Graciela Olivarez: From Mexican American Civil Rights and Antipoverty Activism to the Presidential Commission on Population Growth and the American Future

Apr 16, 2024 | by
  • Description

This report details my research trip to the Rockefeller Archive Center in August 2023. My research agenda was to analyze the work of Graciela Olivarez on the President's Commission on Population Growth and the American Future. Olivarez became one of the first Latinas to head a federal agency when President Jimmy Carter chose her in 1977 to lead the Community Services Administration (CSA).  Olivarez was an active leader in the Mexican American civil rights movement in the 1950s and early 1960s, before becoming a leader in antipoverty efforts. 

 John D. Rockefeller, 3rd was the chair and Olivarez the vice-chair of the President's Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, established in 1970. The Rockefeller Archive Center houses a number of boxes of records related to the formation and actions of that commission.  This Commission appointment was a crucial step in Olivarez's career and was an important factor in her later appointment by President Carter to head the Community Services Administration. I was looking to delve into Olivarez's role on the Commission, her positions on particular issues – including contraception, abortion, economic issues, environmental impact – the Commission addressed, and others' perceptions of her role on the Commission. I also was interested to see the ways in which her experience as an antipoverty activist and administrator influenced her perspective on the topic of population growth and the ways in which her experience on the Commission influenced her later work administering the War on Poverty.