This week marks the birth of farm labor leader, Cesar Chavez. On March 31, he would have turned 89 and we celebrate him and the people who harvest our food with “Cesar Chavez Day.” Yet, if it weren’t for a courageous band of Filipino grape workers led by Larry Itliong and their strike in 1965, Cesar Chavez may never have had a platform from which to rise to leadership of the United Farm Workers of America. What do you know about the grape strike of 1965? What was the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee? Was Chavez a saint or a shrewd politician and manipulator of peoples’ emotions? From STRIKE!: The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights (grades 4/5 and up): September 8, 1965, was no ordinary day in Delano, California. The morning sun peeked over the Tehachapi Mountains some sixty-five miles east of this small town at the southern end of the state’s Central Valley. It cast its warming rays on the area’s vast agricultural fields. Almonds. Oranges. Asparagus. Cotton. And grapes: Thompson, Ribier, and Emperor, among other varieties. The grapevines in Delano’s vineyards were heavy with fruit, ready to be harvested, boxed, and shipped to market. On a normal harvest day, these vineyards teemed with crews of Filipino farm workers, mostly single men, toiling among the vines. But on this September day, another story was told.
“FIELD STRIKE IDLES 1,000 IN KERN FIELDS.”
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