¡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 5 (Part 3)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 5 (Part 3)
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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 November 1968, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) monitored a boycott by Mexican American students at Edcouch-Elsa High School in Texas. On November 14, more than 175 students walked out of classes because the school board had refusal to meet with them and hear their concerns of alleged discrimination. The students were suspended by the principal and 31 students were expelled by the school board, an action that was later reversed by a district court judge. The incident drew national attention and caused concern that Mexican American students at nearby schools would join the protest.

The FBI file contained a series of articles on the boycott from local papers. A November 15 article in The Monitor discussed the student walk-out and responses from school officials. In a November 16 article, the Valley Morning Star printed the student's 15 demands, which included reinstatement of students and teachers who participated in the strike, allowing students to speak Spanish on school grounds, and an end to "blatant discrimination against the Mexican American students in this school."

On November 24, The Monitor reported that the school board had expelled 31 students, indefinitely suspended 94 students, and put 47 students on probation after allowing students and their parents to argue their case. The newspaper published another story on the popularity of MAYO (Mexican American Youth Organization) in South Texas among college, high school, and junior high students.

A November 25 article in The Monitor covered the U.S. district court case in which parents of expelled students sought a temporary and permanent restraining order against the school board's decision to bar striking students, as well as $50,000 in damages. On November 26, an article in the Valley Morning Star noted that judge's ruling that students should be readmitted to the school, but also enabled school officials to expel them after each student had been given an individual hearing.


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