April 18, 2017. The Free Speech Movement 

April 20, 2017. Grape Boycott, Watts Uprising, Alcatraz Occupation

Free Speech Movement Multimedia 

Mario Savio’s infamous Sproul Hall Sit-in Address on December 2, 1964 at the University of California, Berkeley was given at the height of the Free Speech Movement. Many students, including Savio, spent the summer on 1964 down in Mississippi registering black sharecroppers to vote during Freedom Summer. They were radicalized in the South and began to tune into the necessity for Free Speech on college campuses to protect and expand Civil Rights.

Berkeley in the Sixties (1990) directed by Mark Kitchell chronicles the emergence of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall semester of 1964. Kitchell masterfully uses oral history interviews and historical footage to integrate the story of SLATE and the student uprising in the larger historical context of the anti-Vietnam movement, the rise of the Black Panther Party, as well as the counter-culture.

Multimedia for Grape Boycott, Watts, & Alcatraz 

Weekly Assignments

  1. Your main objective this week is to finish your collaborative research assignment on the history of the Santa Anita Assembly Center & Riots.
  2. Compare and contrast the representations of the longer history and context of the Grape Boycotts represented in last week’s article on corporations and this week’s article on theology. What do you think the larger catalysts were and defining forces? Let me know in 1-2 paragraphs.
Dr. Rhae Lynn Barnes is a member of the Society of Fellows at USC and Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton (beginning 2018). She earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University and B.A. at U.C. Berkeley. She is the co-founder of U.S. History Scene.

4 responses to “History 457: Week 15: FSM to Watts

  1. Vineyard owners neglecting worker wages led to the grape boycott and ultimately both Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. The “Let Them Rest From Their Labor” article states that American history has been fond of Cesar Chavez and the UFW’s protests. The article also states how history has forgotten how religion helped shape Chavez’s worldview. This paints a mixed reception of Chavez in history. I think the defining forces of the boycott have to deal with Chavez’s beliefs being influenced by Catholicism. For example Chavez believed that economic inequality was sinful and that by defending the grape workers economic interests they were carrying out God’s will.

  2. The history of the existence of a pool of laborers in excess than were needed allowed farm owners to set wages well below what was being paid for other unskilled labor. When César Chavez took up the cause of the migrant farm laborer he came equipped with two strong traditions to guide him: the Catholic Church, and his understanding of organizing. The first came from his family and his friend Father McDonnell and the other from a labor activist, Fred Ross. His strong beliefs allowed him to persevere in a cause that sometimes looked hopeless, even prompting a 25 day fast to bring attention to the cause of the
    farm laborers. His attempts at organizing migrant workers with peaceful protest instigated the Delano Grape Strike that lasted for five years.

    The economic side of the farm workers trying to organize all rests on the power of big business. In January 1965 the workers demanded only a twenty-cent an hour raise. Ronald Reagan and the conservative right were outraged that Chavez and his followers were breaking the rules and stirring up
    trouble. Just like his attitude toward the protestors at UC Berkeley, Reagan ignored any possibility of to respond to the issues and instead wrote them off as law breakers and their activities as illegal.

  3. After reading the article, I feel that Chavez’s religion was a major factor in influencing the boycott and providing fuel for Chavez’ goals. Of course, everyone in this world goes through some hardships but I feel that his hardships combined with his catholic religion and background plays a crucial role in how things played out. La Virgen de Guadalupe, originally, was dark skinned to appeal to the indigenous/Mexican Catholic population and to engrain the religion even more into the people. Over generations, it is fair to assume that this Mexican virgin came to represent a symbol of hope. With Chavez having a good knowledge of his religion, the religious stances at the time, and the not so good economic/working situation for farmers. And it is fair to say that majority of the farm workers during this time were Hispanic, and most likely Catholic as well. It seems like Chavez kept up with what was being said at the Vatican, otherwise he wouldn’t know about the Pope’s message about corporate greed and profit from the workers. This was perhaps the catalyst. Why should hard working people of god have to live in such poor conditions? Why shouldn’t they be making minimum wage and a decent living?

  4. Considering both articles, I think it’s clear that the grape boycotts involved a multitude of factors. On the ground, agricultural workers in California faced oppressive conditions with no hope of government intervention. Governor Ronald Reagan was completely unsympathetic to labor rights, preferring to look out for big corporate interests. In response, the workers’ organized and instituted a grape boycott, which proved successful because of their willingness to band together across ethnic lines (both Filipinos and Mexicans participated). Another factor to the boycotts was the leadership of people like Chavez. Chavez was a dynamic leader who was heavily informed by his Catholic faith. He disputed Reagan’s negative stance on labor unions, which suggested that workers wanted hand outs and government benefits. In contrast, Chavez argued for liberation through labor; he only wanted workers to have safe working conditions and fair pay, ideas that he found justification for in the Catholic doctrine.

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