Systemic discrimination was also part of the state’s drive to delimit the cultural disenfranchisement of Latinos and blacks. In 1900 Louisiana stopped public schooling after fifth grade for blacks and native-born Latinos who were considered colored. It would not be until 1917 that Louisiana established a public high school for blacks or students of color, after the state’s Compulsory Education Act became effective in 1916. Not surprisingly, at the turn of the century thousands of blacks left Louisiana during the Great Migration to seek work and improve their lot in northern industrial cities. The migration of blacks to the North also partly explains the first wave of Latino migration to Louisiana at the turn of the century, as the region experienced a boom brought on by the discovery of natural gas and petroleum in the region.
The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) also increased the number of Mexican nationals who fled their country to the United States for political and economic
Creole girls, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, c. 1935. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Reproduction Number LC-USF33-006159-M1. reasons. Though most settled first in states across the border with Mexico, many traveled throughout the South in search of economic opportunity. It is estimated that this migration brought over 1 million Mexicans to the United States shortly after the revolution. These Mexicans eventually found work in U.S. farms, docks, railroads, as well as in the more traditional agricultural sectors of the economy. By 1911 the press of the period had noted how the increasing number of Mexican laborers to Louisiana allowed the Spanish language to be heard almost as frequently as English on the docks where Mexican and Central Americans were often employed.8 Indeed, by 1911 the United States Immigration Commission, also known as the Dillingham Commission, limited the immigration of southern and eastern Europeans and Asians who were deemed as undesirable as Mexicans; but because Mexicans were seen as temporary immigrants who would work for far less than other immigrants, it became expedient to make exceptions for them.
The Dillingham Commission unwittingly set the stage for the arrival of Mexican migration through subsequent accords, as it noted that ‘Mexican immigrants are providing a fairly acceptable supply of labor in a limited territory in which it is difficult to secure others [w]hile Mexicans are not easily assimilated, this is not of very great importance as long as most of them return to their native land in a short time.’9 Not surprisingly, Mexican migration to Louisiana and the Southwest grew considerably because it was believed that their stay would be temporary.
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