Juan González Papers
Scope and Contents
This collection contains valuable material on the birth and development of several critical Puerto Rican and Latin American organizations, including the National Congress of Puerto Rican Rights, the Alianza Puertorriqueña, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Young Lords Party. There is also considerable material on three different labor actions and protests, which involved Juan González, in addition to information on his personal life.
The collection also contains extensive journalistic material from the author’s entire career, as well as source material and correspondence. The collection consists of administrative and organizational material, clippings, correspondence, notes, manuscripts and pamphlets, flyers, photographs, and audio and visual files, and a small oversize collection.
An additional donation by González from 2022 expands the collection with documents ranging from 1960-2022. The files are arranged intellectually within existing series. This accession contains more personal and biographical items such as press credentials, and address books. There are also old resumes, copies of articles about González, and additional correspondence. In addition to González's many accolades, there is a file of rejection letters from several publishers for his book Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. The rest of González's NY Daily News articles from the 2010s not previously included, flyers for speaking engagements, and drafts of González's speeches and presentations are also part of the additions.
- Creation: 1945-2012
- González, Juan (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Open to researchers without restriction.
Biographical / Historical
Juan González (b. 1947) is a social activist, journalist, author, community organizer and labor leader. He has become one of the United States’ most prolific journalists of Puerto Rican origin, having published nearly 4,000 articles and columns in newspapers and magazines, hosted over 1,000 radio broadcasts, and hosted and narrated several dozen shows and documentaries on television. His childhood in El Barrio (East Harlem) and East New York instilled a fierce pride and love for his Puerto Rican heritage, with a desire for social justice ignited by his time at Columbia University, during the student strike in 1968. He played pivotal roles in the founding of the Young Lords Party, the Alianza Puertorriqueña, and the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights. He also led two newspaper strikes. As a beat writer and later columnist for both the Philadelphia and New York Daily News, González has earned acclaim for his investigative reporting and insightful columns.
Juan González was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on October 15, 1947, to Juan “Pepe" González and Florinda Rivera González. Pepe, a World War II veteran of the all-Puerto Rican 65th Infantry, worked in the kitchen of the Copacabana Club, and later at Fordham-Brighton Cafeteria. He moved to the United States in 1946, following his brother Tomás. Florinda worked as a seamstress at a garment factory and later in a hospital. After they moved to New York, a pregnant Florinda returned to her hometown of Ponce to give birth to Juan, ensuring that he would be born on Puerto Rican soil.
González grew up in East Harlem, on 112th Street near Second Ave. The family was surrounded by workingclass Italians and Irish who often clashed with Puerto Ricans in street fights; his cousin was even attacked by Italians after visiting the family in 1950. González entered elementary school with no English skills, but rapidly acquired the language. In 1956 the family moved to a new housing project called Cypress Hills in East New York, Brooklyn. He then attended Berriman Junior High School and Franklin K. Lane High School, where he was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and received top school honors in English. He spent the summer after his junior year studying at the High School Journalism Institute sponsored by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He was then accepted to study at Columbia University.
At Columbia, González began to notice the disconnect between the world he inhabited and the rarefied, Anglo- centric curriculum of study. He did not connect with the overwhelmingly white student body, and was dismayed at the university’s lack of concern for the Harlem community it inhabited. This alienation led González to student activism in 1968, when the student body staged a strike in protest of Columbia’s support of the Vietnam War, as well as its plan to build a private gym off university grounds in Morningside Park and keep it closed to the local community. González was selected as a leader of the strike coordinating committee, and also experienced his first arrest. As a result he was suspended and did not receive his degree from Columbia until thirty years later. During the protest, González met Tom Hayden, the leader of the Students for a Democratic Society, who encouraged him to travel to Chicago to protest the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
González, however, became disaffected by the white, middle-class nature of the mainstream protest movement, especially as he read more about the Third World liberation movements and became influenced by the writings of Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, and others. Like many minorities in progressive causes, González felt that the struggle of minorities in the United States was no different than the movements for liberation throughout the Third World and searched for means of activism that would benefit poor minorities, especially Puerto Ricans. The search led him to the Young Lords organization. The Young Lords were originally a street gang in Chicago until its leader, José “Cha Cha” Jimenez, was imprisoned. His cellmate was Fred Hampton, founder of the Black Panther Party. Hampton convinced Jimenez to reform his gang into a radical social organization, providing welfare to poor Puerto Ricans in Chicago. González and others received Jimenez’s permission to found a chapter of the Young Lords Party in New York, with González later serving first as its Minister of Education and then as Minister of Defense. The Young Lords carried out such activities as the Harlem Garbage Strike in 1969, to protest the lack of regular Sanitation Department pick-up of trash in El Barrio, and he helped lead the takeover of the First Spanish Methodist Church in December 1969. Most impressively, the Young Lords occupied then-decrepit Lincoln Hospital in South Bronx, eventually securing the construction of a new hospital to better serve the poor population. In 1974, he resigned from the successor group to the Young Lords, the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PPRWO), which later disintegrated.
Before his resignation from PRRWO, González had moved to Philadelphia and started working in a men’s clothing factory, L.W. Forster Sportswear. There he began to gravitate toward labor organizing. When a nationwide garment strike was called in 1973, he became leader of the factory’s 400 employees. González then took the lead in several social organizations and movements. In 1977-1978 he was the Philadelphia Chairperson of the African Liberation Support Coalition; in 1978 he was a coordinator of the STOP Rizzo campaign, which successfully thwarted then-Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo’s attempt to change the two-term limit of the city charter. In 1978 González helped to found La Alianza Puertorriqueña, a Philadelphia-based Puerto Rican advocacy organization.
