tv Latinos and the Civil Rights Movement CSPAN August 29, 2017 1:44pm-3:11pm EDT
our filter adjustment act and the federal government sending money into farming communities, agriculture communities to stop production, right? so people find themselves out of work. well, what do they do? do they stay in these southern states? no. a lot of them joint the migrant show going to work in california b, right? so buck owens, as a country music singer if you've heard of him, symbolized the stories of the okeys, their western movement and their upward mobility, right? so buck owens is an internationally renowned country music singer. he passed away i think about a decade ago. and his music symbolized something called the bakersfield sound. so the story of the okeys loomed
large in history. it's something that i couldn't necessarily relate to but i found it interesting, right? and, of course, the other side of stern's comment is about cesar chavez. here in this image, you see him on the cover of time magazine in 1969 and the way that pundits and journalists referred to chavez is that he symbolized the awakening of latino peoples in the united states or he symbolized the awakening of mexican americans more specifically, mott necessarily puerto ricans or cubans. the way journalists oftentimes would refer to people of the mexican dissent in the united states, they called them the sleeping giant, right? so what does that really mean, the sleeping giant? what it meant at the time is that latinos aren't necessarily politically active, right? they don't tend to be involved in civic affairs, right? what was the stereotype at the
time. and chavez was absolutely blowing this up, the movement of farm workers, the people at the bottom of society, right, were suddenly becoming engaged in fighting for their rights, wages, working conditions, but also mobilizing for politicians, right? we'll talk maybe a little bit about this later. i know some of you mentioned this in your history, one of the best friends of the chavez family is the kennedy family, right? starting with john and robert and their children. and so my point there is chavez is challenging that stereotype, that latinos are a sleeping giant. so there's an awakening of latinos in the 1960s. so, again, what stern is talking about, when i was a college student just like you and i started for the history, this shaped my learning as a student of history, right? and when i went to graduate school, i went to graduate
school at uc santa barbara. they make you read a lot of books in graduate school and i'll talk about some of the most important books that i read as it relates to what we're talking about tonight. but first i wanted to tell you a little bit about my family. so a lot of you give family histories and i feel maybe it's unfair that maybe you don't know a little bit about my family, right, and why i'm making you do this assignment. so my mother's family -- this is a picture of my mother's family. her mother is one of the babies that is sitting on the left. they were displaced from mexico after 1910 during the mexican revolution as were many mexican families who wanted to avoid the problems of a war-torn country, right? in this particular image, this is an image that was taken across the border and you can see they're very well dressed. this would be the early 1920s. and this is a photograph later in the 1940s of the descendants
of that same family. my grandmother is in the upper left hand corner. when they came to the united states, they came as farm workers, right? they went to southern california. they worked in oranges there for many years and eventually my grandmother migrated up to the central valley where we are today. and she married my grandfather and they lived in button willo. so i don't know the if any of you know your central valley geography. button willow is about 20 miles west of bakersfield and it was a company town. i don't know if you know what a company down is. you have to think back a few lectures, right? company towns were small towns that were more or less founded by companies and their workers, right? so button willow was a product of the miller lux company. and i mentioned the miller l you x company to you in one of our
earlier lectures. this was a company based out of san francisco and in the 19th century, the early 20th century, they owned much of the land and they raised cattle, right? and my grandfather worked as an accountant for that company. so that is the sum of the story of how my mother's family came to settle in the central valley. and, again, they had a connection to agriculture and i'll come back in a little bit and maybe say more about my grandmother. but let me talk a little bit about my father's side. so my father's side of the family, they were not displaced by the mexican revolution, but they migrated as railroad workers. so think back to our earlier lectures when we talked about the growth of railroads during the late 19th century. i mentioned the railroads not only went east to west, but they went north to south, right? that's critical. you have the railroads going to
chicago and nebraska and kansas down to el patio and south into mexico, right? and there was no border prior to 1924. it was a porous border. so my family crossed in the 1870s and then the sons would follow their fathers, right? and they wound up working the at the southern pacific railroad station, which is in southeast bakersfield. it's not operative today, but it's basically a historical relic. there's lots of folks from the historic society in bakeserfield that wants to make that old depot on sumner and baker into a historical monument. but there's not a lot of money out there for it right now. but if you go there, again, it's a historical relic, right? so in this particular image, this is the men who worked on the railroad. i'm not going try and point out my grandfather. i can see him, but there's a lot of men up there. so that was my father's side. through looking at my own family, one of the themes that emerged for me is that my mother's side, you have the
connections to agriculture and then through my father's side, you kind of had a more urban, a more industrial history, right? so that is two themes that i started to see. but i also asked myself, you know, this doesn't fit within that polemic that i was talking about at the start of the lukt temperatur lecture. this isn't a history that's connected to the united farm workers. so i had to inevitably ask myself, does the history matter at all? i found out that it did and that's what i want to impact for you. let me explain how i came to that process. so after i graduated from college at berkeley, i started graduate school first at cal state bakersfield and eventually i transferred to uc santa barbara. i was always attracted to colonial history but i couldn't imagine myself researching the the records of puritans or even
slave, shipwreckers, i just couldn't envision it. i wanted to do something that was maybe closer to home, that i could connect to. and i was always fascinated by the civil rights movement, right? so we talked a little bit about this last week. i want to explain that more in detail right now. so the image that you see is 1963, martin luther king jr., the march on washington for jobs and justice. your textbook talkses about this. martin luther jr. started his movement after the board of education versus brown decision. we talked a lot last week about earl warren as a supreme court justice who ruled in the brown case that segregation was inherently unequal, that it created this inferiority among people of color or children, african-american boys and girls.
