¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #139-2387

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #139-2387
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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.

On November 17, 1965, the special agent in charge at the FBI's Los Angeles office sent a message via Airtel to Washington regarding Chávez and the farm workers union. Although most of the text was exempt from mandatory disclosure, the first three digits of the file ("139")—according to the FBI's classification system—indicate that the matter being investigated was related to the interception of communications.

Additionally, these pages include a letter addressed to White House special assistant W. Marvin Watson regarding a name check request from Mildred Stegall, an aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson. While the list of names was redacted, the letter notes that the FBI's files did not contain any "derogatory information" or arrest data on a portion of the individuals in question.

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