March 31 honors the life and legacy of César Chávez, whose tireless work on behalf of agricultural workers in the 1960s earned him the respect and admiration of millions of laborers and social justice advocates. Your students have probably heard of Chávez and can even imagine how his activism wasn’t always well received. But do they know that Chavez’s activism also earned him some unwanted attention from the FBI?
In 1965, Chávez’s union threw its support behind the Delano Grape Strike in California. That same year, the FBI launched its surveillance of Chávez in an effort to prove that his movement had been infiltrated by communists. This claim was unfounded and never proven; but the federal government’s efforts to undermine Chávez speak to the power of his movement and its perceived threat to the status quo.
For an intriguing entry point to the study of Chávez, labor issues, and Latino American history, show your students these declassified pages from the FBI’s report, “Communist Infiltration of the National Farm Workers Association”:
This document is part of ABC-CLIO’s The Latino American Experience database dedicated to exploring the history, heritage, and culture of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans, Cubans, Dominicans, Colombians, Ecuadorians, and other Latino peoples in the United States. Click here to activate your free preview of this database and gain access to:
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