Our History

A legacy of fighting for Latino civil rights.

Photo Credit: George Rodriguez

OUR LEGACY

Celebrating a History of Women Leaders at MALDEF​​

Ambassador Vilma Martinez (left) Thomas A. Saenz (center) and Antonia Hernández (right).
(Photo taken at MALDEF’s 50th Anniversary Gala in San Antonio, Texas.)

As we near the conclusion of Women’s History Month, MALDEF celebrates its organizational history of women in leadership. For the majority of its existence since 1968, MALDEF has been led by women as president and general counsel. Women’s rights organizations aside, MALDEF may be the only national civil rights organization that can make that claim. We spoke with two of these women leaders, women relied upon by MALDEF through their many years of leadership and all the way up to today. MALDEF’s current president and general counsel, Thomas A. Saenz, has benefitted from both these leaders as professional mentors throughout his legal career.

Vilma Martinez and Antonia Hernández each served as president and general counsel of MALDEF, and helped define the organization’s role as the legal voice for the Latino community. Combined, they led MALDEF for 28 years of its 52-year history, securing landmark rulings and public policy gains that have advanced the rights of all Latinos living in the United States.

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MALDEF’S Landmark Fight for Education Equality in Texas

For years, low-income students in San Antonio were relegated to decrepit schools infested with bats—yes, bats—where tiles fell from classroom ceilings and underpaid teachers fled as soon as they could get hired elsewhere. These schools lacked funding for classes wealthier districts took for granted such, as art and music. Basics such as math and reading in these schools were just that – extremely basic.

The fight to balance Texas’ public-school funding so that kids in poor districts – mostly Latinos – could get a chance at a decent education had been underway for several years when MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and its Senior Litigating Attorney Albert Kauffman joined the battle in 1984.

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This month in MALDEF History

MALDEF is celebrating its 50th anniversary as the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Read about our history.

Timeline

2018

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2017

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2016

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Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund