Black History: Special Delivery!!
1966 Telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr to Cesar Chavez
Both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez became nationally recognized during the 1950s. King gained acclaim through his involvement with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the support of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Chavez gained notoriety for his involvement with organized labor. He moved up within the Community Service Organization (CSO) and eventually became its national director. The fight to win union rights for Mexican American farmworkers won the attention and admiration of King. Chavez later left the organization when he saw the group did not have the resources and resolve to aid in organizing farmworkers in 1958.
Chavez then co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) along with Dolores Huerta in 1962. Through the NFWA he began to amass a following of Mexican American farmworkers dedicated to the fight for justice. Inspired by Dr. King and Gandhi, Chavez was committed to achieving justice through non-violence. In March 1966, the signature rallying cry of the farmworker movement became, “Sí, se puede” – yes we can – “. Chavez, farmworkers, and supporters staged a 340-mile march to Sacramento to highlight the issues facing farmworkers. During this time, King wrote Chavez a note of encouragement and sent it via telegram. He shared with Chavez,
“You and your fellow workers have demonstrated your commitment to righting grievous wrongs forced upon exploited people. We are together with you in spirit and in determination that our dreams for a better tomorrow will be realized.”
“Our separate struggles are really one – a struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity………You and your fellow workers have demonstrated your commitment to righting grievous wrongs forced upon exploited people. We are together with you in spirit and in determination that our dreams for a better tomorrow will be realized.” When Chavez began a 25 day fast to protest the treatment of farmworkers, King, again sent another telegram encouragement, stating, “deeply moved by your courage in fasting as your personal sacrifice for justice through nonviolence,” and saluted him for his “indefatigable work against poverty and injustice.”King and Chavez both had in common that each of them was jailed for protesting the treatment of Latino and Black people. The two never joined forces publicly. However, both continued their fights for justice.