Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) with Cesar Chavez and recipient of the U.S. Medal of Freedom Award, will give the C. Christine Johnson Voices of Color Lecture, on Friday, April 24, at 5 p.m., in the Chapel. The talk is free and open to the public.
Born Dolores Fernandez, she grew up in Stockton, Calif., and was inspired by her mother’s community involvement. The agricultural community where they lived was made up of Mexican, Filipino, African-American, Japanese and Chinese working families.
Huerta graduated from the University of Pacific’s Delta College in Stockton, earning a provisional teaching credential. As a teacher she witnessed the poverty of her students and thus began her lifelong journey of working to correct economic injustice.
Huerta found her calling as an organizer while serving in the leadership of the Stockton Community Service Organization (CSO). During this time she founded the Agricultural Workers Association, set up voter registration drives and pressed local governments for barrio improvements. In 1955 she met CSO executive director César E. Chávez, with whom she shared a common vision of organizing farm workers. In the spring of 1962 Chávez and Huerta resigned from the CSO, and launched the National Farm Workers Association.
She was key in securing Aid For Dependent Families (“AFDC”) and disability insurance for farm workers in the State of California in 1963. She was also instrumental in the enactment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. This was the first law of its kind in the United States, granting farm workers in California the right to collectively organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions. As the principal legislative advocate, Huerta became one of the UFW’s most visible spokespersons.
Huerta later began focusing on women’s rights and began to challenge gender discrimination within the farm workers’ movement. She also served as national chair of the 21st Century Party founded in 1992 on the principles that women make up 52% of the party’s candidates and that officers must reflect the ethnic diversity of the nation.
Now at age 83, Dolores Huerta continues to work tirelessly developing leaders and advocating for the working poor, women, and children. As founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she travels across the country engaging in campaigns and influencing legislation that supports equality and defends civil rights.
She acts as a voice to thousands of working poor immigrants in the agriculture rich San Joaquin Valley of California who are unfamiliar with laws or agencies that can protect them or benefits to which they are entitled.
Huerta was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in March of 2013. She has received numerous awards including The Eleanor Roosevelt Humans Rights Award from President Clinton in 1998, Ms. Magazine’s One of the Three Most Important Women of 1997, Ladies Home Journal’s 100 Most Important Woman of the 20th Century, The Puffin Foundation’s Award for Creative Citizenship: Labor Leader Award 1984, The Kern County Woman of The Year Award from the California State Legislature, The Ohtli Award from the Mexican Government, The Smithsonian Institution – James Smithson Award, and nine honorary degrees.
In 2012 President Obama bestowed Huerta with her most prestigious award, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.
Huerta’s lecture at Hamilton is co-sponsored by the Kirkland Endowment, Student Assembly, and the Days-Massolo Center.