with guest workers, no large, authoritative collection of this chapter of American history exists. During the last several years, however, the Bracero History Project has emerged to fill this gap, to preserve and share the complex and sometimes controversial history of the Bracero Program.
“Current debates about immigration policy – including discussion about a new guest worker program – have put the Bracero Program back in the news and made it all the more important to understand this chapter of American history,” said Matt Garcia, associate professor of American civilization at Brown and outreach director of the Bracero History Project. “The online archive of documents and oral histories funded by this NEH grant will allow scholars and policy-makers to revisit the history of the program through the voices and experiences of the braceros and their families.”
The Bracero History Project grew out of research conducted through Brown’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. Since its launch in 2005, the project has collected and digitized more than 2,700 oral history interviews and objects related to the history of the Bracero Program, including photographs, pay stubs, ID cards, and labor contracts. The NEH grant will allow the partners to focus on developing a system for collaborative online archiving and make available online the approximately 400 oral history interviews, 600 scanned documents, and 1,700 digital images already collected. Additionally, the project will be able to add at least 1,500 new records to the collection and provide a curriculum guide for high school teachers interested in using the collections with their students. The Bracero History Archive will be the largest, most comprehensive clearinghouse of its kind.
Garcia and Brown undergraduate and graduate students collected most of the oral histories during nine bracero heritage meetings, held in several Texas, Illinois, and California communities in 2005-2006. At these meetings, organized by the Bracero History Project, more than 450 aging, former braceros and family members came forward to share stories, many of which included deeply personal and emotional details. Supported by the NEH grant, Garcia will work with Brown University graduate students Mireya Loza, Mario Sifuentez, and Alma Carrillo and the Institute of Oral History at the University of Texas–El Paso to organize five additional Bracero Heritage Meetings in Phoenix and Yuma, Ariz.; Portland and Salem, Ore.; and Yakima Valley, Wash., to collect further oral histories and materials.
The National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.
The project has been designated a National Endowment for the Humanities “We the People” project and is being supported in part by the funds the agency has set aside for this special initiative. The goal of the “We the People” initiative is to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in our nation’s history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America.
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