tv American Artifacts CSPAN April 24, 2016 10:00pm-10:35pm EDT
what artifacts say about american history. next, a tour an exhibition about the civil activist, dolores wherhuerta. we will learn about huerta's life, how she became involved in activism, and her role with the national farmworker's movement and the delano grape strike in the 1960's. >> here we are, this is an exhibition for dolores huerta. this is part of our nine-year-old series. we said we wanted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the delano grape strike. which launched of the farmworkers movement in september 1965. we did that on an exhibition of dolores huerta who was, and cesar chavez's own words, the
co-architect of the movement with him. she was instrumental to the major achievements of that movement that gave dignity and improved the conditions of migrant farmworkers. not as many people are familiar with dolores huerta as they are with cesar chavez. we wanted to bring her life and contributions to light. please come inside. the information starts here with some materials that give a sense of her background and how she got into community organizing. she was born and dawson, new mexico in 1930. she was the second child of the marriage of alicia chavez and juan hernandez. when she was two years old, her parents divorced.
so dolores' mother moved with her three children to california. to the town of stockton, which was multicultural. so that is where she grew up. her mother had a very entrepreneurial personality and was a very hard worker. she did everything she could to provide her children with as close as she could to a middle-class upbringing. she worked two jobs. during the day she worked as a waitress and at night in the canneries. eventually she was able to buy herself a lunch counter, and a hotel where she would house migrant farmworkers who were passing by the town and could not afford to stay anywhere. she would house them for free. dolores credits her with teaching the value of helping others. the value of hard work. and the principle of gender equality. they were quite an unusual family for that time. she was a divorced woman with three children.
house chores were distributed evenly between the three children. dolores did not have to cook for her siblings or do the laundry as did many other hispanic families she went to school and was very brilliant. when she graduated she pursued a degree in education. she wanted to become a grammar school teacher. she was really appalled when she started teaching about the conditions of many other students who were the children of farmworkers. they really live in poverty. they were malnourished and had worn out clothes. some of them had no furniture. everything was made of fruit crates and vegetable crates. dolores became very aware of that reality.
it was not completely alien to her because she had seen many farmworkers go through her mother's hotel and because she had kept contact with her father who remained in new mexico. he was a farmworker. in 1955, she joined the community service organization which was one of the first civic groups that advocated for latinos in the country. it was founded by this man here, fred ross. it really -- the community service organization was an organization that promoted civic participation among hispanics and latinos, by providing english courses, naturalization classes. doing voter registration drives. talking to public
representatives, the government, and asking for better infrastructure in the barrios. the organization was established in california. fred ross went to stockton to establish a chapter there. dolores volunteered in the effort and was so good at it and so devoted, so she was given the job as a lobbyist for the organization. she had no legal training, but had a talent with words. she was incredibly articulate and persuasive, so she was made the lobbyist. she reported to cesar chavez. that is actually where they met. chavez have been working for cso since 1932 and he became the director of the organization. that is where they met. i found that they had a common interest in farmworkers. because cesar himself came from a farm worker family. they realized that the goal of organizing farmworkers to improve their conditions would
be hard to achieve through cso. it had more of an urban focus. the did not want to enter the arena of labor organizing. it was too political. in 1952, they branched out of the organization. cesar chavez and dolores huerta stayed for a few more months, but eventually she also quit. they both founded what was called the national farm workers association, which was the precursor to the ufw. this is dolores huerta here signing up members at the first convention of the national farmworkers association in fresno, ca. she and cesar were employing the tactics of organizing they had learned with fred ross, who was a real pioneer in the articulation of those organizing tactics.
he was the guy who invented the door to door canvassing. they spent the first three years of their organization, the nfwa, going door-to-door and meeting people in the towns of central california. hearing from them, what their main problems were, in order to come up with a strategy to combat them. up here, we have some of the conditions that pushed the laura census are to found the national farm workers association and to devote their lives to organizing farmworkers. they had 10-14 hour days, six
to seven days per week. they were often paid -- most of the time they were paid less than the minimum wage, which at that time was $1.25 an hour. they were often paid between $.75 and one dollar. so that is substantially less. they had no drinking water. no bathrooms. child labor was rampant because the salaries were so low that the whole family had to work. even children. to migratethey had from harvest to harvest, which kept children from attending school, which kept families locked in a cycle of poverty. they often had no housing and they were provided housing by the county. it was often substandard housing. you can see it here with these very thin mattresses on the floor.
the short hoe which you can see on the corner of the photograph, which was also a way of keeping workers close to the ground, literally. which caused many back problems as well. they were sprayed with pesticides without any kind of warning. as a result of that, farmworkers had a life expectancy of 49 years old when the national average was 75. after three years of organizing, between 1962 and 1965, cesar and dolores were about to launch their first strike. events caught up with them and in september, the filipino chapter of the agricultural worker's association wanted to
launch a strike as well. they knew that they needed the help of the national farmworkers association. it was many mexican and mexican-american. they asked them to join their strike. on september 16, 1965, which is the next -- mexican national day, the farmworker's association was convened in a town hall. the members voted to join the filipino strike. they all walked out of the grape fields of delano. the growers responded violently. spraying the workers with pesticides.
