Sources and Methodology
My exhibit began to take shape when I decided to do research on Latino/a mobility at Stanford University. I first learned about the East L.A. Walkouts while browsing the Stanford Libraries online finding guide before my visit. I knew that I wanted to research a topic related to public education in California. The papers of the Centró de Acción Social Autónomo (CASA) and the papers of Stan Steiner, a writer who documented the struggles of minorities in the West during the '60s and '70s, contained many primary materials related to educational activism.
When I arrived at Stanford, I planned to focus primarily on the role of activist organizations in facilitating the blowouts. However, I was surprised to find that the CASA papers contained hardly any information about how this organization participated in the 1968 walkouts. However, I found a good number of newspaper clippings and other documents that gave me a better understanding of what happened during the protests, and the inadequate conditions in L.A.’s “Chicano Schools” that caused them. The most useful document I found in my research was a student newspaper, Inside Eastside, printed during the blowouts, where I was able to read impassioned essays by East L.A. students that I might not have been able to find anywhere else. I also found other printed media from the blowouts that are displayed in my exhibit’s final media object.
The research that I did was thorough, but not comprehensive. There are other archives in California, and specifically at Stanford, that would have provided more student voices to feature in my research. More importantly, they could provide the perspectives of people who disagreed with or actively opposed the walkouts— including L.A. police, school board members, and many school administrators and teachers. Most of the sources I used for this project were in favor of the students' actions. While the injustice the students experienced is seen by many as sufficient justification for their dramatic protest, voices from their opposition may give a clearer picture of what really happened during the blowouts, and their impact on the city at large.
The lack of publicly available images of the walkouts was also a limitation to my digital exhibit. To aid future research, historians should make an effort to collect and digitally archive photos from people who witnessed the blowouts, and media companies should consider donating more of their photographs and videos of the protests to public libraries and university collections.
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