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Vicente Ximenes, LBJ's Great Society, and Mexican American Civil Rights Rhetoric

Vicente Ximenes, LBJ's Great Society, and Mexican American Civil Rights Rhetoric

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Michelle Hall Kells, with a foreword by Juan C. Guerra


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
346 pages, 6.125 x 9.25, 21 illustrations


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About the Book

Beginning as a grassroots organizer in the 1950s, Vicente Ximenes was at the forefront of the movement for Mexican American civil rights through three presidential administrations, joining Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and later emerging as one of the highest-ranking appointees in Johnson’s administration. Ximenes succeeded largely because he could adapt his rhetoric for different audiences in his speeches and writings. Michelle Hall Kells elucidates Ximenes’s achievements through a rhetorical history of his career as an activist.
Kells draws on Ximenes’s extensive archive of speeches, reports, articles, and oral interviews to present the activist’s rhetorical history. After a discussion of Ximenes’s early life, the author focuses on his career as an activist, examining Ximenes’s leadership in several key civil rights events, including the historic 1967 White House Cabinet Committee Hearings on Mexican American Affairs. Also highlighted is his role in advancing Mexican Americans and Latinos from social marginalization to greater representation in national politics.
This book shows us a remarkable man who dedicated the majority of his life to public service, using rhetoric to mobilize activists for change to secure civil rights advances for his fellow Mexican Americans.


Michelle Hall Kells is an associate professor of rhetoric and writing at the University of New Mexico. She is the author of Héctor P. García: Everyday Rhetoric and Mexican American Civil Rights and lead editor of Latino/a Discourses: On Language, Identity, and Literacy Education and Attending to the Margins: Writing, Researching, and Teaching on the Front Lines. Her articles focusing on civil rights rhetoric, community literacy, and ethnolinguistic diversity have appeared in many edited collections and journals.


“Ximenes’s importance to the Mexican American struggle for civil rights has always been clear. But Kells provides a fuller picture of the roles that Vicente Ximenes played not only in the American G.I. Forum but also in Washington, D.C., and New Mexico. The author’s exploration of the intricacies of social conditions and the historicity of the times helps clarify Ximenes’s use of language in various contexts and furthers our understanding of the complexity of the Mexican American civil rights battles.”—Anthony Quiroz, editor of Leaders of the Mexican American Generation: Biographical Essays

“This book provides a much needed rhetorical perspective on the life of a preeminent Mexican American civil rights figure of the post–World War II era. Kells illuminates the rhetorical and political dynamics negotiated by Mexican American activists as they gained political legitimacy on the national stage of U.S. politics.”—Jaime Armin Mejía, associate professor, Texas State University