Hope and Dignity for FarmworkersNovember 9 – December 17

Children in the FieldChildren in the Field: with permission from CSUN Tom and Ethel Bradley Center

People raise the question: Is this a strike or is it a civil rights fight?
In California, in Texas, or in the South, anytime you strike,
it becomes a civil rights movement. It becomes a civil rights fight.

César Chávez’s speech, Calvary Episcopal Church in Manhattan, May 1968

The photo exhibition “Hope and Dignity for Farmworkers” attempts to capture the duality of the struggle faced by farmworkers: hope for a better economic future for themselves and their families by creating a strong union, and dignity in their quest for being recognized as human beings and citizens. A union and a civil rights struggle, as described by César Chávez during his speech of May 1968 in New York—only a month after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, where he supported sanitation workers who marched with signs that said, “I Am a Man.”

The exhibition focuses on the early years of the farmworkers’ struggle, marked by the grape strike, the boycott, the first march/pilgrimage from Delano to Sacramento, the early efforts to organize workers in Texas, and César Chávez’s fasting calling for nonviolence and sacrifice. It highlights portraits of some of the founders that came from the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA, 1962) and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC, 1960). Both organizations merged in the fall of 1966 into the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) and became the United Farm Workers of America (UFW, 1972) we all know today.

Four of these early founders—César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, Gilbert Padilla, and Julio Hernández—started as organizers or officers for the Community Service Organization and then decided to use their skills to organize one group of workers among the most vulnerable in California and the nation—farmworkers. One of these founders—Larry Itliong—came with a history of union organizing among Filipino farmworkers since 1956, together with Ben Gines, and Philip Vera Cruz.

Woman with CandleWoman with Candle: with permission from CSUN Tom and Ethel Bradley Center

The energy and enthusiasm these and other organizers and supporters infused into the union and La Causa is reflected in images of marching, picketing, organizing, negotiating, and union meetings. Other images reflect the dignity of the work performed in many cases by entire families, including children, and the indignity of their labor conditions and the housing they were forced to live in.

Photographer Emmon Clarke (1933) served seven months as a photographer for the union newspaper, El Malcriado, starting in October 1966. John Kouns (1929-2019) documented the Civil Rights struggle in the South and the Farmworker Movement.

Curators: Dr. Kent Kirkton and Joseph Silva. CSUN Tom and Ethel Bradley Center.