but we also talked about massive resistance, right? we talked about white southerners not wanting to overturn this system of racial segregation. so enter king and the southern christian leadership conference and they started to try to integrate society in the south. one of their first targets was busing, right? they used a boycott of the southern busing system in montgomery, alabama, right? so in montgomery, alabama, you had a large number of african-americans who rode the bus every day to go to work. they encouraged those african-americans not to ride the bus. what did that do? it affected the bottom line of those busing companies and they couldn't segregate any more because they were losing money, right? so that was a major victory for king and his organization and from 1956 they went on to try to
integrate other industries and places in the south. it culminated in 1964, '65 when the federal government is going to pass the first civil rights legislation that really has some teeth in 1964 and then the voting rights act of 1965. so as interesting and as fascinating as i found that history, as somebody from bakersfield, as somebody from the american west, i kind of viewed this as another country, right? i had never been to the south. the story is very black and white. i had some trouble connecting to it, even if i found it interesting and fascinate to go read. other things that really got me going as a student of history were the stories of malcolm x, right, and the struggle for black people to secure rights and liberties and economic self-sufficiency in the north, right? but as fascinating as malcolm x is, it's a northern story, right? he is a muslim.
i'm a lapsed catholic. so i had some trouble connecting to the story even if i found it interesting or if i found it fascinating. for the purposes of our class tonight and your notes, one of the things that you might know about the difference between malcolm x and martin luther king jr. and this relates to cesar chavez, martin king was a practitioner of nonviolence, right? so the boycott itself is a strategy of protest through nonviolence. king believed in the power of love and moral persuasion that you can shame your enemy into changing their ways. malcolm x had a different philosophy of protest. he believed that if you were being attacked violently by the state or by the ku klux klan or by racist neighbors that you were perfectly within your rights to defend yourself, right, by violence if necessary, right?
so, again, there's another dichotomy there that, again, i found interesting, but i had some trouble relating to. as i progressed in graduate school, i was fortunate enough in the last ten years to read some books that helped to really broaden my perspective and horizons about how the story of the american west fit within that civil rights narrative that we've been talking about the last two weeks. and i kind of want to just lay out some of the themes for you because they connect in really concrete ways to the work that you guys are doing in your oral history projects. so randy shaw, in 2007, 2008, published a book called "beyond the fields." at this time in 2008, 2009, i had just finished b some of my course work at uc santa barbara and i came back to bakersfield to do some research. i actually got to teach a class at the university. so i assigned some of the scholars that i'm going to mention right now and his book was definitely one of them.
he had a great thesis and it was basically back, some of the most progressive social justice movements in recent history across the united states have been directly linked to the united farm workers. so when you look at the lgbtq movement, justice for janitors, the growth of latino california politics, all these organizers were trained first in the united farmers -- in the lane act, right? and that's what the brilliance of this book is, when you're right to look at the legacy of the farm worker movement, you have to connect it to the other social justice struggle movements. frank like historians said there were organizers who went on to write books.
so. eventually come to schools to pursue farm labor workers. the ufw had a presence and this book, trampling of the vintage, it's about 800 pages. it's really, really long. but some of the more interesting facets of the book that people are really, you know, attracted to is one of the tensions that exists within the farm worker movement story, right? and that is the tension between a union and strike breakers or between the union and what a lot of you talked about in your papers, undocumented labor, right? we talk a little bit about the reserve program in this class. i know many of you are the descendants of that. to refresh your memory for your notes, the presario program was
world war ii labor program that introduced guest workers to come in and fit the labor gap, the labor shortage in this country in the fields during the war. and the program winds up lasting into the '60s. it's very hard to form a union that is effective when growers can easily bring in undocumented people or presaros to help break strikes. so that was problem, a tension between the farm worker history movement and the stories of undocumented peoples. a lot of you talk about this in your histories and i had many students talk about it. two other books that i think are important in trying to understand this history, marian paul, she's a former journalist for the los angeles times. her book, the union of their dreams, interviews through oral history a handful of people who were key activists within the
ufw. it's a multi racial group. she interviews filipinos, mexicans, whites, men, women. it's a diverse book, right? so she captures their story and she try toes argue that in order to understand the history of the union, you need the stories of ordinary people, right? so that is one reason i have you do this oral history assignment is because the story of the farm worker movement is much broader than this cesar chavez, and larry iglion. there's ordinary people who made the movement go. that is what her book is designed to do. she also wrote one of the first biographies, the full biography of seizer chavez from birth to death. two books, also that i read that are really critical to understanding the diverse legacy of the farm worker movement, one, i really likes, "to march for others."
this book looks at the alliance between african-americans and the ufw, right? so none of you talked about this in your oral history, but i had some students talk about it in the past. the black panther party was one of the biggest supporters of the united farm workers, right? they helped run their boycotts in california communities, especially in the bay area, up in oakland. so her book walks you through how african-americans interpreted and align themselves and in some cases didn't align themselves with the united farm workers union. it's a brilliant, brilliant book. another text, matt marcia's book from the jaws of victory, the real contribution of this text in my mind is he chronicles the history of the boycott as a strat by. so when you think about the united farm workers and the strategies that they use, there's two that are defining. strike and a boycott.
