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Chicano history for the future Professor works on digital Mexican-American project

Duane Campbell is one educator who is determined to preserve history.

Campbell, a California State University, Sacramento professor emeritus, wants to ensure Chicano, Latino and Mexican-American history is put down in history for future generations.

"Latinos have been left out of our history books. There is nothing about them. You look at the growing demographics of this state and country -- and our history -- and then we have our youth wondering why they are not seeing themselves in the curricula at school. Something has to change," said Campbell.

Last Wednesday, Campbell revealed information about the Mexican-American Digital History Project, an effort he and his wife, Dolores Delgado Campbell, have launched. She teaches history at American River College.

Nearly 100 students heard details of the project.

The project is similar to the Farmworker Movement Documentation Project founded in 2003 by LeRoy Chatfield, who in 1965 abandoned a religious life to join César Chávez and the farmworker movement in Delano. The Mexican-American Digital History Project aims to create an online collection of Chicano, Mexican-American and Latino history in the Sacramento region.

The online collection already has a small compilation of about 50 news articles and written works on issues ranging from bilingual education, to the history and ongoing legacy of California's Proposition 187. It includes special contributions by Rodolfo F. Acuña, a historian, professor emeritus and scholar on Chicano studies most notable for his book, 'Occupied America: A History of Chicanos'.

Other articles include information on the California Dream Act and the creation of the now annual Cesar Chavez Youth Leadership Conference.

"I want to change the history that is in our text books. What is currently in those books leaves Latino history out. Our stories are not told and right now, we have the opportunity to change what has been written," said Campbell.

The main goal of the project, however, is to compile and publish primary source accounts from the people who were in the struggle with Chicano civil rights in the early 1940s long before the Chicano Civil Rights Movement sparked in the 1960s.

Campbell is encouraging participation and contributions from individuals and activists who were in the Sacramento region then through the present.

"This project is not just about documenting the accounts of the famous people that came out of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, but a feature on the day-to-day people who recorded everything around them with their different points of view, perspectives and individual experiences," said Campbell.

"What we want to do is collect, write and post this history so that it is not lost or discarded. Our goal is to ensure that our future generations, the youth and teachers in particular are able to use, teach and incorporate this history into their curriculum to balance the lack of Chicano history that currently exists in public schools and universities," said Campbell.

Campbell, who is Irish and has long been a champion of education and a strong supporter of bilingual education, said it was the "struggle for justice" that has carried him into advocating for Chicanos.

"The UFW movement was a big part of my life. It is where I learned discipline, how to organize and the place I learned the most about the Latino culture, the language and the people. I met Dolores Huerta, César Chávez, Phillip Veracruz and others who became my closest friends. I developed an appreciation, a calling of sorts for justice," said Campbell.

He said elected officials and Latinos in higher education could make a difference by being more proactive in passing legislation or making decisions that could reflect the needs of the community.

"We had five Chicano legislators in 1976 and now we have 26. What are they doing to get bilingual education passed? Where are the Latino decision-makers who have a say in what is included in our history books? Why is the Latino Caucus not being proactive?" said Campbell.

Campbell hopes the project will become a main source of education and information for teachers, students, parents and historians.

"It is important to know your history because it is always subjective. Groups of people have faced harsh realities, but it should not be a reason to feel defeated. Instead, it should propel our youth to continue fighting and advocating for what is right," he said.

Send e-mail to:cmoreno@vidaenelvalle.com

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