Cesar Chavez, Leading Citizen

Cesar Chavez Estrada was born near Yuma, Arizona, in 1927. His grandfather had moved to Arizona from Mexico in the 1880's. He was the second of six children. His parents, Librado and Juana, lived on their family ranch and earned a living at their store in the Gila Valley. The business was lost during the time of the Great Depression of the 1930's. The family had to leave the ranch and move to California to make their living as migrant workers by moving from place to place to pick whatever crops farmers were ready to harvest. They lived in temporary camps, shacks and tents. He went to school through eighth grade by attending 38 different schools.

Eventually, the family made their home in San Jose, California. He was a teenager in the years of World War II and he joined the Navy in 1944 and served two years. After the war he married and with his wife Helen he moved to Delano, California to work in the fields. He was a friendly, honest, gentle man who was helpful to his fellow workers. He realized the only way things would improve for the farm workers was through organization. Working for an agency called the Community Service Organization, he helped needy people find food and housing, medical and legal aid. Those who were citizens he persuaded to vote because he understood that the right to vote is the most important right they have.

His most important accomplishment was building an organization. First, it was an association, later it was an official union, the United Farm Workers (UFW) that was part of the AFL-CIO. Using four of our rights from the First Amendment, he did things to make the union strong. He made speeches (freedom of speech), put out leaflets and newsletters (freedom of the press), and gathered together hundreds of college students and religious leaders to march across California to force government leaders to look into farm workers' problems (freedom of assembly and to petition). He knew these rights from the Constitution and the Bill of Rights belonged to everyone (citizens and noncitizens living in the United States).

The grape pickers' strike of 1965 and the national grape boycott he called for made him a famous leader throughout the U.S. and won his union the support of political leaders like Senator Robert Kennedy. He was nonviolent like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader. Sometimes he fasted for long periods to bring attention to his cause. Cesar Chavez showed all Americans how to step forward and lead by using our freedoms to the fullest.


In what state was Cesar Chavez born?



In which branch of the U.S. military did he serve in World War II?








Name one right guaranteed by the First Amendment.








What is the most important right guaranteed to U.S. citizens?








Whose rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?









Depression: a bad slowdown in businewss and employment.










Migrant: someone who moves from one place to another.

These are the First Amendment freedoms:









Temporary: for a short time only










Organization: a group of people united for a cause or for work.










Accomplishment: something completed










Petition: a formal request










Gandhi: India's non-violent leader