in order to call the attention of the governor of california, cesar chavez decided to launch a big long march from delano to sacramento, which was over 300 miles. that march was called the peregrinacion. the movement had some religious undertones, which really served as an element of cultural cohesion, in particular for the mexican-american union. this is a photograph of that march which started in delano with a few hundred farmworkers. when it got to sacramento, it was 10,000 people. we see here a photographed
of cesar chavez giving a speech on the steps of the capitol in sacramento. the backbone of the farmworkers movement was the principle of peace. dolores wereand very much inspired by the figure of mahatma gandhi and dr. martin luther king. they felt they only way they could demand dignity and fair treatment was through peaceful action. here, you have wonderful photographs by george rodriguez, a photographer from california who documented the farmworkers movement. you see the grape crates. grapes became a symbol of the movement. and a sign that was probably carried by one of the striking workers that says, nonviolent.
in 1966, the unions merged together to form what we know as the united farm workers. this flag, which is from the collection of the national museum of american history, is an early flight from the union. it has the symbol that was created by richard chavez, the brother assessor, and -- the brother of cesar, and that symbol was kept. it is a black eagle. eagles are very significant in aztec mythology. most of the currency of the union, when they merged together with the union, was still mexican and mexican-american. it really resonated with that particular constituency. as i said, it is a schematic eagle that is also an inverted pyramid.
if you turn it upside down, you can see the shape of the pyramid, like a mexican pyramid. it also has the word "huelga." huelga means strike in spanish and tagalog, the native language of the philippines. it really resonated with the whole constituency of the movement and kept the workers animated and striking from 19 to -- from 1965 in delano, to the 1970's when they finished the strike. dolores was, since the creation of the national farmworkers association, she had been vice president of the union. when the national farmworkers
association merged with the agricultural workers organizing committee, to become the ufw, dolores was still its vice president. one of several vice presidents. she was probably the most present in the media. she was the main communicator to radio and tv, printed media on the goals and the value of the union. she was a contract negotiator which is something at which she was externally successful. -- extremely successful. she was a ticket captain. one of the great strategies of the great boycott. -- the grapes boycott.
the grapes boycott was a concurrent strategy with the strike that was devised around 1965 at a very local level. it grew to become a national and international movement by 1966-1967. in times when there was not much harvesting activity, basically, grape pickers and farm workers just went to supermarkets around the nation asking consumers not to buy grapes that were produced by these companies that did not want to negotiate contracts with the ufw and telling them about the conditions in which workers were working. it was the first time that urban consumers were made aware of the human cost of the produce. here, she is wearing a sweater that was knitted by a supporter of the union and given to her.
by the time she started the national farmworker's association, she had seven children and another one on the way. she had 11 children in total. she devoted all of her efforts into organizing. she brought her family into that kind of protest, rallies, and the strikes. sometimes, if she had it support for the union, she would rely very much on the help of union supporters, and leave her children when necessary for a week or so with them so that she could speak to the membership. she really lived on a small salary. the salary of the union which
was five dollars per week and had to maintain all her children with that salary. she relied a lot on donations of food and clothing from the union. that sweater was given to her by one of the supporters of the union. she wore it very often because it had the logo of the ufw. whenever she had to do public speaking, she wore it. we see the sweater here. this belonged to dolores huerta herself and she went it to the x -- leant it to the exhibition. the issue of migrant farm work was an issue that was in the ear -- air since the 1950's. it has not become a national cover station yet, pretty much until 1965. however, the was a senate subcommittee on migratory labor
that had been created by the 1950's. senator bobby kennedy was assigned to it. in 1966, he had to meet with the striking workers and the authorities in delano. he traveled there in march of 1966. there is a hearing. after a few hours of hearing from the farm workers, all the exploitative conditions under which they were became immediately empathetic. which really helped the movement become a national movement. he became a big supporter of the cause, which really helped the movement become a national
movement. we see him here in 1967 at the end of cesar chavez's 25 day fast. he is addressing the media with the dolores by his side. the farmworkers became his supporters and endorsed his candidacy when he was running in the democratic primaries in 1968. here, we have some wonderful photographs of her negotiating contracts. as i said before, dolores had a real talent with words and is a very convincing person who knows how to argue and debate. she was put at the head of the negotiating contract. dolores was unyielding in asking for respect and fair treatment for farm workers. she really acquired a reputation among the growers of being this dragon lady.
