Minority Communities in California during the 1960s


The 1960s was an important time for Civil Rights Movement in the United States. After the Second World, the main minority groups in the state of California were African and Latin Americans. Despite serving in the war and becoming an important part of the labor market, the two communities still faced discrimination, segregation and harassment from the officials. They were convinced that by then, the society could have changed to embrace equality and fair remuneration for workers. Each group had varying ideologies on why they were pushing for the civil rights. On the one hand, Hispanics were the largest population of workers in farms around California. They were landing into the state in large numbers from the South and Texas to look for employment opportunities. The main concern was the working conditions in the farms as poor wages. Besides, African Americans were the main population in inner-city neighborhoods. They worked in industries in California and were the manual laborers in the city. The two groups sought to see their rights addressed, thus the beginning of various movements. The Hispanic communities aired their views through unions in the agribusiness sector. Contrarily, African Americans were vocal in political campaigns and starting parties that organized rallies and meetings for black empowerment.

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Analysis of Documents

Bobby Seal was an African American activist who was born in Texas and afterwards joined the Air Force during the Second World War. He relocated to Oakland, California after the war and joined Merritt College. It was there that he met Huey P. Newton, who encouraged him towards pursuing equal rights’ struggles in the state. With Newton, they started the Black Panther Party. The document is a speech that Seale gave in 1968, explaining why they started the party and what it stood for. One of the reasons for the party, according to Seale, was to bring together all the African Americans in the country. He asserts that his agenda is solidarity and not racism, asserting that they were looking for solutions to the current problems rather than starting a movement that had questionable morals. Seale stated that the party would replace capitalism with black empowerment and fight the white imperialism with internationalism of the working class. The party was not looking to start a war with the dominant white society, according to Seale. However, it was ready to defend both the dignity and security of the black people when they were harassed or exploited. The party did not mind a person’s color, race or ethnic background but rather recognized the struggles were universal for all. The rich minority had exploited all the other poorer people. The party sought a revolution where people would have equality, justice and peace. Seale advocated for a society where the working class could have an opportunity to live in harmony and exercise their rights without censorship, harassment or exploitation. The party would fight for the rights of all the working citizens regardless of race or background.

Cesar Chavez: “Letter from Delato” (1969)

Cesar Chaves was a Mexican-American born of a peasant family. He was an activist and union leader who advocated for the rights of workers in different states. As a boy, Chavez and five members of his family moved to California and worked in a plantation. It was after the Great Depression and most Mexican Americans were suffering due to the low wages. He experienced the idea of the unions in 1938 in San Jose, California. He served in the navy for two years and after the way, he got fully into unions. He became a leader of La Casa, which was a union that comprised mostly of Latin Americans. It was in his leadership position in United Farm Works Union that he wrote a letter to Mr. Barr, the President of California Grape and Tree Fruit League. He was addressing the issue of the workers going on strike. The president had said that the workers had engaged in armed conflict. In the letter, however, Chavez says that the individual should present sufficient evidence to prove it. He asserts how the workers have been exploited by the league and how it is unfair for such activities to continue. In the letter, Chavez recognizes that it is a day they should remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his sacrifice in the pursuit of justice and equality. Similarly, he must convince Mar. Barr that the action to deny remuneration to the workers is an injustice. The document appeals to the human side of the employers to recognize that the workers toil each day and earn cents, while the firm continues to thrive. It would be unfair to exploit thousands of people in the name of profits.

Comparing the two Documents

The two documents are similar in that they are all advocating for equality and justice for all. Both Chavez and d Seale assert that hundreds of thousands of people work each day in honesty and the expectation that they will be paid fairly. However, a few rich people could make decisions that defy the laws of nature as well as the nation’s justice system. They deny people the basic rights by oppression, refusing to pay wages that have been earned fairly. The two individuals are disciples of Martin Luther King Jr., which is evident in how they air their grievances passionately. They are not only speaking on their behalf but also for every poor person in the country. They assert that it is the high time that the individuals were liberated and given an opportunity to equal opportunities and fair remuneration.

Contrasts in the Two Documents

The main difference seen in the two documents is on the tone used to express their ideas. Chaves tends to be persuasive, begging the employers’ league to consider the lives of other people that toil each day with families waiting for the daily bread. He advocates for a peaceful way to resolve the matter, saying that he had encouraged the members of the union to conduct a peaceful protest and go on strike. He also says that the union is within the rights of the employees in the country. On the other hand, Seale’s document shows some form of hostility. His speech says that the Black Panther Party is there to defend the black socialist movement. He says that the party will not use their guns to attack the white people, as is the case with the whites. However, they will be ready to use them for defense purposes. The two individuals may be advocating for equal rights but show differing methods to achieve it.



Chavez, Cesar. “Letter from Delano (1969)”. In Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History. Volume 2. 307-311. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2014.

Craig Collisson, “Bobby Seale, (1936-),” in BlackPast (February 24, 2007) https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/seale-bobby-1936/

Maureen Pao, “Cesar Chavez: The Life Behind A Legacy Of Farm Labor Rights,” NPR (August 12, 2016) https://www.npr.org/2016/08/02/488428577/cesar-chavez-the-life-behind-a-legacy-of-farm-labor-rights

Seale, Bobby. “Bobby Seale Explains What the Black Panther Party Stands For, 1968.” In Major Problems in California History, edited by Sucheng Chan and Spencer Olin, 368. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997.