Newly Digitized Photo Archive Takes a Personal Look at Cesar Chavez and the Farmworker Movement

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
April 10 2014 3:00 PM

Newly Digitized Photo Archive Takes a Personal Look at Cesar Chavez and the Farmworker Movement

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

These photos come from the archive of the photographer Bob Fitch, held by Stanford. Ninety images from Fitch’s 1968–74 coverage of United Farmworkers Union activism during Cesar Chavez’ presidency are now available in an online gallery through the Stanford Library. 

Fitch specialized in photographing the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Other Fitch subjects include the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Catholic Worker Movement, and various anti-war and anti-draft protests.

Advertisement

These photographs of Chavez, taken in California and New York after the movement to organize farm workers had won some key battles in the late 1960s, capture the organizer during a hectic time of retrenchment, as the UFW clashed with rival unions and growers. At the same time, Chavez himself had emerged as a national figure, and the photographs show how all-consuming his work had become.

Roberto Trujillo, head of special collections at Stanford and co-curator of the Bob Fitch Photography Archive, says that the Fitch collection is singular in its coverage of the less well-known participants in the movements he documented. In Fitch’s Chavez photos, the collaborators, aides, and rank and file protesters that line the edges of the photographs take on their own personalities.

ChavezPhoto0Final

Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries.

Chavez and his mother, Juana Estrada, at a rally in Modesto, Calif., in 1973.

ChavezPhoto1Final

Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries.

(L-R) Author Peter Matthiessen,  Rev. Chris Hardmier, and Cesar Chavez, New York City, 1970. Matthiessen’s 1969 biography of Chavez was Sal Si Puedes (Escape If You Can): Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution.

ChavezPhoto2Final

Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries.

Chavez in a secluded office, working in a special collapsible rocking chair he used to mitigate back pain, Salinas, Calif., 1973.

ChavezPhoto3Final

Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries.

Chavez’ brother Richard Chavez, pointing to a first box of union-produced grapes, Coachella, Calif., 1970. In 1969, the future UFW succeeded, through organizing an external boycott, in unionizing some California grape farms. This would have been a product of that success.

ChavezPhoto4Final

Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries.

In an NYC kitchen in 1970, Chavez, along with a group of aides and bodyguards, drinks union-label wine.

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 16 2014 5:47 PM Tale of Two Fergusons We knew blacks and whites saw Michael Brown’s killing differently. A new poll shows the gulf that divides them is greater than anyone guessed.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 5:07 PM One Comedy Group Has the Perfect Idea for Ken Burns’ Next Project
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.