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California's Migrant Farm Workers

March 28, 2001

With the observance of Cesar Chavez Day on March 31, this is a good time to remember the contributions of migrant farm workers in making California one of the nation's agricultural leaders and for bringing to market the fruits and vegetables we eat. Despite technological advances, today's farm workers continue to struggle under difficult circumstances not unlike those depicted in the Great Depression novel "The Grapes of Wrath." Explore the history of migrant farm workers in California and the important contributions of Cesar Chavez through these direct links on The Times Launch Point Web site:

Level 1

Weedpatch Camp: Visit the migrant farm-worker camp in Weedpatch, Calif., which inspired John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath." Learn about the people who sought work during the Great Depression by viewing their personal accounts, photos by Dorothea Lange and through Dust Bowl resources.

Today in History! Si Se Puede! View archival photos and posters that tell the story of the United Farm Workers of America, an organization begun in 1966 and led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Read a brief history of how this organization protested poor working conditions and won benefits for agricultural workers by organizing boycotts, marches and hunger strikes.

Migrant Workers' Children: Ezequiel, Cynthia and Iselda tell you what their lives are like as children of migrant workers.

Level 2

Cesar E. Chavez Institute for Public Policy: Viva Cesar E. Chavez! March 31 is a California holiday honoring the work of Cesar E. Chavez. Find out about Chavez and the struggle for better working conditions for farm workers through audio clips of speeches, a collection of news articles and interviews and a gallery of photos, murals and posters.

Migrant Workers: Discover how Dorothea Lange's assignment of photographing California migrant workers during the 1930s was originally planned to win public support of migratory camps but ended up exposing terrible conditions, inspiring assistance efforts and changing government policy.

Roots in the Sand: Find out about the political, social and economic challenges faced by Punjabi Mexican families who settled in California's Imperial Valley to work the land. This site offers geographic, demographic and historical materials that let you explore this moment in time.

Level 3

UFW: The Official Web Page of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO: Find out about current issues concerning farm workers as well as discover the history of this organization. Read about the contributions of founder Cesar Chavez and other leaders, listen to audio clips of speeches and access the UFW archive of papers and reports.

Voices From the Dust Bowl: Gain perspectives into the lives of workers living in federal migrant work camps in Central California in the 1940s through historical materials that range from interviews to songs.

In the Strawberry Fields: This Atlantic Monthly article details conditions of today's California workers and sharecroppers who perform the backbreaking task of harvesting one of the most difficult crops.


The answer to this Internet quiz can be found in the sites at right.

In what speech did Cesar Chavez say "Every person is an impact"?

CLUE: See Cesar E. Chavez Institute for Public Policy: Viva Cesar E. Chavez!

Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point covers more than 150 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to for the full list of subjects and direct links to the best Internet sites.

Answer to last week's Quest: The word "alphabet" comes from the first two letters of the Phoenician alphabet: aleph and bet which are similar to our letters A and B.


Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This column was designed by Sarah McLaughlin, Vadim Rubin, Jeff Hammond and Anna Manring.

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