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        Organizing the Farm Worker Movement

        Explore the early days of the United Farmworkers under the guidance of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. See the condidtions that led to the oranization of a farm labor union and the initial challenges to its work: the strike in Delano and the march to Sacramento. Contrast the leadership styles of its leaders and examine the movement's use of symbols. 

        Lesson Summary

        Lesson Overview

        In this lesson plan drawing on material from Latino Americans, students explore the conditions faced by farm laborers in the mid-20th century and meet the advocates who led efforts to improve those conditions. Students view a clip on the emergence of the farm worker movement and respond through discussion questions. Students can respond individually or in small groups, in writing, or through discussion. Two extensions offer additional activities and investigation.


        • Analyze the conditions that led to the emergence of the farm worker movement
        • Identify key individuals, organizations and stakeholders
        • Identify the strategies and symbols that gave shape to the movement
        • Compare and contrast various leadership styles
        • Consider the racial implications of Cesar Chavez’s leadership

        Grade Levels: 7-12

        • Content can be adapted for grades 4-6

        Suggested Time

        • 30-45 minutes

        Multimedia Resources


        • Pencil/pen and paper for individual responses or chart paper for group work

        The Lesson

        Optional Pre-Activity:

        • Show students pictures of Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and/or the UFW Eagle and ask if these images have any meaning to them.
        • Ask students what they ate that morning or the night before. Ask them if they know where the ingredients came from or who might have harvested them.

        View clip from Episode 5, 3:53 – 20:04. Encourage students to make note of the conditions of farm workers and map out key individuals, locations and events.

        In small groups or individually, students respond to the following questions:

        • Even as agricultural business increased in profits in the mid-twentieth century, there was a very different picture for its laborers. Describe the conditions.
        • Who were some of the key players in the effort to organize farm workers? What were their backgrounds?
        • Why did the Bracero Program make it difficult to organize farm workers into a union?
        • What was the strategy that Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta chose to overcome the history of violence associated with past efforts to organize farm workers?
        • What were some of the symbols of the farm worker movement? What concepts did they represent?
        • Contrast the leadership styles of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez.
        • How did Cesar Chavez differ from many of the Latino community leaders that came before him? How did his leadership help dispel stereotypes or assumptions some Latinos held about themselves?

        EXTENSION I: Mapping the March from Delano

        Conduct research to trace the route from Delano to Sacramento. Create a physical or virtual poster that documents the march. In the margins, include key moments from the march as well as symbols, characters and dates that were important to it. Also include a paragraph describing what was achieved once the march was completed.

        EXTENSION II: Nonviolent Strategy

        The United Farm Workers chose a nonviolent approach to accomplishing their goals. Who and what inspired this strategy? What are some of the benefits of this strategy, as opposed to using force? What are some other social movements from the 1950s through today that have used nonviolent tactics?


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