a strike is to not go on to the work site, right, and to try to keep people from crossing your pickett line, right? that's how you affect your employer, so give you higher wages. you set up a pickett line, go on strike and the labor stops. you affect their bottom line. the hard part is you have to convince people not to cross that pickett line, right, mott to go to work. so that was one of the ufw's strategies. but one of the more influential strategies was the boycott. so that is what his book talks about, about how the boycott emerged as a strategy. what is a boycott? it's when you prevent the consumption, right, of a particular product. in this case, it was grapes. so if you go outside of this classroom and you look across the fields, what do you see, right? grape fields. do the field of delano of kern county consume all of those grapes? absolutely not. it's a world market. so this is what the ufw did is
they sent poor farm workers from delano to new york, to chicago, to canada, to europe where all the marketplace was for california table grapes and they went to stores, they went to consumers and they convinced them not to buy those grapes because if you did, what were you doing? you were reinforcing inhumane working conditions for farm workers, right? so his text talks about the evolution of the boycott strategy. so, again, to kind of recap that, these are some of the books that i read in graduate school that i liked a lot, but still i had some trouble relating to it because, as i mentioned with my own family, on my father's side, we were farm workers. i didn't say this about my mother's side, but my grandmother, i remember asking my mother about this and my grandmother in her old age. she was absolutely not a supporter of cesar chavez and the farm workers movement. she used to cross the pickett
line a safe way all the time to go and buy grapes. according to her, no one was going to tell her where she could and couldn't shop. so, again, and i know this from your oral histories, many of you talked to people who were supporters of the ufw, some people who were very involved in the union, but then others who were very ambivalent and in some cases hostile to the unit. so i think we'll talk about that maybe towards the end of class. but i want to talk a little bit about my own research, right? so right now, i was painting a picture for you about the research that's out there and then how i carved out a small space for myself as a historian researching labor and civil rights in the west. so as a graduate student, one of the defining things that you have to do is find primary sources, right? which is what you're doing in your oral history. you have a primary source in the person that you talk to. so as i started to dig around in the archives, i found some very cool fascinating stuff.
and i just want to share a few pieces of this with you. this particular image comes from downtown bakersfield in 1965 and this is a memorial march in solidarity with martin luther king jr. this is before he's assassinated. he's assassinated in 1968. this is 1965. so it's basically a march in bakersfield to show solidarity and support you for what's happening in the south. but what happened at this event in bakersfield, too, was a recognition of what was happening here in kern county, not only with the strike, but for a broader agenda of civil rights reform that was happening locally. so to get a thousand people in the street is not easy, all right. there was an organization locally in kern county called the kern coalition for civic unity. they were the ones who organized this strike. they got a thousand bodies in the street. so as i started to research this organization more, i uncovered a treasure trove of material that
this organization had been in bakersfield since the late 1940s. and had been active in organizing people of color to integrate bakersfield in a variety of ways. and i'll highlight a few of those. since, as i said, the 1940s and the 1950s. and that was fascinating to me. when i had studied, as i said, civil rights history or labor rights history in the west, all you really hear about is the story of cesar chavez. you don't find out there's a concurrent movement happening on the ground locally. what i argue in my research is that in order to understand the true legacy of civil rights history in this part of the american west, central california where the ufw was active, you also need to understand this connection to this local urban history that i'm going to describe to you. so as i mentioned, the kccu, the civil unity movement promoted racial integration. that was one of their big
agendas. so what exactly is racial incidents gragz? that integration? let me give it some e-mailing meaning by talking about schools. so one of the chapters in my dissertation had to do with desegregation of the bakersfield school district. i mentioned this to you last week that the bakersfield city school district today is the largest elementary school district in the state of california. it's a very, very large district. and this particular photograph comes from potomac school, 1953. i know it's hard to see the date at the bottom, right? but you see the teacher and then you see the students, right? and what do you notice about the students? if you look at their faces, right? they tend to be children of color. you see a lot of african-american boys and girls and you also see some mexicans
sprinkled throughout. my father, that's why i show this picture, is the little boy on the top with the two patches right here on the breast. that's my father. and my father had seven siblings and they all worked for these schools. as i was doing my research for my dissertation, i started to my aunts and uncles and i looked at their year books. it was an absolutely wonderful experience. because i knew what racial segregation was, but to really see it incarnate, in these photographs was a very powerful experience, right? so, again, my family attended predominantly racially segregated schools, black and lati latino from the 1930s through the 1950s. this is '53, prior to the brown decision, but this is also california. we talked about the mendez case. i mentioned this last week.
southern california, 1947, '48, mexican schools were overturned, argue you couldn't segregate mexican kids because they were tentatively white according to the census. this is the thing that i learned in the process of my dissertation that separated the story of the south from the west. so when you're looking at segregation in the american south, it's what's called dujury segregation, right? segregation by law. that's where you have the drinking fountains for white and black, or you have hard segregation by local ordinances. you didn't quite get that out west, right? it's what the scholars and sociologyists called de facto segregation, right? i can even write these terms on the board because analytically they might be useful to you as you do these, de facto versus de jury.
it's almost by practice, by will. what i found in doing some of my research is that that's kind of not true, that there were very much public policies that were in place that segregated kids with color. one of them obviously is labor, right? so you tend to live near your job. and if your job doesn't hire, you know, people of color, right, or only hires people of color, you're going to live in a certain part of town. so that is one commonality that segregated blacks and latinos in southeast bakersfield. another that was even more critical was something called racial covenants and we've talked about racial covenants before, but i just, again, want to remind you what they are. these were agreements, right, between people who were buying property and selling property that, again, you would not sell your property to a person of color, right, if you were to sell the deed on your house. and so there were certain parts of town that people of color were absolutely not allowed to
buy property in. and so as i dug a little bit deeper, i started to find this in bakersfield. and so this is another primary source that i unearthed in my research process at the library in downtown bakersfield. it's a census map of bakersfield in 1940. and the brilliant thing about this particular map is it shows you the city limits of bakersfield. so the city limits are the hard lines there and the white dots that are inside each of the little dots symbolizes 20 persons. .you can see the black dots, those are people who are living on the outside of the city. and so one of the points that i mentioned when i talked about the okie migration was that the population of california, especially the central valley, grew dramatically in the late 1930s and early 1940s. you have okeys who were not just white, but you have black okies and mexicans, right.
