¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #161-4719 (Part 3)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #161-4719 (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.

These documents stem from a September 15, 1966, memo from J. Edgar Hoover, in which the FBI director directs the Bureau's field offices to commence an investigation of César Chávez because he was being considered for a staff position with the Lyndon B. Johnson administration [File #161-4719 (Part 1)]. On September 27, the FBI instructed all of its field offices to discontinue the Chávez inquiry at the request of the White House, and these documents show the results of the FBI's investigation to that date.

In a report dated September 28, an agent from the FBI's San Diego office relays information about Chávez's arrest by DiGiorgio Corporation security guards on June 29 on the charge of trespassing. According to the report, a subsequent jury trial found Chávez guilty, which resulted in a fine and two years' probation.

In a report dated October 4, an agent from the San Diego office passes along information gleaned from interviews of Chávez associates on September 26. One of the sources said that she had never heard the labor leader's name in connection with Communist Party activities; another advised that he knew Chávez by reputation only but that everything he had heard about him was positive.

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