Josefina Fierro de Bright served as a political and social activist in the 1930s and 1940s through her participation in the Mexican Defense Committee, El Congreso (the National Congress of Spanish-Speaking Peoples), and the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee, as well as her important efforts to end the violent attacks on ethnic Mexicans in Los Angeles during the Zoot Suit Riots. Fierro participated in organizations focused on human, civil, women’s, and labor rights. She contributed to a cross-cultural “politics of opposition” determined to create a world where true equality might flourish. She used American nationalist and transnationalist approaches. In the United States, Fierro networked with activists, celebrities, and political leaders who supported many of the same causes that she did. Her transnational approach materialized in the form of collaboration with the Mexican consulate, which also sought to secure the human rights of ethnic Mexicans living in the United States during a time of strong anti-Mexican sentiment. In order to understand why and how Fierro emerged as a leader willing to challenge the racism undergirding the segregation and mistreatment of ethnic Mexicans in California in the 1930s and 1940s, this study examines her family’s history of social activism, the fluid sociocultural environment of an American Left in which women played central roles, and her bold and charismatic leadership style.

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