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Fronteras: Learning history lessons of racial violence — ‘Things that happened 100 years ago shape policies today’

A Texas historian who has dedicated her work to shedding light on victims of racial violence along the Texas-Mexico border is among this year’s MacArthur Fellows.

Monica Muñoz Martinez, an associate professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, is the author of the 2018 book “The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas.” She is also a founding member of Refusing to Forget, a nonprofit that calls for public attention and commemoration of state-sanctioned violence against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the early 20th Century.

Martinez praised the MacArthur Foundation for supporting her research and expressed optimism the $625,000 grant will further promote efforts of communities healing from histories of racial violence by expanding historical context.

“Things that happened 100 years ago shaped policies that continued throughout the 20th century and today,” Martinez said. “And so sometimes people don't want these histories to be acknowledged because it tells us about where we come from, but it also tells us about the world today.”

Martinez also noted the timeliness of the national recognition for her historical work on racial violence, pointing to efforts in some states, including Texas, to limit how teachers discuss racism.

Martinez believes she has a professional responsibility to help expose historical misunderstandings of the border, Texas and the country.

“When historians don't take that role, other groups are stepping in to try to control how people understand the past and even going to the extent of passing laws to try to control how student(s) — what students — learn about the past,” Martinez expressed. “And so this is really, I think, a wakeup call for historians to participate in informing the public about our history.”

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren