ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Years after leaving New Mexico in disgrace, a noted Mexican American scholar and civil rights advocate whose name graces educational institutions in Texas and California but until recently was virtually unknown in his hometown of Albuquerque finally will be honored in his birth city.
The Albuquerque School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to name a new school in honor of George I. Sanchez — a trailblazing professor who played a key role in some of the nation’s most important school desegregation cases.
The new kindergarten-through-eighth-grade George I. Sanchez Collaborative Community School will be located in the largely immigrant and Mexican American southwest side of the city. It is believed to the first named after Sanchez in New Mexico.
“He’s [a] big hero that we almost forgot to honor,” Luisa Duran, 73, a retired educator told board members. “You’ll probably want to name a couple of more schools after him when you learn more about his work.”
The civil rights advocate was born in Albuquerque in 1906 and worked as a rural teacher and education administrator before becoming one of the nation’s most influential Latino scholars. His classic 1940 book Forgotten People was one of the first studies to document how Hispanics around Taos, New Mexico, were losing land and influence to poverty.
A political fight later forced him out of New Mexico. He later took a job in Venezuela to train that nation’s teachers and then was hired at The University of Texas in Austin.
There, he wrote other books, became a national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens and corresponded with NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall on desegregation strategy.
In 1960, Sanchez played in key role in forming Viva Kennedy! clubs across the Southwest to help John F. Kennedy win a close presidential election by garnering 90 percent of the Latino vote.
Sanchez died in 1972.
A dozen or so schools in Texas and California are named after Sanchez.
After a 2012 Associated Press story on Sanchez and how he was an unknown figure in New Mexico, a group of current and retired educators began pushing for more recognition of Sanchez.