In 1979, Juan González became a staff writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, but that did not end his political activism. At the Daily News, González broke stories about crime, poverty and corruption in Philadelphia, as well as the experiences of Puerto Ricans and minorities in the community. He was highly praised for his work on the series “The Recycling of Philadelphia,” on the displacement of poor Philadelphians from their homes, winning a Philadelphia Press Association Award in 1979. He also won a Keystone State Press Association award for his work on clusters of cancer cases in Philadelphia in 1981, the result of toxic industrial chemicals from factories in poor neighborhoods. The series prompted the Pennsylvania legislature to establish a statewide cancer registry to track the incidence of the disease.
In the early 1980s, González became founding editor of a weekly Spanish-language newspaper in Philadelphia, Enfoque Comunal. He then helped found the National Congress of Puerto Rican Rights in 1981. In 1984 González helped found the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), serving as its president from 2002-2004.
González would continue to hone the labor leadership skills he had acquired during and after college. When a strike broke out at the Philadelphia Daily News in 1985, González co-chaired a committee of the Newspaper Guild dedicated to the action. In 1988, González left the paper to return to New York as a columnist for the New York Daily News, covering many of the same issues he did in Philadelphia. González took an active leadership role in yet another strike, this one a five-month conflict at the Daily News, from 1990-1991.
In 1996, González joined with award-winning WBAI reporter Amy Goodman to co-host a new daily radical news show the Pacifica network was launching, Democracy Now! With Goodman as the show’s main host and González as its part-time co-host, Democracy Now! grew rapidly into one of the most prestigious non- commercial alternative radio/television/Internet news shows in the U.S. In 2001, González temporarily resigned in protest from the show following firings of several Pacifica staff and changes in the corporate culture of the Pacifica Foundation. He then helped lead a successful national movement to democratize the Pacifica network and change its corporate structure. By 2009, Democracy Now! was broadcast on more than 1,000 radio stations and television channels throughout the U.S. and Latin America, including nearly 300 stations that carried portions of the show in Spanish.
González continues to write incisive columns for the New York Daily News and has been a senior editor of In These Times and the labor journal New Labor Forum. He has broken stories on air quality and asbestos at the World Trade Center site, depleted uranium and its effects on Iraq War veterans, incidents of police brutality by the New York Police Department, exploitation of maquiladora workers in Honduras, México and the Dominican Republic, and many other subjects. He is the author of Roll Down Your Window: Stories of a Forgotten America (1995), Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America (2000; Revised Edition 2011) and Fallout: The Environmental Consequences of the World Trade Center Collapse (2002), and News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media (2011). González has also written several magazine articles and political pamphlets and scripts for full-length PBS documentaries including “Haiti: Killing the Dream” and “Valley of Tears.” He also served as the Belle Zeller Visiting Professor of Political Science and Puerto Rican Studies at Brooklyn College from 2000-2002. He is still a co-host of Democracy Now! and continues to focus on the struggles of the downtrodden in New York and around the world.
Juan González was recipient of the George Polk Award for excellence in journalism in 1998 and 2011, and in 2015 was inducted into the Deadline Club’s New York Journalism Hall of Fame.
González, Juan. “The Names Change, The Hate Remains.” New York Daily News, January 1, 1988.
Jiménez, Lillian. Interview with Juan González. Oral History Project, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, 2005.
20 Cubic Feet
Language of Materials
Metadata Rights Declarations
- License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Creative Commons license.
Juan González is a Puerto Rican social activist and journalist, as well as a community organizer and labor leader. His papers contain complete set of González’ columns, information on various organizations, unpublished manuscripts, correspondence and research material on a wide range of topics.
The collection is divided into the following series:
I. Biographical and Personal Information
IV. Labor Campaigns
V. Columns and Articles
VII. Subject Files
IX. Audio and Visual Files
Other Finding Aids
English / Spanish finding aid available (see External Documents).
Original issues of Community Focus (Pennsylvania), Pa’lante, Hermanos Latinos, and The Village Voice transferred to Centro newspaper collection.
- Espada, Frank, 1930-2014 (Person)
- Maristany, Hiram (Person)
- Pérez, Richie (Person)
- National Congress of Puerto Rican Rights (Organization)
- Organización Obrera Revolucionaria Puertorriqueña (Organization)
- Young Lords Party (Organization)
- Acevedo Vilá, Aníbal, 1962- (Person)
- Unanue, Manuel de Dios (Person)
- Goodman, Amy (Person)
- Hayden, Tom (Person)
- Jimenez, Jose, 1948- (Person)
- Zuckerman, Mortimer B. (Person)
- 65th Infantry Division (Organization)
- Columbia University/City University of New York (Organization)
- Democracy Now! (Organization) (Organization)
- Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (Gang) (Organization)
- Latin Kings (Musical group) (Organization)
- National Association of Hispanic Journalists (U.S.) (Organization)
- New York Daily News (Firm) (Organization)
- Philadelphia Daily News (Firm) (Organization)
- American Newspaper Guild (Organization)
- Pacifica Radio (Organization)
- Public Broadcasting Service (U.S.) (Organization)
- Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.) (Organization)
- Guzman, Pablo “Yoruba” (Person)
- Mirach, Harry A. (Person)
- La Alianza Puertorriqueña (Organization)
- Alliance of Latin Artistes Society (Organization)
- Community Focus (Organization)
- Delgado, Jane (Person)
- Dominican Republic
- New York City
- Puerto Rico
- United States
- Juan González Papers
- Richard Tejada, Mario Ramírez, Jonathan Morales, Rebecca Machado, Pedro Juan Hernández
- July 2014
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- October 2015: Finding aid revised to include second accession.
- December 2022: Finding aid revised to include third accession by Herbert Duran.