the chavez family was displaced during the depression and joined the migrant trail into california in the '30s. the population grew dramatically in bakersfield in the 30s and 40s. so i think this census map captures a little bit of that. my favorite part of this map is i know it might be hard to see, so i'll kind of walk over here. this right here, does anyone know what this street is? i would be very surprised. does anyone know their bakersfield geography? union. very, very good. absolutely, right? and then do you know what this street is? california. oh, wow, you guys are really, really good. you know your bakersfield geography. so nowadays, that part of town, if you can go to union and california in your mind, like, you know, what does it look like, right? you tend to have a lot of poverty, motels, prostitution,
drugs. what was the that part of town historically? well, this was historically the african-american enclave, right? and you can see it's just right outside the city limits. but the city fathers, the city council deliberately excluded this part of the community because it was known as, again, the quote unquo negro part of town, the black part of town. historically. this was the african american enclave. and you can see it's just right outside the city limits. but the city fathers right the city counsel deliberately excluded this part of town because it was known as the black part of town. they were not allowed to buy property within city limits. part of my research looked at the struggle of that community to join the city. what are some of the benefits in being part of city? there are certain tax benefits that might go along with it, service, sewer lines, fire department, police. that might go alone. services.
suer lines. fire department. police. all the things become civil rights struggles for ordinary people living on the outskirts of bakersfield. to go back to the map if you look across the river, that's oil dell. i'm not going to talk a lot about oil dell other than a few points. i remember growing up as a kid, i didn't go to oil dale. why didn't you go? well you ask your older brothers or uncles or parents and they tell you, well, they're not very kind to people who might look like you. oil dale had a reputation as being what they called a sunset town. meaning if you were a person of color, you didn't let the sun go down on you in the community. taft also a sunset community. you didn't want to be caught there after dark if you were a person of color. particularly african american. in fact, the first african american didn't attend north high until 1962. that's one of the things i learned. had a very active kkk chapter. my point is this is some of the things i was unearths through trying to study labor and civil rights. it was connected to this deeper history of racial segregation and also racial integration. so as i said, going back to this slide.
the civic unity movement was the flag ship organization to promote racial integration in the labor market in the housing market in bakersfield. they were also some of the biggest supporters of cesar chavez and the farm worker movement. early on when the farm workers movement was a fledging union. barely surviving off donations of other people. you have the urban based movement with lawyers, attorneys. people who had diz posable income channelling support to at that time the national farm workers association. a couple other points i want to share with you. just to get you thinking about this place before we shift to other things. i mentioned to you in a previous lecture when we talked about the oakky. lang was a famous photographer. she worked for the government.
capturing of what was happening to agricultural workers. she snapped the famous migrant mother image on stamps and whatnot. she spent time in southeast bakersfield. so the photographs i'll show you now come from her kind of chronicling what was happening to the african american migrant population in that part of town. these are students as i recall the caption read walking home from the current high school district. if you look around you can see what that area looked like. no paved roads, in some cases there was very poor sewage. poor sanitation. and you have the communities that were pretty much entirely racially segregated. so that gives you insight into what the communities might have looked like prior to them joining the city limits. i really like these as well. this one shows you really what's essential hi like a shack. that would have been rented by african american cotton workers and cotton wood.
which again is in the southeast part of bakersfield. and when i see these images as a historian the thing that jumps out to me is wow, the condition of migrant farm workers for african americans hasn't changed that much since the end of slavery. even by 1940s. the standards of living are very poor. and so that's a way that as a historian i began to connect the story of was co. or the story of southeast bakersfield to the story of african americans in the american south. i started to see a real connection there. this is an up close blow up of the previous slide tla i showed you with the little boy standing in front of the wood shack there. this particular image gives you a sense of what the streets might have looked like. very impovished communities. again there's a point of
comparison. trying to analyze poverty. again on both sides of the border. like a will the of you were talking about how the migration to the united states was a story of mobility upward. i don't discount that. in some cases, the mobility takes generations to actually achieve. it doesn't occur with the migrants but maybe their children. so i want to talk about the war on poverty. because again this is another subject that's very large within u.s. history. that's one of the points i'm trying to get you thinking about today. how the story of the farm workers is connected to broader currents within u.s. history. so i told you i talk about school integration. in my dissertation and the
battle to integrate the schools in the bcsd. i have a section that deals with the war on poverty. 1964, linn don towards the end of his life, john kennedy was becoming very progressive. he was early years as president, very hesitant in some ways to overly support civil rights actors. but he definitely moved towards that prior to his assassination. when john son comes into office he tries to bring forth the spirit that kennedy wanted to enact. launching a war on poverty. so when you're looking across the united states in 1960s. it's a period of economic growth for certain segments of society. but for others it's absolutely not. johnson had a belief that if we're the richest country in the world we shouldn't have people lifing in some of the conditions i have described to you. in kern county the same organization that i was talking about the kern civic unity movement was a coalition of many
different organizations. one of those organizations was called the community service organization. and the community service organization is where chavez cut his teeth as an organizer. before he organized farm workers. and so there was an organization of the cse in bakersfield. a statewide organization. also spread beyond california as well. and the cso was an early organization working through the civic unity movement to gain federal money to fight poverty. how do you do that. it's a concept. how dwrou fight poverty. go into the communities i described to you and trying to report on the conditions that people actually lived in. so this fellow right here is the man named jes se and he was
active within the cso. and he was a community organizer in southeast bakersfield. he did a variety of things from getting ordinary people to vote. getting them to attend city council meetings to be aware of how local policies were affecting them. when they got federal dollars to fight poverty. they were able to go in there and do concrete programs to try to improve the living conditions of the people of the southeast bakersfield. and some of the biggest supporters of the union of the farm workers movement. to kind of dial this back to what we were talking about, at the beginning of the segment of the lecture. the farm worker movement we have talked about it tonight. but we haven't talked about it tonight. as i was trying to unpack what the story is before we talk
