¡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 16)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #100-444762, Section 5 (Part 16)
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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.

This series of memos from April, May, and November 1970 details the plans for United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) demonstrations in Pittsburgh and Chicago. The goal of the Pittsburgh protests was to garner additional support for striking farm workers; the Chicago protest was part of the movement's expanding boycott against non-union lettuce.

On April 29, a source advised the FBI that a UFWOC-sponsored march and demonstration would be held in downtown Pittsburgh on May Day on May 1. According to the source, the Revolutionary Socialist Union, a group that had splintered from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), had been publicizing the event. In a subsequent memo dated May 1, the source informed the FBI that the Pittsburgh demonstration had been called off so that the UFWOC could work on preparations for a march in Washington, D.C. Another source stated that a busload of demonstrators was planning to leave Pittsburgh for Washington the following evening.

In a memo dated November 13, the FBI's field office in Chicago reported that Chávez was planning to lead a demonstration against the National Tea Company, which sold lettuce picked by non-union workers. According to a source, Chávez was scheduled to speak with Operation Breadbasket, a department of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), to garner that group's support for the lettuce boycott. A subsequent letterhead memorandum described the meeting between Chávez and Jesse Jackson, director of Operation Breadbasket, which had been broadcast on radio on November 14. Chávez, who stated that "the poor must fight together," called upon Operation Breadbasket to support the lettuce boycott, which Jackson agreed to join.

 

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