¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 2 (Part 1)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 2 (Part 1)
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The primary source document described below, which can be viewed by clicking the thumbnail at right, is part of a 1,434-page file on César Chávez and the farmworker movement compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) between 1965 and 1973. The FBI's surveillance of Chávez, which paralleled larger efforts to prove that protest groups of the civil rights era had been infiltrated by subversive influences, was unable to uncover any evidence of communism or corruption in the activities of Chávez and his followers.

The FBI's dossier on Chávez was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which contains provisions that allowed the FBI to withhold portions of the documents from public view. Indeed, many parts—and in some cases, entire pages—have been excised from the files. Nevertheless, the collection provides a compelling window into the efforts of the farmworker movement, as well as the values and methods of the FBI itself.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) closely followed the individuals and groups associated with the Delano grape strike, which began in 1965 and lasted until 1970. The strike was originally launched in Kern County, California, by Filipino and Mexican migrant laborers who were seeking higher wages, better working conditions, and the right to collective bargaining. Under the leadership of César Chávez and the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), the movement spread to numerous states where supporters held public protests and boycotted California grapes.

In a memo dated January 21, 1966, the Los Angeles field office reported information from several sources considered "of continuing value" and whose identities were concealed to protect "their future effectiveness." Once source stated that no major disturbance had arisen from picketers in the previous months, but warned that fights between protesters and working farm laborers may occur in the future. The memo also summarized the actions of Dolores Huerta, Walter P. Reuther, Wendy Gospel, James Lynn Drake, and Harvey Richards within the movement and listed their address, date of birth, car descriptions, and driver's license information. The memo also described the November 1965 arrest of Chávez for the illegal use of a loud speaker.

The Los Angeles document noted communist links to the NFWA and the labor movement, including a photograph of Huerta taken by Richards that appeared in the communist newspaper, People's World. Additionally, demonstrations in New York City; Washington, D.C; and Chicago were attributed to the work of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), who had been under surveillance for possible communist infiltration. According to a source, two communists had participated in discussions on October 17, 1965, by the Mexican American Political Association, which voted to support the strike. The memo also contained a notice by El Malcriado, a NFWA publication, that denounced an ad, which claimed the newspaper would pay for information that resulted in arrests of individuals who denounced labor leaders as communists.

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