A.T. Brown Award for Best Graduate Thesis in 2014-15
Michael Gonzales, for his M.A. thesis, “Ruffians and Revolutionaries: The Development of the Young Lords Organization in Chicago” (M.A. thesis, supervised by Amanda Seligman, submitted May 2015)
Michael Gonzales’s thesis traces how members of the Young Lords transformed the group from a street club involved in gang activity into a revolutionary, anti-colonial political movement. Gonzales makes a truly original contribution to scholarship on the Young Lords and radical political movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s by taking advantage of newly available oral history interviews with members of Young Lords as well as oral history interviews that Gonzales conducted himself. He argues that three main factors influenced the evolutionary arc of the Young Lords: the colonial experience in Puerto Rico, the rise of Black Panther politics in America, and the displacement of poor households in Chicago as a result of urban renewal and gentrification. He explains how local struggles with police, city officials, and developers in Chicago helped to give birth to deeper, more systemic critique of colonial, racial and class oppression in both the continental United States and Puerto Rico.
This exciting, ambitious, and original thesis was based on very impressive archival, library, and oral history research—research that went well beyond what is usually required for a Master’s thesis. Gonzales’s thesis, whose exceptional research and powerful arguments are persuasively presented in sparkling writing, could well become an important book, not only for a scholarly audience, but for a broader public of community members, activists, and general readers, who are interested in the history of Chicago and of the Young Lords movement.