¡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 4)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 2 (Part 4)
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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.

In March and April 1966, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) field offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco reported events related to a march organized by the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). On March 17, César Chávez and about 100 protesters began a the 300-mile march from Delano to Sacramento, which was closely covered by reporters. Along the way, the group stopped at cities where they were often housed, feed, and joined by local supporters. Pressured by the publicity of the march, Schenley Industries, one of the grape growers the workers were striking, agreed to recognized the NFWA and negotiate a union contract with Chávez on April 3. One week later, on Easter Sunday, thousands of marchers gathered at the Sacramento capitol for a rally to celebrate their journey.

A communiqué dated March 14, 1966, along with other subsequent documents, discussed information about the upcoming march compiled by the Los Angeles field office from various sources. Several documents reported the status and conditions of the march, including its start in Delano (see Los Angeles report on March 17) and stops at Turlock, Modesto, Manteca, Stockton, Lodi, and Thornton (see San Francisco reports on April 1, 4, and 7). In an April 13 report, the San Francisco field office observed about 6,000 people greeting the 1,000 marchers as they reached their final destination at the Sacramento Capitol on April 10 in a gathering described as "peaceful and no incidents of a violent nature."

In an April 11 letter, an employee of Schenley Industries informed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover that the company had reached an agreement with Chávez to recognize the NFWA, though the correspondent had not been aware of negotiations until they had been completed.

The FBI also monitored demonstrations in other cities to show support for the NFWA marchers. An April 4 report by the Chicago field office  described a 250-person march organized by the Chicago Citizens' Committee to Aid Delano Farm Workers. The Los Angeles office anticipated marches in Riverside (see April 5 report) and Palm Springs (see April 8 and 11 reports) planned by the Riverside County in Support of the Delano Grape Strikers to protest California governor Jerry Brown's refusal to meet with the marchers in Sacramento.

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