about the plan of delano, as i said chavez mai dprated to california and joined the migrant circuit because of the depression. a lot of you know what the migrant circuit is. you follow the crops essentially. he became involved with the organization the cso community service organization. where he cut his teeth as a community organizers. it proved resistant to actually wanting to organize farm workers. so he left the cso in the early 1960s and formed a new organization called the national
farm workers association. delores huerta she has her office in downtown bakersfield. probably the most prominent latino american living today. still doing great work. was a cofounder of the organization. it wasn't a union yet. they weren't quite ready when they were founded to actually start a union. in 1965, i know some of you know this history, the philippines are going on strike. on september 8, 1965. and chavez and the nfwa join the fill philippine on the strike. to walk out on the fields in protest of higher wages. the strike will last five long years. along the way i told you the beginning of the lecture that the strategy shifts, right, from the strike to the boycott of grapes. but it takes five long years of farm workers organizing themselves, boycotting grapes, protesting, trying to get consumers to not consume delano table grapes to really get the industry to finally agree to sign contracts. that does happen in 1970. so that's the kind of short history of the vfw. i want to spend a few minutes talking about valdez and the
plan for delano. the document that i had you read. because i think this document captures some of the spirit of the time. the spirit of the 1960s. particularly when we're talking about mexican americans. and i want to say a few words about louis before i open this up to discussion. valdez is from the central valley. he went onto attend college in the san francisco bay area. and when the strike was beginning in 1965, he made this conscious decision to leave the bay area in his education up there to come to delano. and work with chavez. and his contributions were many. beyond this document he was the founder of our farm workers theater. which helped to really gal voe vo niz the farm workers union. if you're on a strike line all day, you need something to
entertain yourself. so people would perform skits. it was a way to communicate a message. many farm workers were illiterate. they didn't read. they tried to capture why it was important for farm workers to organize. later on in his life in career, he would go onto be a famous play write. he also directed something kul called. a. he's still doing really great work. he also coauthored the plan for delano with chavez. and it's a very short document. and i went ahead and drafted a few questions. i want to throw them out there and open it up for conversation and comment that you might have about that particular document. and how it connects to your oral history. so, these are five questions that i posed about the document. i asked what specific reforms
were being proposed by the union. a little bit of context in 1966, if you read the beginning of the document, the document was drafted during the march to sacramento. when the union was marching to sacramento to pressure the governor and the legislature again to pay attention to the struggles of farm workers. chavez again when we're talking about a march, mlk jr. had done marchs in the south. and india. cesar knew about these things. he's implementing non-violent protests in the valley.
what is injustice mean in the document? that word comes up repeatedly. i asked what is revolution mean in the context of the document. religion. what role does religion play in the movement. and finally. how does the plan deal with other ethnicities. the document mentioned this. let me open it up to you guys who read the text coming into class. what were some of your reactions to the text? >> don't be shy. yeah? >> i noticed he kind of implies that they're not treat as humans. dehumanized throughout the whole document. >> i would argue that dehumanization is absolutely a theme that he's trying to e list sit in the text. that might raise other questions
that many of you could tease out in your oral history. like how are farm workers dehumanized. what specifically makes farm labor almost an inhumane job. the way that's it's being described. that's a question that we can consider. what are other general reactions to the text? >> you talk about them actually creating an understanding by saying they're going to have a change in the whole, e i guess the workplace. but don't actually change it. they just talk about it. and after that they just still treat them the same and nothing changes. >> remember this is 1966. a specific moment. your question or comment is related to -- ashly i'm sorry. your question about what are the changes that are actually being called for. it's really important to ground that in some kind of specific.
one thing they're doing is looking for recognition. looking for growers to acknowledge there was a union. that's something growers didn't want to do. and that's one change that they're trying to call for. recognition from their employer. that there is a union among farm workers. >> they actually have a chance to also join them in the whole. >> yeah that people can join the union and employers will negotiate with the union. very good. what are other reactions to the text? so far we have on the table again the idea of workers being dehumanized and also one of the changes that they're calling for is union recognition. what are other reactions to the text. >> one thing i did -- i was reading. i read that it said that they tried to get everything pretty much passed by without using violence and stuff like that.
one thing i did realize what i was doing the oral presentation when i was talking to the person i interviewed, she said that she was actually one of the workers that would go work while they were striking. and one thing they would do is they would throw rocks the strikers would throw rocks and pretty much insult them for working. >> this is a really important issue. there are a few people who talk about this. during the strike phase in 66 was before the boycott, you would -- if you go out in the field and social security. >> reporter: imagine like a picket line of not only farm workers but college kids. from out of town. trying to prevent workers from going into the work site. how do you do that. you can shout, you can scream, you can try to convince the workers come join our struggle. many people don't want to join the struggle. they want to work. they have to feed their families. they're not certain.5a they're scared. a lot of people talk about fear.
here's another point about the violence. i know i have students talk about this. many people who participated in the movement, like many social movements of the era, were compelled to use tactics that were in some cases violent or destroying property. this is why cesar was really important. he held together a union based on non-violence. if in fact people within his movement were being violent, right? he was able to pressure them to stop that behavior. how it he do this? through the fast. so he didn't vent this tactic. probably the most famous practitioner of this in modern history would be gandi. he decolonized india from the british empire. that was a violent struggle. one of the ways he kept the peace is said i'm going to fast until death. unless my followers stop being
violent. they need to be peaceful to the colonizers. let the colonizer leave out the door willingingly. you don't have to throw rocks or bombs. i think what you're hinting at is a reality during the strike phase. it's very tense to be on the strike line. and violence works both ways. a lot of people in this room in your oral history talked about violence from the police. from the sheriffs. from growers, right? it goes both ways. again chavez through non-violence wanted to keep the peace. and again it was a struggle for him. he did many fasts throughout his career. very good point though. other reactions to the text? these are very good so far.
