Today marks what would have been César Chávez’s 84th birthday.  Chávez was born in 1927 to Mexican American farmers in Arizona.   Here he is, right, at age six with his sister:

When he was about 11, his family lost their farm in the Great Depression and they turned to migrant farm work.   In 1962 he and Dolores Huerta founded the National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers).  His success in organizing farm workers, raising awareness of the conditions of their work, and raising support for their cause is one of the most inspiring stories of collective action in American history.  Read more about Chávez here.

Chávez in 1966 with his political theater troupe, El Teatro Campesino  (See update below):

Chávez, with Robert Kennedy, breaking a 25-day hunger fast:

Chávez, with farmworkers (late 1970s):

All images from NPR.

UPDATE: Reader Ramona Rodriguez-Brooks corrects our description of the El Teatro Campesino photo.

Cesar does not appear to be in the photo and I do not believe that he ever performed with El Teatro Campesino.  The man whose face is most visible, wearing the “UFWOC”
sign is Luis Valdez, founder and former leader of El Teatro Campesino.  Cesar was supportive of their work and El Teatro was formed during the Delano strike, but he never took an active part in El Teatro Campesino.  In fact, Luis jokingly complained that Cesar would “steal” his actors to be more involved in the political organizing.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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