they were afraid of her. this is a woman who is five feet tall, but she is a force of nature and very powerful. the growers would beg the unions to send anyone else but her to negotiate contracts, but she was at the forefront of that effort for a reason, because she was the best. from 1966 until the early 1970's, she negotiated about 100 contracts. we see her here with many men -- well, just only men in the photograph, which is very interesting. the unions are still mainly dominated by men. if we think of the 1960's, it is even more striking that she was there at the table, conducting that effort of negotiating
contracts. she was the first woman to negotiate contracts for the farmworker's union. women had been important leaders in other economic sectors that had been more traditionally associated with females, such as the garment industry. it was the first time that a woman was negotiating contracts for farm workers. here, we see her as well, speaking mainly to a group of women. that was also very -- a very important part of her contribution to the union. female farmworkers were very much part of the union, i the --
in the sense that they were most often farmworkers themselves. whenever there was a family of farmworkers, it was very common to have the whole family working in the field. they supported the union. however, few of them did it like dolores, who simply put that at the head of her responsibilities. she provided, essentially, another model of what a woman could be and do and be a model of public presence and social and political involvement, simply through her presence as a leader in the efforts of the union. here, we have some of the
material culture of the farmworker's union. a flier, that was one of the fliers used in pickets to make urban consumers aware of the conditions in which the farmer worked. here you can see a child in the great fields. and another one in what seems like the entrance of a very poor house. whole families were suffering under the exploitative conditions in which farmworkers worked. you also have a number of pins in different languages, stating different important messages of the union, from "viva la causa," the cause was the cause. two pins that were circulated in
canada and france, one that says, n'achetez paz -- it became an international boycott. table grapes that were exported to canada and to europe became the object of protest by international consumers. you also have the pin of the union with arabic script. it says, vote for the union. and another one that says, "viva la mujer," which is a symbol for women. some thing i found interesting with these pins is they speak to the reach of the boycott, to the international and multicultural reach. the pin with the arabic message speaks about the yemeni workers who were part of the movement.
this is the movement that has often been referred to as a mexican and mexican-american movement, but it was broader than that. filipinos were extremely important to the movement. also, there were african-american workers, white, puerto rican workers, yemeni workers. this series of pins speaks to that multicultural reach and the message of this being a moral cause. this is a bit of a conclusion wall where we see dolores huerta living a life of community organizing. dolores has been arrested two dozen times and in the late 1980's, she was the victim of a severe beating by police at a
peaceful protest. she was so severely break and that she had three ribs broken and her spleen ruptured and she spent some time in the hospital. here, we see cesar chavez by her side in the photograph by one of the photographers of the union. the incident was interestingly caught on camera by a reporter. it led to a settlement from the city. of $825,000 and to the redrafting of the crowd control policies of the san francisco city police. here, we have the most iconic,
artistic portrait of dolores. barbara is a chicana artist, who was one of the artists of the ufw for decades. she first heard about the union as a student, at ucla. she was active in the chicano movement. cesar chavez came to speak at her university and she was inspired by his words and how his actions matched his spiritual beliefs. at the end of his speech, she approached him and offered her help for the union. he invited her to become one of the artists of the union. she served the union for many decades.
she became very close to dolores. they are very close friends. dolores is very much a mentor to her, almost like a second mother. in the 1990's, she wanted to create an image of dolores that would be that iconic image that comes to your might immediately immediately when you say her name or hear it. one of those images that captures the personality of someone. she came up with this wonderful portrait, which is sort of a pop aesthetic with a reduced palette. pink and blue and ochre.
she has her little pin here that has a motto invented by dolores during one of the strikes. her name above, which is interesting. among many of the participants of the farmworkers movement, when you interview them and hear about them they always talk about cesar. cesar chavez. in history in the media we often hear about the full name of cesar chavez or just the last name. amongst the people of the movement many of them refer to him simply as cesar. barbara wanted to a compass the same for dolores and to have an image where people could remember her by her first name, which is why we have are identified as that. what i love about the artwork in the collection of the national
portrait gallery is that it's one of the artist troops and it it isist proofs and dedicated by dolores to barbara. it says, "to my dear beloved barbara, with respect, the lower -- dolores huerta." here we have the presidential medal of freedom, the highest honor any american can receive. it was awarded to huerta in 2012 by president barack obama for her efforts on behalf of farmworkers, along with cesar chavez. >> dolores huerta has been working for marginalized unities. alongside cesar chavez, she cofounded united farm workers of america and fought to secure basic rights for migrant workers and their families, helping save thousands from neglect and abuse. dolores huerta has never lost
faith in the power of community organizing and through her foundation she continues to train and mentor new activists to walk the streets in the history. [applause] >> this photograph was taken by harvey richards at the end of the first week of the strike. she mentioned recently at a public program this was the fifth or sixth day of the strike. she had run out of clean clothes and those are the last ones she had. she described how her sweater
was very wrinkled and she was standing on top of a truck, which we don't see in the cropping of the image. there are versions around are you see the truck. holding that sign to animate and to call on workers to leave the grape fields and join with the organizing committee. i hope that viewers of this exhibition extend their knowledge of the farmworkers union, which is perhaps still not as known in detail as part of the civil rights movement of our country. that they understand these issues are still very important. some of them -- dolores huerta did a lot to advance the cause. and dolores was crucial to the limit -- to the movement as cesar chavez.