other reactions? don't be shy. yeah? >> i was wondering you know how there's people -- they prefer not to be violent at all. but what about the people who are too passive and don't they just accept it. fear or don't care. >> yeah let me respond to that. one thing you should note and i definitely thing that chavez understood this completely. i encourage everyone before you die, go up to la paz. which is the headquarters of the united farm workers. they have cesars office. that left just the way it is when he passed away. chavez only had an eighth grade education. when you walk into his office, books. so he was highly educated and highly literate. and to answer your question, non-violence was not being passive. non-violence is a philosophical strategy. it's shaming your enemy to change their ways. again cesar was not pass aif at all. the ufw was not passive at all they wanted to engage the public engage the media to get people to cover this story. this was why internationally people today are studying delano. it was the special moment of activism. for that sleeping giant that we
talked about. let me also complicate that by talking about fear, again. i got this from a lot of oral history. is for some families, right, who were undocumented. or for some families who were not part of the union, fear was a real driver of them during the era. they didn't want to go join the union because there was a fear of being punished by your employer. in some cases people talk about the fear of being assaulted or accosted physically. it tended to work more at least with the oral history that i read from students over the years, where again they really feared being fired. or deported. for joining the union. those are the big fears that people who were my students who lived this history to their families that's something they reported. i made this comment in your papers for those who talk about fear as a theme to focus on.
because this goes for all workers in the country. when you look at the history of labor. we talk about the homestead strike in the 1890s. workers took over karn gee steel works. what happened to that strike, it was crushed by td employer. so again the idea of joining a union and the fear of doing that, it took tremendous courage to do it. but at the same time i understand the other side. i understand why people went to work. my grandmother was not a supporter of the union. she took it as a point a pride as a consumer to not be told by anybody where she could and couldn't shop. that was her outlook and world view. these are very good comments. others.
there must be other issues. again i have questions on the board. maybe i can pick on a few of you. so i'll let me start with my si. you had a chance to work with some students maybe in your tutor sessions for the class. could you maybe say a few remarks about what are some of the issues that you saw students engaging with? >> i know a big part of the chavez movement was the fact that violence did happen while on strike. that was a big part of most of the people that came and talked to me and the things that we discussed about it. and that also happened with some of my family members when they were -- my grandparents when they were working they were kind of assaulted by some of the people that were on strike. but they still realize that they were doing something that was
for the good of all of them and they appreciated that. and there was other stuff that people were talking about especially the document was about religion and how they didn't only include just catholics since they were mexican. but they included all the other religions. >> absolutely. i'll address those two points. on the violence point, why was chavez so committed to non-violence? in part because people within the movement some of them were pressuring to be mf more violent. as a leader of a social movement, he has to be very principled. in saying i am not going to have violence within my movement. that's -- he's not you knee in that. most leaders of social movements progressive movements again the question of violence versus non-violence was a big dilemma among social movement groups. chavez is known as being one of the more successful practitioners of non-violent at least in the united states.
that might be a theme in your paper. the other point you mentioned. could you refresh me. >> religion. and they didn't exclude any other religions. >> this is in the text. so another cool thing that i encourage you to do. go to la paz. there it's a great monument that notes jews, christians, and muslims. because jews christians and muslims were part of the farm worker movement. from the organizers to the participants. and again if you read the plan, it's very clear that this is an movement. not juts a catholic movement. it was not an exclusive organization. it was brought together by people of different faiths and different ethnic groups different racial groups.
that's what made the farm worker movement very unique. in some ways in the 1960s. other movements tended to be more parochial. more focussed on one demographic group. you have the farm worker movement able to bring people together. i mentioned frank bart key the author of the book. he was at berkeley. why did he leave. that was the best public institution. why did he come to the fields of delano. there's other stories like this. marshall begans who is a lecture at harvard university. he's from bakersfield. he dropped out of harvard. to go join the movement. so that gives you a sense of gravity that the farm worker movement had in the 1960s. one of the things that gave is real gravity and power is the religious element. and it's open to all. it's non-excluive. that was something that people remember about the ideaism of the 1960s.
that's what i want you to leave with when you look about the text. this is an ideal document. what kind of society, right, that farm workers want to envision for themselves. what are some other reactions to the text? >> i believe the reason this was so successful was because they were calling not just the farm workers in delano. they were calling farm workers from other states. negros, japanese. all those people. not just the people that were here. that is another reason it was so successful. >> yeah, again in terms of the books that i mentioned. the ufw was not just a movement in the central valley. it is a national phenomenon. they're in texas, arizona, they're up in the midwest. it is regionally diverse. it's not just in delano. although this is the epicenter
in some ways. ip to open up to more discussion. but i want to also stress one point before i forget. when we think ant farm worker organizing another thing to remember, is that there were efforts to organize farm workers before 1965. but we don't really remember them. because they didn't succeed. so that's really critical. farm worker movements generally failed. for a variety of reasons. prior to to 1965 there was heavy organization from farm workers in the 1930s. but it kind of peters out for a variety of reasons. they don't last as unions. and this is what makes the united farm workers very significant. even today. they have a large presence. not only in organizing farm workers. they do a variety of things beyond organizing farm workers. one of the most impressive things they do is a they have a
program that provides housing for the elderly. and this is like you want to live there. i took a tour with cesars grandson and i was just so impressed by the kind of community that they're building for the retired. so rather than having a farm worker population that is not part of labor laws, in the 1960s. they're outside the law in many ways they don't have the same kinds of protection that industrial workers have. they're outside the scope of protection. they don't get social security. when you hit retirement age, do you have a safety net. no. you don't. you're at the mercy of your families. again the ufw in recent times has kind of pioneered these programs that provide retirement for farm workers. and it's a model program in my view.
