Cesar Chavez

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Cezar Chavez

  • Values:
  • liberty
  • hope
  • unity

Labor Leader

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Dates: 1927–1993
Quote: Help us love even those who hate us; So we can change the world. Amen.
Quote credit: Cesar Chavez
Image credit: Tim Graham / Stringer / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Inspired by Faith

Synopsis copy: Cesar Chavez was a Catholic Mexican American farmworker, civil rights activist, and cofounder of the National Farm Workers Association. His nonviolent civil disobedience advanced workers’ rights.

Image credit: New York Daily News Archive / Contributor

Faith in Action

Body copy: Chavez cofounded the National Farm Workers Association with Dolores Huerta. They were inspired by Catholic social teaching on labor and a family wage, and the non-violent protest tactics of Mahatma Gandhi.

Image caption: Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez during a grape pickers’ strike, 1968

Image credit: Arthur Schatz / Contributor


Body copy: Chavez and Mexican American supporters joined a grape strike in Delano, CA, to protest low wages and poor working conditions. The strike lasted five years and revolutionized the American farm labor movement.

Image caption: Picketers, including a clergyman, urging grape pickers to strike, October 20, 1965

Image credit: Bettmann / Contributor


Body copy: During the strike, Chavez organized “Pilgrimage, Penance, and Revolution,” a 300-mile march during Holy Week. Protesters followed a statue of the Virgin Mary that ended on Good Friday and an Easter Mass on Sunday.

Image caption: Strikers march from Delano to Sacramento, CA, in 1966.

Image credit: Ted Streshinsky Photographic Archive / Contributor


Body copy: Chavez later said, “I don’t think I could base my will to struggle on cold economics or on some political doctrine. I don’t think there would be enough to sustain me. For me the base must be faith.”

Image caption: Chavez attends a Mass held by farmworkers in La Paz, CA, ca. 1970.

Image credit: Cathy Murphy / Contributor


Body copy: Chavez had the respect and support of some of the most prominent activists of his time, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and King’s wife, Coretta Scott King.

Image caption: Coretta Scott King and Chavez leading a march boycotting the sale of lettuce in New York City, ca. 1973

Image credit: Bob Parent / Contributor


Body copy: Christianity was the moral force behind Chavez’s vision of social justice. He took a lifelong vow of poverty and participated in several fasts. His last fast, which lasted 36 days, protested worker exposure to pesticides.

Image caption: Chavez holds Jesse Jackson’s hand at the mass where he broke his fast, August 21, 1988

Image credit: Bettmann / Contributor


Body copy: Chavez’s legacy includes a union, a commemorative holiday (March 31), named public buildings and parks, a postage stamp, and even a Hollywood movie. But his greatest legacy is his impact on the lives of untold millions.

Image caption: Mexican Americans celebrate Mass in honor of Cesar Chavez, Los Angeles, CA, March 31, 2005

Image credit: David McNew / Staff

Faith-infused Correspondence

Bubble copy: Cesar Chavez’s leadership was rooted in his Catholic faith. His correspondence with both fellow activists and those he fought against reveals how entwined his biblical values were with his vision and work.

Image credit: Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago


Bubble copy: Thank you for standing with us, Sister Carol. Please remember to spread the word about the boycott … Your brother in Christ, Cesar Chavez

Source: Letter to Sister Carol Frances Gegen, January 15, 1975

Image credit: Women and Leadership Archives, Loyola University Chicago


Bubble copy: As president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote to Chavez, praising him during one of his fasts.

Image credit: United Farm Workers


Bubble copy: The plight of your people and ours is so grave that we all desperately need the inspiring example and effective leadership you have given.

Source: Telegram from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image credit: United Farm Workers


Bubble copy: During the Delano grape strike, Chavez wrote, “God knows that we are not beasts of burden, agricultural implements, or rented slaves; we are men.”

Source: Letter from Delano, Good Friday, 1969

Image credit: Farmworker Movement Documentation Project, UC San Diego Library, La Jolla, CA

Legacy of Liberty

Question/alignment statement: Do you think that faith is both an intellectual and an inspirational source in the struggle for civil rights?

Image credit: Karl Gehring / Contributor


Scripture: Defend the rights of the poor and the orphans; be fair to the needy and the helpless. Rescue them from the power of evil people.

Scripture credit: Psalm 82:3–4

Image credit: Cathy Murphy / Contributor

Related changemakers: Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Jane Addams

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