Cesar Chavez was an American labor leader and civil rights activist. Along with Dolores Huerta, he co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later merged with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to become the United Farm Workers labor union. Chavez began his working life as a manual laborer before spending two years in the United States Navy. Relocating to California, where he married, he got involved in the Community Service Organization (CSO), through which he helped laborers register to vote. In 1959, he became the CSO’s national director, a position based in Los Angeles. In 1962, he left the CSO to co-found the NFWA, based in Delano, California, through which he launched an insurance scheme, a credit union, and the El Malcriado newspaper for farm workers. Since his death, hundreds of communities across the nation have named schools, parks, streets, libraries, and other public facilities, as well as awards and scholarships in his honor. His birthday, March 31st, is an official holiday in 10 states. In 1994, President Clinton posthumously awarded Cesar the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The U.S. Navy named a ship after him in 2011.
As a common man with an uncommon vision, Cesar Chavez stood for equality, justice and dignity for all Americans. His universal principals remain as relevant and inspiring today as they were when he first began his movement.