¡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 3 (Part 1)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 3 (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.


In a collection of memos from late May 1966, the FBI's field office in Chicago reported on demonstrations near the S&W warehouse in support of the Delano grape strike. S&W was the Midwestern distribution center of canned goods for DiGiorgio Corporation, one of the largest grape growers targeted by the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) and whose anti-union practices were fictionalized in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1939). In the spring of 1966, the NFWA launched a campaign to encourage consumers nationwide to boycott DiGiorgio products.

The first memo in the series, dated May 24, describes a small demonstration at the S&W warehouse that was "peaceful and orderly." Subsequent memos describe the scene at S&W the day before, where up to 60 picketers were lined up near the warehouse; according to the source, this group of demonstrators was made up of members from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Committee of Racial Equality (which later became the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE), the American Friends Service Committee, Chicago public aid workers, and various religious organizations. Additionally, a source reports that the demonstration was successful in gaining the support of some Teamsters who were willing not to cross the picket line.

In a memo dated May 26, a source reported that Jim Arnold, a full-time volunteer for the NFWA and member of the SDS, had passed out leaflets on the Chicago Circle campus of the University of Illinois. The leaflet, titled "Call to Action!", encouraged people to gather for the demonstration on May 23. It explained that large demonstrations had already closed down S&W warehouses in California and New England and that a significant Chicago demonstration was crucial in order to show DiGiorgio the breadth of support for the boycott of its products.

The appendix of the May 26 memo includes background information on the W. E. B. DuBois Clubs of America, a national youth organization sponsored by Communist Party USA, and its activities in the Chicago area.
 

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