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Winston Churchill once remarked wryly that history is written by the victors.
Perhaps, it was a rather cynical dismissal of those who had fought and lost, those who were easily erased or dismissed from the hegemonic narrative of history.
After all, even those who lost the Civil War wrote books, and their ilk are somehow still kicking, screaming, screeching and tweeting about the America they lost.
Or perhaps, history is actually written by trailblazers, some victorious, some not so much.
This summer, I wrote a book. It is about immigrant rights trailblazers throughout United States history. It covers African-American civil rights pioneers who fought to expand the notion of citizenship; Chinese immigrants who organized the first act of civil disobedience by immigrants in the United States; Japanese immigrants and their fight against internment and alien land laws; Filipino immigrants and their service.
It includes stories of famed anarchists and not-so-famed Communist leaders who fought against deportations. It includes the story of queer immigrants in a new history of sexuality. And finally, it covers (only a small portion) of some of our more contemporary immigrant rights (s)heroes.
The underlying theme of the book is about people who fought for their freedom or the freedom of their loved ones in ways that were not often popular. After all, trailblazers do not just wait patiently to be granted their rights. They do not hang out in long lines and waiting rooms. They do not wait for despotic regimes to find and kill them, and they certainly do not bend in the face of authoritarian leadership.
They organize protests, campaign against deportations, sue the government, sit in political offices, infiltrate detention centers, create art, write poetry and vote with their feet.
In these ways, immigrants throughout history have taken part in mass civic participation, in a place that regularly disenfranchises us.
And by writing this book, I know that I have been victorious.
Maybe Churchill was right after all.
You can pre-order it here.
Massive shout out to friend and artist, Julio Salgado, for the cover art.