but again to round out that before we can open it up to discussion. i want to finish the point i was making what makes the ufw his historically significant is that they were the first union to successfully organize farm workers and sign contracts. to successfully organize farm workers to get recognition from industry and sign contracts and they survive. they're around today. whereas prior labor unions are not. they died off. what are some other comments and reactions to this text? maybe from folks, maybe i could pick on dellia martinez. one of my favorite former students. delia, could you or maybe your guest just kind of maybe react to some of the things that we've talked about or specifically the plan that we're talking about? >> well i highly underlined the area that talked about the relation to the virgin, the guadalupe, the sacred cross and the star of david. i like how they emphasize how
they wanted to make it known to the people that you know, they wanted to protect the workers from greed. and to me when i thought of that, i thought of the bible, you know the what is in the religious texts is that greed is one of the roots of all evil. so by you know, getting all these religious people or just making it known that they are protecting the people and protecting them from the root of the greed. and making it known that hey, anyone who the star of david, the sacred cross, they weren't biased. anyone was allowed to participate in. >> i actually really appreciate that point.
two things react to that. my adviser from uc santa barbara is a man named milo garcia. he'll be at bakersfield college on may 5th, cinco de mayo, one of the books he polished was the gospel of caesar chavez. he put together a compilation of speeches, documents that demonstrate the catholocism and the centrality of catholocism. caesar edited this with luis. what you're referencing there in my viewpoint about greed, greed and the how do you oppose or how it has these biblical overtones, that hints at the question of revolution, right? what's really being called for here is an overturning of an agricultural labor system, that's based on greed. and it's almost to redistribute
that greed at the top, to ordinary farm workers, right. that's the revolution that's being called for. the way that you sustain a movement to challenge that is partly through religion, right. that's going to bring people together. you mention the image of the virgin. i, they used to have mass in the fields, right? how do you pull people together to run a strike, to commit to that, to the church service, you get priests to come to the fields and to give the communion. and it's not just catholic priests, it's ecumenical. this is some of the nonviolent strategies that the union moved to make the revolution go. infusing the religious message, right? that's pretty radical in for some of you, i know you hit on this. i have to mention this. i will put a resource on our web page, it's called the caesar
chavez special study report. it's done by the federal government, the national park service, it has a list of historic sites in delano. for some of you who are next few weeks as you revise your papers, one of the things that will make me very happy is if you consider to going to some of these historical sites. one of those is our lady of guadalupe church which is where the strike was called in 1965. the church in delano was very much divided. you had west of the highway 99, you had the churches that were a little more progressive allying with the farmóft workers andç of highway 99 you tended to have the catholics who were allied more with the growers, right? when you talk about religion and how religion can be used to make religion grow, it's not being used as a monolith. it's split by the movement.
although now a days, right, we have robert kennedy high school. we have caesar chavez high school and in some ways the division within delano is not as prominent as it was. you i don't know if you remember this, when robert kennedy high school got named or caesar chavez high school got named, there was some resistance in this community to name those schools after those individuals. it was a very divisive history, right? robert kennedy, i don't know if i mentioned this to you, in 1966 he was a senator and he brought the senate subcommittee on migratory labor to delano, it was at delano high and they had hearings where people reported on the conditions in the field and the strike and there's a famous exchange, i could post link for you online where bobby kennedy, john's brother, who was seen as the inheritor of the
kennedy legacy, since john had been killed, he tells the kern county sheriff to read the constitution of the united states during a lunch break. because the sheriff was arresting strikers preemptively before they had done anything. he was arresting them so they wouldn't do violence, right? that's unconstitutional. it's a very famous exchange. but it gives you a sense of why you have kennedy high school. it's remembering the legacy of the kennedy family to advancing the conditions of farm workers. i feel from the oral history that there's a range of things that still haven't been mentioned. let me throw some ideas out there and see if this triggers any of your imaginations, we've talked about fear which i thought was very good. we've talked about violence, supporters of the union. where is lydia? there she is. lydia, can you just say a little
bit about the oral history that you did? because i thought the person that you interviewed was absolutely wonderful. just say a little bit about how you came to it and what you got from that story. >> yeah, i interviewed bertrand o gusto. he was very involved. he told me he came from, it was from arizona. and he, he used to work in the fields as well. and in salinas for some reasons he moved to early bird. and he went one day, one of his cousins i believe it was one of his cousins invited him to go to listen to caesar chavez. and he was like okay, let's go. so he went and he, he listened to everything, the words he had to say like they impact him in a great way. because he said that at when he was sitting there listening to
him, he was thinking to himself, hey, this is me, this is my father this is my uncles, you know. talking about farm workers. that very same day, he went to him after everything had finished and told him, i'm in, i'm with you and the next day he went and he told his boss, i can't work no more. and he talked about it was that it was hard during the strike. >> five long years. >> like you said, they were living on donations and stuff like that. to him it was a very big privilege to be able to work next to a person like him because it impacted his life in a great way. to always strive for what you want, no matter what comes your way or what people tell you or how many things they put in front of you to always strike
for whatever reason. and not give up. >> the story that you just captured really speaks to what my man in the background in the back about, fear. he had fear, right? about joining this movement. but once he heard the words of caesar chavez, once he heard him speak, he overcame that fear and he couldn't do anything but join this cause, right? and he, the oral history is really good, because he talks about almost everything that's been brought up. he talks about the violence. about how some people on both sides were violent toward one another. but caesar intervened, right? and did the fast to try to calm the situation. or he talked again about what you said, about overcoming that fear. about joining a movement. i really wish that and i think this might happen in the future, i've been doing this for four years, where students in delano do oral history projects.
