When the commission form of government and “boss politics,” and hence Charles Bellinger’s black power in the 1920s, was replaced by a business oriented council manager form of government in 1951, blacks were removed from the power scheme. This removal would be
maintained until the national civil rights struggles began to demand black inclusion in political and social affairs. The so-called Good Government League (GGL), with the economic interests it had in HemisFair, now the downtown convention center area, opened a small crack in the segregated door. Given the politics of Mayor Walter McAllister, there can be no doubt that altruistic reasons for integration in San Antonio were not present. Mayor Walter McAllister was a segregationist, and yes, we have places named after him in San Antonio.
McAllister made national news, just prior to HemisFair 1968, when he made racist remarks about the poverty of Mexican Americans on the CBS documentary “Hunger in America.” It was nothing new to those who had become familiar with McAllister. According to the San Antonio Inferno Newspaper of February 29, 1968, and verified at the Bexar County Courthouse, Walter McAllister, once said of deed restrictions he agreed to be placed on his property: “No lot, tract, or re-subdivision thereof, shall ever be sold, leased, demised or conveyed by deed, lease or gift or otherwise to Mexicans, Negroes, or persons of either Latin-American or African descent, nor shall any lot, tract, or re-subdivision thereof ever be used or occupied by Mexican, Negroes, or
persons of either Latin-American or African descent except as household servants.” (Deed Records: Vol. 2773, pgs. 503-506, 1949).
In the early 1900s the Mexican American population was morphed into “whiteness.” Birth records in San Antonio erroneously labeled Mexican Americans, Afro Mexicans, Afro-Mestizos, and others as “white.” Anyone with a Spanish last name was labeled “white.” This was done to pit blacks against Mexicans. Those who were dark, and with distinct black features, were labeled white if their surname had a Spanish reference. According to Rice’s account (1971), in The Negro in Texas 1874-1900, the
1900 registration of smallpox deaths indicated that “San Antonio had a large population of Mexicans, who lived under circumstances similar to the Negroes, but who were listed as whites in the registration.” This labeling of Mexicans as “white” had a political purpose.
With this accomplished it was easier to set Black and Brown against one another, for now there would not only be a language and cultural barrier between them, but now the false label of “white” would confuse both ethnic groups. One must know that the term race and Caucasian was invented by racist scientists in the 1700s. The term “white race” did not exist before that in any institutionalized way. Thus, integration in San Antonio was for the most part accomplished by integrating African Americans
with Mexican Americans, while leaving the real white schools unaffected.
All of this was done quite slowly in what I would call “creative integration.” Thus, integration was never real. Blacks were separated from whites since the founding of San Antonio, and were separated from birth in each period from whites in the dual education system. Black teachers stayed at Wheatley High School, and were only integrated into white schools slowly, if at all. In fact, in 1970, Wheatley High School would be closed in a half-hearted attempt to integrate despite protests. The Register reported on June 27, 1969 that: “Phillis Wheatley high school will be open for at least another year. A revised plan to meet integration requirements outlined by the Office of Civil Rights, Department of health, Education, and Welfare, has received formal, written approval by HEW officials (Register (1969).
Wheatley High School would never be completely integrated. The name of the school was changed back and forth, as residents protested, and finally it became Wheatley Middle School, which remained mostly black until the demographics of the neighborhood changed in the early 1990s, then becoming primarily Mexican American. The purposeful slowing down of change was accepted by many in the black leadership, creating tensions between more militant members of the community and those who would continue to accept the white elite’s design of racial
Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, and police brutality was a growing concern. One must bear in mind that there weren’t mass white mob lynching in San Antonio as in other American cities, for the relationship between the white elite and Charles Bellinger prevented widespread violence. There were hangings of blacks and Mexicans in San Antonio to be sure, but the elite attempted to secure their power by calming white mob violence and making Mexicans “white.” This false racial model continues even today as police reports and hospital records label people with Hispanic last names as “Caucasian” or “white.”