The quest for social equality in the United States had many charismatic figureheads, and during the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, labor organizer Cesar Chavez set out on a mission to ensure better wages and working conditions for agricultural workers in the Southwest. After spending 10 years working for the Community Service Organization—the last four as National Director—Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962.
Ever the pacifist, Chavez followed in the footsteps of activists like Mahatma Gandhi and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., utilizing nonviolent means of civil disobedience to advocate for harvest laborers. Boycotts, protests, and even lengthy fasts brought national attention to the plight of American agricultural workers, many of whom had immigrated from Latin America and Southeast Asia in the hopes of escaping poverty-level wages and abusive working conditions. In the end, Chavez succeeded where no one else could, unionizing the migrant farm workers and broadening civil rights in the West.