Today we honor and celebrate noted author, historian, and life-long social justice worker Betita Martínez. Elizabeth Martínez was born in 1925 in Washington, DC. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 1946 with a degree in English. She has worked for Simon & Schuster as an editor and for The Nation Magazine as Books and Arts Editor. She has written numerous books and articles on different topics relating to social movements in the Americas. Her best-known work is the bilingual 500 years of Chicano History in Pictures, which later formed the basis for the educational video ¡Viva la Causa! 500 Years of Chicano History.
Martínez began her political work in the early 1950s, working for the United Nations Secretariat as a researcher on colonialism and decolonization in Africa. During the 1960s, she worked with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the South and as a coordinator of its New York office. In 1968, she moved to New Mexico to start a newspaper to support the Alianza Federal de Mercedes, co-founding the bilingual movement newspaper El Grito del Norte with with lawyer Beverly Axelrod.
Since moving to the Bay Area in 1976, Martínez has organized around Latino community issues, taught Women’s studies part-time, conducted anti-racist training workshops, and worked with youth groups. She has received many awards from student, community, and academic organizations, including Scholar of the Year 2000 from the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies. In 1997, she and Phil Hutchings co-founded the Institute for MultiRacial Justice,which “aims to strengthen the struggle against white supremacy by serving as a resource center to help build alliances among peoples of color and combat divisions.”She is also an advisor to the Catalyst Project, an anti-racist political education organization that focuses on white communities.
Martínez continues her activism in her 80s, including many events training and encouraging future generations of organizers and activists. It’s quite telling that one of her biggest fans is Angela Davis, who has described this amazing woman as “inimitable … irrepressible … indefatigable.”