Analytical Essay Cesar Chavez

Research Paper: Martin Luther King Jr. And Cesar Chavez. The Power Of Nonviolent Resistance

History is made up of significant events that shape our future and outstanding leaders who influence our destiny. Both of these men have much in common. They fought for the oppressed; primarily the major target group or segment, which they represent, was reflective of their own ethnic backgrounds. However, of the two, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of a more universal type of peace. Not only did he want to desegregate public facilities, he sought civil rights and liberties for all. Chavez took the examples of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Ghandi and made them his own. He used their examples of nonviolent protest to bring about change in his own advocacies.

Cesar Estrada Chavez was born March 31, 1927 near Yuma, Arizona. He was named after his grandfather, who escaped from slavery on a Mexican ranch and arrived in Arizona during the 1880s. His grandparents homesteaded more than one hundred acres in the Gila Valley and raised 14 children. Chavez' father, Librado, started his family in 1924 when he married Juana Estrada. Cesar was the second of their six children. Librado worked on the family ranch and owned a store in the Gila Valley. His family lived in an apartment above the store.

Chavez began school when he was seven, but he had a hard time learning because his family only spoke Spanish. Chavez preferred to learn from his uncles and grandparents, who would read to him in Spanish. In addition, Chavez learned many things from his mother. She believed violence and selfishness were wrong, and she taught these lessons to her children.

In the 1930s, Chavez' father lost his business because of the Great Depression, and the family moved back to the ranch. However in 1937, a severe drought forced the family to give up the ranch. The next year, Chavez and his family packed their belongings and headed to California in search of work. In California, the Chavez family became part of the migrant community, traveling from farm to farm to pick fruits and vegetables during the harvest. They lived in numerous migrant camps and often were forced to sleep in their car. Chavez attended more than 30 elementary schools, many at which he encountered cruel discrimination.

Once Chavez completed the eighth grade, he quit school and worked full-time in the vineyards. His family was able to rent a small cottage in San Jose and make it their home. Then in 1944, Chavez was drafted into the navy and served in World War II. After completing his duty two years later, Chavez returned to California. He married Helen Fabela and they moved into a one-room shack in Delano. Chavez started back working in the fields, but he began to fight for change. That same...

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As Levy points out in his preface, César Chávez is technically not an autobiography because he, not the subject, decided what to include. The book nevertheless benefits from one important strength of the autobiography: voice. The reader is allowed to experience much of Chávez’s life story and philosophy of nonviolence through his own words, either as told to the author or presented in speeches. Of particular interest to young readers are the first one hundred pages of the book, which are devoted to Chávez’s childhood and to the trials that his family faced as small-time farmers in Arizona.

Levy clearly holds his subject in high regard. He emphasizes not only Chávez’s groundbreaking efforts in the world of union organizing but also the religious and philosophical ideas, such as nonviolence, that informed them. “Truth is your ultimate weapon,” Levy suggests to Chávez. His reply is “Yes. And truth is nonviolence. So everything really comes from truth. Truth is the ultimate. Truth is God.” Chávez is portrayed as a saintly figure, peaceful and high-minded, driven by lofty purpose, not power or ego. When Chávez fasts for weeks in order to protest picket-line violence, his action plays an almost spiritual role in uniting workers as never before.

Yet the portrait is not without blemishes. The reader learns of Chávez’s occasional outbursts of temper and is told about his arguments with close friend and colleague Dolores Huerta. He is portrayed as an exacting leader who holds associates to the same standards that he applies to...

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