in my u.s. history class, my california class and i have them all. i have contact with all the students, there's an effort at uc merced, to build an oral history project. even the scholarship i mentioned, the six books, none of them talk about the farm worker movement at a grassroots level, about how ordinary people experienced movement. they focus on the activists, the organizers, but not necessarily ordinary people, the grassroots people, i think that's what's so rich about this project in the case of your individual, that's a really important history. i'm glad you put me in contact with him. he's definitely is somebody i want to interview. but my hope, too. that one day, you can read everyone else's or have access to them. my suspicion is that within four to five years, there's going to be a digital database, there's going to be recruitment efforts to try to capture these
narratives, because people are getting older. people are not living -- they're dying, right? they have things in their garages that need to be digitized, i encourage my students to capture the family histories, they're so, so rich. >> for my filipino students, who interviewed filipinos, could any of you comment maybe a little bit about the question about how other ethnic groups surfaced within this plan more generally, when you did your oral history. what are some of the issues in your mind filipino farm workers. what are some of the issues that they face? how might it differentiate or be similar to the story of mexican farm workers. where are my students who talked to filipinos? i know there's some of you, two? what's your name? could you tell maybe a little bit about your interview?
>> i interviewed my grandpa. and he was a farmer for like since 19 the 7 when he came here. and mexicans were like they're so nice to them and they don't, they don't, they don't like, they don't -- >> you're doing fine. >> they treat them like they're one of them. they're like, they treat them, they're united and they work together. and it's just like that, there's no racial segregation and everything. >> so your oral history talked a lot about maybe interethnic harmony between filipinos and mexicans. that's a big theme when we're talking about the story of farm labor in delano. the united farm workers was called that because it was the
merging of the national farm workers association. which was predominantly mexican and the agricultural workers organizing committee, which was primarily filipino. those two groups joined and became the united farm workers. i know you interviewed a filipino. could you say a few words about how the kind of content of your oral history maybe intersects with some of the history that we've been talking about tonight. >> my dad -- [ inaudible ] [ inaudible ] >> my dad didn't experience any hostility. he told me about the pay, i believe it was like $1.65 an hour. he had a bonus of 28 cents per box because they got bonuses for how many boxes they could fill. >> a lot of folks who interviewed their family members talked about wages.
one of the pieces of information, when you go into the revision process, you might want to hammer down dates. chronology is important. chronology, 1965, with the launch of the delano grape strike and mostly 1970, a five-year strike and bow coyote when the ufw gets contact. le much of the oral history that people in this room did is about the 1970s and 180s. you might want to go back to your subjects and make sure you can clarify the dates that you're actually talking about. because again as i said, mostly we've been talking about the heyday of the united farm workers. 1965-1970 would be the high point of farm labor organizing when the ufw has the most clout. but as the 1970s and '80s come along, the union evolves, it is not as successful in organizing
farm workers after the late 1970s and the '80s. as are many labor unions in the united states. the rise of conservatism. ronald reagan. there was a backlash against labor unions in this country which we'll talk about more next week. you want to hammer down those dates, a little bit more with your subjects to clarify time. i want to say a few concluding synthetic remarks before we take our break. so again if you recap what we talked about tonight, we talked about family history, right? about how family history can be a lens into studying topics of race, ethnicity, civil rights, labor, in the american west and all of you have done that. little baby historians, doing this great research project. i highlighted myself about how my own research process started with something very similar.
trying to figure out how my own family, how that story connects to bigger themes in american history. in this case, okees and the farm worker movement. primary sources versus something called secondary sources, all of you now have unearthed a great primary source. i'll bet, i'm not going to poll you. but i'm willing to bet that whoever you interview has a photo album. maybe even during the interview they have the photo album out and say hey do you want to see my photo album? no, i don't, i just want to have dinner. go back and look at the photo album. everything has to do revision which is are a little bit more targeted. if your subjects have photographs or historical documents that you want to include, or talk about or analyze in your paper, that's something that i strongly encourage you to do. and again know that in the coming years there might be a very aggressive effort led by
bakersfield college and myself and in partnership with other organizations to get all that stuff digitized for the future. 20 years from now, 30 years from now, when people are trying to write the story of farm labor, the people that you interviewed, they might not be around who is going to guarantee that their materials are preserved? hopefully it's going to be you. >> but again to kind reef cap. we talk about family history. we talk about the union, but more in a way to highlight my own research, which again the argument that the civil rights movement, the labor rights movement was ultimately a little broader than questions of farm labor and in order to understand the gravity of the union movement you need to understand that it was connected to other struggles for civil rights and racial integration here in kern county and especially in bakersfield to kind of close with the plan of delano, again you should read this document as symbolizing the idealism of the farm worker movement.
about bringing people together of all faiths, of all racial ethnic groups and it's a remembering of the struggles and triumphs of the mexican people, right? a plan of delano referencing previous plans issued by people of mexican descent in protest. you think of about that symbolizing in the 160s. experience that, right maybe they were part of the movement or maybe they were outside of the movement. go back to your subjects and now that you're a little bit more versed on the idealism of the farm worker movement, engage with your organize history subject and ask more questions and try to figure out what was their world view. if it was driven by fear, take it one step further by saying they had to feed their families. it was an issue of pure
economics, maybe they saw the movement as being too idealist, right? you'll never know until you ask the question, okay. i thank you for participating tonight and i look forward to your visions in your paper. this is exciting work. i applaud you for your participation tonight. thank you so much. [ applause ] you're watching american history tv.