¡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 11)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 5 (Part 11)
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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 this series of memos from October and November 1969, the FBI's field office in Atlanta reports on a October 25 protest held outside of the main gates of Fort McPherson, a U.S. Army facility located in East Point, Georgia. The demonstrators were protesting against the Department of Defense's increased purchase and use of California table grapes—up to 11 million pounds per year by 1969—which was under boycott by the United Farm Workers (UFW).

The first memo, dated October 23, gives basic details about the Fort McPherson protests; it mentions an article in The Great Speckled Bird, an Atlanta-based underground newspaper, which reported on the October 25 demonstration. A subsequent FBI memo relays additional details, including that five of the approximately 25 demonstrators were associated with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

A letterhead memorandum dated November 5 adds that demonstrators passed out leaflets to motorists entering and leaving the military facility and circulated a petition which stated, "We the undersigned Members of the United States Armed Forces, Pledge Not to Eat Table Grapes until the Grape Strike and Boycott are over." Additionally, demonstrators held up a number of signs with such messages as, "Department of Defense Buys Scab Grapes," "Equality and Justice for Farmworkers," "The DOD is a Strikebreaker," and "Boycott Grapes — Buy Georgia Peaches."

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