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Acuña, Rodolfo | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Acuña, Rodolfo


Historical Note:

Rodolfo Francisco Acuña was born in 1932 in Los Angeles, California. He earned his bachelor's degree and master's degrees at Los Angeles State College (now California State University, Los Angeles), and his PhD in History at the University of Southern California. A renowned scholar activist, Dr. Acuña became the first professor in the Mexican American Studies Department (now Chicana and Chicano Studies Department) at California State University Northridge in 1969.

Acuña quickly developed forty-five courses in the department, creating the foundation for the largest Chicano Studies program in the nation. In 1972, Acuña published his book Occupied America: The Chicano's Struggle Toward Liberation, a work about the Chicano community's history, which has been praised as the "Chicano Studies Bible." Since then, Acuña has continued working to grow and develop the department, using programs like Operation Chicano Professor in 1975.

After being denied a position at the University of California Santa Barbara in 1991, Dr. Acuña sued the Regents of the University of California on the grounds they had discriminated against him on the basis of age, race, and political orientation. He ultimately won on the grounds of age discrimination in 1996. Acuña's supporters formed the group Friends of Rudy (FOR) to raise funds and awareness for Acuña over the duration of the lawsuit.

During his years as a professor of Chicano Studies at CSUN, Acuña's research and publications have touched on a host of topics including immigration, racial relations, local politics, education, and Chicano and Chicana rights. Three of his books have received the Gustavus Myers Award for the Outstanding Book on Race Relations in North America. Corridors of Migration: The Odyssey of Mexican Laborers, 1600-1933 was named an Outstanding Academic Title by CHOICE Magazine.

Acuña received the Distinguished Scholar award from the National Association for Chicano Studies in 1989. In 2008, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Hispanic Institute. His community activism has been recognized by the Emil Freed Award for Community Service from the Southern California Social Science Library, the Founder's Award from the Liberty Hill Foundation, the Historian of the Lions Award from the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, and the Activist/Scholar Award from the Community Coalition of South Central Los Angeles. For his contributions to the discipline of Chicano Studies and lifelong commitment to activism and advocacy he is known as the "Father of Chicano Studies."






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