Children assembling bags, courtesy of the Smithsonian
The United Farm Workers, a largely Mexican American, nonviolent, rural and Catholic labour union founded in 1962 by Cesar Chavez. The Black Panther Party, an African American, militant, urban and socialist organization founded in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. The two organizations could not be more different. However, they had one factor in common. They were both minority groups in a common struggle against oppression. Therefore, it’s not surprising the two groups united by 1968 in support of each other. Even though the BPP’s “Ten-Point Program” demanded the right “to determine the destiny of, and end the robbery by the capitalist of the Black Community”, they really demanded the right for all minorities, not just African American. Bobby Seale called for all minorities to unite as the fight from oppression was not a matter of race struggles alone, but also of class. Cesar Chavez was able to employ similar tactics as the Black Panthers by boycotting and protesting against establishments like Safeway supermarkets. Safeway was stocking their shelves with non-union lettuce (lettuce farmed by non-union workers) and the United Farm Workers called the BPP to come in and help them protest and close down the Oakland Safeway stores. The BPP agreed and decided to boycott a Safeway in Oakland that refused to donate food to the Breakfast Program held at St. Augustine’s Church. The boycott was so successful, in part because the BPP shuttled people to other grocery stores, that they closed down the Safeway in a few days. With these efforts, the UFW gained national recognition. Hence, the BPP was able to acknowledge the efforts of the UFW against Safeway grocery stores as to make change happen. Ultimately, these two groups had very different ideologies and ethnicities. Yet, they were able to unit for a common cause showing that the struggles for oppression go beyond any political, social and economic difference.
- Lauren Araiza, “In Common Struggle against a Common Oppression: The United Farm Workers and the Black Panther Party, 1968-1973,” The Journal of African American History Vol. 94, No. 2, Spring 2009): 200-209.
- Araiza, “In Common Struggle against a Common Oppression” 200-209.