¡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 6)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 5 (Part 6)
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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 early 1969, FBI field offices in Detroit and Pittsburgh sent transmissions to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., regarding incidents on college campuses related to the farmworker movement. Part of the Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) grassroots efforts to bring increased public attention to the farm workers' cause, the goal of the campus protests in Pittsburgh was to garner additional support for the Delano grape strike by encouraging more Americans to boycott table grapes and to secure union recognition for grape pickers. Also included among these documents is a memo from the FBI's San Diego office relaying information about the UFWOC's planned march from Indio to Calexico that spring.

On February 14, 1969, the FBI relayed information regarding the disruption of a Valentine's Day dance at Grand Rapids Junior College. According to confidential sources, the dance was interrupted by a group of young students believed to be from Grand Valley State College, who attempted to pass out copies of a student publication called The Lanthorn. One of the sources reported that the incident was possibly connected to the boycott of Meijer supermarkets in Grand Rapids, as union organizer Lupe Anguiano was known to have spoken at both colleges to garner support for the grape boycott.

On May 7, 1969, another FBI memo reported that a leaflet produced by the UFWOC was circulating around the campuses of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. The leaflet was publicizing a UFWOC-sponsored international day of protest in the United States, Canada, and Mexico on May 10 for the purpose of strengthening the grape boycott and speaking out against the abuse of farm workers. A follow up memo dated May 10 relayed what happened at the demonstration, which consisted of a march downtown and speeches by UFWOC organizer Albert Rojas, Union of Electrical Workers representative Tom Quinn, United Negro Protest Committee head James McCoy, and others.

A memo dated May 9, 1969, from the FBI's San Diego office relayed information about a week-long march in California, organized by Chávez, from Indio to Calexico. The memo cites an unconfirmed report that Sen. Ted Kennedy would participate in a rally in Calexico at the end of the march.
 

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