Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Clarence Taylor

Committee Members

Lorrin Thomas

Thomas Kessner

Robyn Spencer

Victor Vazquez-Hernandez

Subject Categories

Civil Rights and Discrimination | Election Law | Latina/o Studies | Law and Race | Legal | Litigation | United States History


Puerto Ricans, Bilingual Voting, Civil Rights, 1970s, Legal Activism


This dissertation examines how the legal activism of a Puerto Rican group of activist-lawyers and community members contributed to the reshaping of voting law and language policy during the 1970s. The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) coordinated a series of lawsuits in Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia during the early 1970s. The decisions in these lawsuits provided the legal framework to rewrite federal voting rights law during the Voting Rights Act (VRA) reauthorization hearings in 1975. These cases resulted in vastly expanded opportunity to vote for all language minorities in the United States. These civil rights victories were challenged by the English Only movement during the 1980s. Again Puerto Rican lawyers, activists, and elected officials in the Northeast coordinated efforts to prevent English Only laws from becoming law.

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