Oral Histories

Interview of Marian Graff

Involved in voter registration and fund raising with the Chicano civil rights group the Community Service Organization. President of the El Sereno chapter of the Independent Progressive Party.
Community Service Organization Oral Histories
Social Movements
Latina and Latino History
Community Activism
Biographical Note:
Involved in voter registration and fund raising with the Chicano civil rights group the Community Service Organization. President of the El Sereno chapter of the Independent Progressive Party.
Espino, Virginia
Graff, Marian
Persons Present:
Graff and Espino.
Place Conducted:
Marian Graff's home in Hillside Village of Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Virginia Espino, UCLA Center for Oral History Research. B.A., Psychology, UC Santa Cruz; Ph.D., History, Arizona State University.Espino prepared for the interviews by researching the Community Service Organization 1940-1990 papers housed at UCLA's Chicano Studies Resource Center. The Historical Los Angeles Times database was consulted, along with various secondary sources on Los Angeles Chicano politics and civic life.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Graff was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The Community Service Organization, commonly known as the CSO, was founded in 1947 as a civil rights advocacy group that boasted a multi-ethnic membership. Individuals selected for this oral history series resided in Los Angeles during the 1940s and joined the Community Service Organization during its formative years. The combined narratives of these interviews highlight war-time community life and outline historical precursors to the Chicano Movement.
Early family history; Childhood living conditions; Grandparents Russian Jewish; Attempted kidnapping of uncle; Mother’s first home in Coalchester; Mother’s education; Mother’s first experience with African Americans; Mother’s experience with anti-Semitism; Mother’s experience with sexual harassment; Father’s experience in a Jewish and non-Jewish community; Grandmother’s experience with anti-Semitism in Russia; Father’s failed business attempts; Childhood accidents with head injuries; Parents discipline style; Parents decide to move to California; Father hit and killed by a Red Car; Maternal grandparents move to California; Living conditions in Long Beach; Experience with wealthy uncles; Santa Barbara earthquake; Family’s religious practices; Experiences with anti-Semitism at school; Moving to Los Angeles in the 2nd grade; Mother re-marries; Life- changing experiences in junior high school; Love of the piano; Mother learns of father’s death; Stepfather’s drinking; Elementary school experiences; House on 70th Street in Los Angeles; Attempting to live kosher; Mother's first marriage; Long Beach earthquake, 1933; Experiences at Washington High School; Diversity at Washington High School; Dress code for girls; Meeting other Jewish students; Encounter with anti-Semitism; Evacuation of Japanese students; Discrimination in high school; Family's emphasis on reading and education; Woodbury College experience and the valuable skills learned; Secretarial job experiences; Developing a Jewish consciousness; Feelings about World War II; Brother in U.S. Navy; Volunteer work for the United Service Officers (USO) during World War II; Experiences with soldiers at the USO office; Encounter with gay soldiers; Losing boyfriend because of Jewish faith.
Work experience before World War II; Gender discrimination on the job; Office culture for secretaries; Supporting Roosevelt for president; Economic survival during the Depression Era; Experience working at a steel warehouse; Encounters with African American employees; Racial make-up of Los Angeles' neighborhoods; Job responsibilities; Learning about the Independent Progressive Party (IPP); Leadership in the IPP and working with Communists; Working for Edward Roybal's second campaign; Mother registers voters for Edward Roybal; Bertha Marshall and her influence on Edward Roybal; Pre-McCarthy anti-Communist sentiment; IPP ideology and issues; Writing winning essay for the Herald Examiner; Mother works with Henrietta Villaescusa and the well-baby clinic; Ethnic make-up of IPP; Divergent issues for African Americans within the IPP; Gender roles in IPP and the Community Service Organization (CSO); IPP rallies with Paul Robeson; Impression of Paul Robeson; Experience with CSO fundraisers like the Friendship Festival; Red-baiting by labor activists in the CSO; Edward Roybal and the Communist activists; Fred Ross as an anti-Communist; Meaning of "Red" during the McCarthy era; Stalin's anti-Semitism; Joining the Communist Party; Becoming a campaign manager for Gilbert Canales; Asked to become an informant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Being watched and followed by the FBI; Brother forced to disown mother and sister because of their Communist connection; The appeal of a Communist ideology.
Roles and responsibilities during tenure with the Community Service Organization (CSO); First encounter with CSO as member of the Independent Progressive Party (IPP); Work with the CSO to improve secondary education; Experience with school tracking; Working behind the scenes for the CSO citizenship classes; Mother registers voters in East Los Angeles; Relationship between the Jewish community and the Mexican community of East Los Angeles; Greatest achievements of CSO; Community leaders to emerge from CSO; Discrimination against Mexicans; Issues relevant to the CSO; Impression of Edward Roybal; Impression of Lucille Roybal; Gender issues within the CSO; Hope Mendoza Schechter and red-baiting; Anti-liberal element within the CSO; Conflict with CSO member Tony Rios; American Federation of Labor opposes Roybal's bid for supervisor; Investigating voter fraud in the Ernest Debs and Edward Roybal election of 1958; Entering the Community Concert Organization; Teaching shorthand at Trade Technical College; Recollection of the day Martin Luther King Jr. was killed; Joining the College Women's Club of Pasadena; Leaving CSO disillusioned; Resentment toward Democratic Party; Edward Roybal's open-minded viewpoint; Losing Edward Roybal to Washington, D.C.; Experience when friends were called before the House of Un-American Activities Committee.