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Documentary Tells Chilling Story Of Race & Education In South Texas

Institute of Texan Cultures

A new documentary called "Stolen Education" reveals a little-known South Texas story.  It all started in the town of Driscoll. It was 1956 and a school there was doing something odd -- and illegal.

“They were placing children with Spanish surnames automatically into three years of first-grade track," explained Enrique Alemán, Executive Producer of the documentary.  “They called it a beginner, low and high first grade. Parents found out about that and contacted Dr. Hector P. Garcia, founder of the American GI Forum.”

Garcia was a Corpus Christi-based doctor and champion of civil rights. He filed a lawsuit on behalf of those children. In the course of the case, those kids had to get up in court and testify, sometimes against their own teachers. In shooting the documentary, Alemán interviewed those first graders, who are now in their late sixties.

"They described what it was like to go into the courtroom, and how much fear they had," he said.  

Alemán researched this case as part of his own college work at the University of Texas at Austin. But this is where Alemán’s story takes a twist -- it turned out his mother was one of those children who had to testify. Unfortunately, he never got to hear her side of how it went down.

“My mother has recently passed away, and I never got a chance to hear it from her,” Alemán said.

"Stolen Education" is coming to the Institute of Texan Cultures on Sunday, March 9. Alemán will be there for the free screening and a Q&A afterwards. He thinks race is something about which we still need to talk.

“In our society it’s not always polite conversation to talk about race and racism,” he said.

Alemán’s film isn’t a diatribe, though. He offers up this idea for those who see his film.

“People always ask what I suggest they should do after watching this film. And I always tell them, go home and talk to your grandparents.Talk to your parents, talk to your uncles and aunts. There’s so much wealth and knowledge sitting in our own homes," he said.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii