By 1966, Cesar Chavez had been a labor leader and civil rights activist for more than a decade. In March 1966, he and others marched from Delano, California to Sacramento – an approximate 300 miles – to have the demands of Mexican and Filipino farm workers heard, as well as to bring national attention to the mistreatment of farm workers.
1966 was the same year that Martin Luther King, Jr. sent Chavez a telegram that acknowledged his work and detailed why they were allies.
“As brothers in the fight for equality, I extend the hand of fellowship and good will and wish continuing success to you and your members. The fight for equality must be fought on many fronts–in the urban slums, in the sweat shops of the factories and fields. Our separate struggles are really one–a struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity,” his message, which was dated September 22, read. “You and your fellow workers have demonstrated your commitment to righting grievous wrongs forced upon exploited people. We are together with you in spirit and in determination that our dreams for a better tomorrow will be realized.”
There was a mutual respect between Chavez and MLK. 10 years after his death, Chavez wrote a piece on the civil rights leader for Maryknoll Magazine. Chavez said that MLK led the way through his nonviolence, which inspired the United Farm Workers’ philosophy.
“It has been our experience that few men or women ever have the opportunity to know the true satisfaction that comes with giving one’s life totally in the nonviolent struggle for justice,” he wrote. “Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of these unique servants and from him we learned many of the lessons that have guided us. For these lessons and for his sacrifice for the poor and oppressed, Dr. King’s memory will be cherished in the hearts of the farm workers forever.”
Read Chavez’s entire article here.