Al Camarillo receives 2016 Equity Award from the American Historical Association

Al Camarillo
Al Camarillo

The American Historical Association selected historian ALBERT CAMARILLO as the winner of the 2016 Equity Award for his decades-long contributions to the field of Mexican American history and mentorship of generations of minority scholars.

The prize, which will be presented to Camarillo, the Leon Sloss Jr. Memorial Professor, Emeritus, during a ceremony in Denver in January, is given every year to one individual and one institution “who have demonstrated an exceptional record in the recruitment and retention of students and new faculty from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented within the historical professions,” according to the association’s award announcement.

“Professor Camarillo’s contribution to the fields of Mexican American history is unparalleled. He has authored seven influential books and dozens of articles,” said the association’s Committee on Minority Historians in the announcement. “His more than 40-year commitment to mentorship has resulted in multiple generations of scholars of color whose scholarship and leadership have influenced numerous fields of study and the profession as a whole.”

As a first-generation college student of immigrant parents, Camarillo said the field of Mexican American history and ethnic studies in general were just in their infancy when he started college.

“When I was growing up, there was virtually nothing being written about the nation’s second minority [Mexican Americans],” Camarillo said. “That in itself was a challenge and a real motivator for me.”

Camarillo, who received his PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, said he ended up being one of the first historians in the United States to be trained in Mexican American history.

“By the time I got to Stanford there was a mission for me as an individual and a scholar to produce historical literature that would explain and provide the narrative about Mexican American people,” he said. “My goal was also to help institutionalize the field and train the next generation of scholars.”

During his career, Camarillo, who has been a faculty member at Stanford since 1975, helped train more than two dozen doctoral students in Mexican American history and comparative studies in race and ethnicity.

He also worked as special assistant to the provost and helped recruit and hire 15 minority faculty members as part of the Faculty Development Initiative, which started in 2007.

Camarillo said diversifying the faculty in higher education should continue to be a priority for people in academia. He praised President MARC TESSIER-LAVIGNE’s emphasis on diversity during his recent inauguration speech.

“We’ve made progress, but it’s a continuing challenge,” Camarillo said. “It takes a concerted effort to diversify the faculty, and it’s fundamental to the education of our students in the 21st century to have faculty who reflect our country’s diverse population.”

Camarillo’s achievements have made him widely regarded as one of the founders of the field of Mexican American history and Chicano studies and have led him to become the only Stanford faculty member to receive the six highest awards for excellence in teaching, service to undergraduate education and alumni, and university-related public service.

Despite his professional success, Camarillo said the Equity Award was a surprise to him.

“I had no idea I was nominated,” Camarillo said. “This is so special to me.”

Camarillo is currently writing a historical autobiography about his childhood in Compton, California, and his later years in college.