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Keeping the New York State Home Front Going: Mexican Braceros in World War II

The student: This question is based on the accompanying eight documents. It has been created in order to test your ability to work with historical documents. Some of these documents have been edited for the purposes of this question. As you analyze the documents, try to understand the source of the document and any point of view that is presented in the document.

Historical context: When the United States entered World War II after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, over one million rural workers moved into the military, or to jobs in urban U.S. factories that were involved in wartime production. The result was a severe manpower shortage of farm and railroad labor that threatened the stability of the American home front. To address the critical needs, in 1942 the U.S. signed an agreement with Mexico to allow for Mexican workers to fill jobs on U.S. farms, with transportation and other costs to be paid by the U.S. government. The agreement was modified in 1943 to include the railroad industry. Although the farm labor bracero program lasted until the end of 1964, railroad braceros were returned to Mexico when World War II ended.

Task: Using information from the following documents and your own knowledge of history, answer the questions that follow each document in Part A. Your answers to the questions will help you to accomplish the writing assignment given in Part B, in which you will be asked to explain who the braceros were, what type of work they did on the railroads, their working conditions, and the position of the U.S. government in regards to their employment in the United States.

PART A Short Answer Questions

Directions: Read and analyze the documents and answer the short-answer questions in the space provided. Prepare for the reading of the documents by studying the vocabulary definitions that are given before each document.