American Studies ETDs


Carmen Samora

Publication Date



Los Tres Grandes, Ernesto Galarza, Herman Gallegos, and Julian Samora, fused intellectual constructs and grassroots strategies to reverse the societal dynamics they understood had marginalized Mexican Americans at both governmental and social levels. In 1968, the three scholar/activists launched the Southwest Council of La Raza (SWCLR), which four years later became the National Council of La Raza. My dissertation explores the relationship of these three men, a nexus of history and personality that launched what became the largest civil rights organization for Latinos in the United States. At a time when foundations earmarked minority support primarily for African Americans, Los Tres brought philanthropic attention (through the Ford Foundation) to Mexican American concerns. This was a groundbreaking achievement. Their relationship honored their cultural teachings as they engaged the elite world of philanthropy. They established a paradigm for Mexican Americans within the dominant culture without compromising their culture and ethnic capital. The three leaders created an organization that focused on the development of leaders and on empowering communities to overcome political and economic marginalization. How Galarza, Gallegos, and Samora used scholarship as a pivotal ingredient of social and political change has been all but lost to history. I investigate the particular strengths each man brought to this dynamic political action. The story of their productive relationship is one that needs to be brought to light for a new generation to explore and celebrate. Their story demonstrates the importance of leadership development, which is an overarching theme of this study. To tell their story, this dissertation mines the archives of the three men and uses information from the oral histories of key associates. This primary data is useful in understanding how Los Tres supported one another and created a context within which to work. They created unnamed theoretical models that echoed how they lived and how they worked. Honoring the validity of their own standpoint, their own stories, their own culture, they set the table for future scholarship that employs these groundbreaking ideas.

Project Sponsors

Southwest Hispanic Research Institute, Office of Graduate Studies, Center for Regional Studies, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Policy Institute, Mellon Foundation, Office of the Provost, Office of Equity and Inclusion




Leadership Development, Community Development, Community Organizing, Chicano Movement, Philanthropy, Southwest Council of La Raza

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Advisor

Young, M. Jane

First Committee Member (Chair)

Gomez, Laura

Second Committee Member

Pai Buick, Kirsten

Third Committee Member

Trinidad Galvan, Ruth