The Story of Cesar Chavez
Author: Kathleen Krull, Illustrator: Yuyi Morales
Harvesting Hope is a short biography of Cesar Chavez, a civil rights leader who founded the National Farm Workers Association. Before the creation of this organization, workers were not protected against harsh working conditions.
The book begins by describing Cesar’s childhood, which were filled with happy memories, until a drought in 1937 caused his family to lose their eighty acre ranch. This caused his family to become migrant workers, where they worked long hours in harsh conditions only to earn thirty cents a day (total of the whole family’s wages!). Cesar also went to an “English only” school, where he was ridiculed by his teacher for speaking Spanish. He dropped out after the eighth grade and continued to do farmwork. Later, he was inspired by outsiders to fight for change. He talked to various workers and persuaded them to join his fight. As word spread, more and more people joined in his protest through non-violent means. Eventually, the owners of the farms that many migrant workers worked on gave in and signed contracts with Chavez, which paved the way for fair treatment of all farmworkers.
I was first drawn to this book by its title: Harvesting Hope. The title fits with the story in the sense that Cesar was the one who began planting the seeds of change and through his efforts instilled/”harvested” hope in the farmworkers for better working conditions. Additionally, I have never really heard much about Cesar Chavez, and in the “author’s note” at the end of the book, there may be a clue as to why that is. According to the author, Chavez “was-and is-controvesial. Especially among those resistant to change, he had many enemies and received constant death threats. Even today, some argue about him and his goals, and others have forgotten him or have never heard of him.” Thus, through reading this book, I was able to find out more about him and it also made me wonder whether or not there were other important civil rights leaders whose names may have been ignored or forgotten over time.
Lesson Plan Ideas:
The following site is a teacher’s guide that contains several lesson plan ideas:
This book covers SJE domains #3 and #4. It explores issues of social justice in terms of workers’ rights and how Cesar Chavez struggled for social change through different forms of protest.
This book can be used in a civil rights movements unit study/curriculum or even to explore different forms of oppression in addition to the more well-known ones (i.e. racism, classism, etc.).
-barnes & nobles