Born: March 31,1927, in Yuma, Ariz.
Died: April 23, 1993
In the spring of 1966, a group of migrant farmworkers marched to Sacramento, the capital of California, to protest conditions on the state's grape farms. The march brought national attention to the plight of the grape pickers and to Cesar Chavez, the Mexican-American leader who had fought to improve their lives.
As the son of migrant farmworkers, Cesar Estrada Chavez had firsthand knowledge of their problems. These workers traveled from farm to farm in search of jobs and were forced to live in wretched, unhealthy camps. They worked long days in the fields for low wages.
In 1962, Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association (later known as the United Farm Workers). At first, the workers rejected the union, because they thought they would lose their jobs. But Chavez convinced them to join. He used peaceful methods, such as strikes and marches, to force the growers to sign contracts with the union.
Eventually, he asked Americans to boycott grapes until the growers agreed to improve conditions. And several times, he went on hunger strikes to call attention to the workers' cause. Once he did not eat for 25 days. In 1970, 26 large farming companies finally signed agreements with the union. But Cesar Chavez did not rest. He continued to fight to improve the lives of the farmworkers until his death in 1993.