Cesar Estrada Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona. He was a Mexican American farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist. The son of a migrant farm worker, Chavez attended more than 30 elementary schools. In 1944 he joined the Navy at the age of seventeen. From 1952 to 1962, he worked with the Community Service Organization (CSO), founded by Saul Alinsky, where he registered people to vote. He also worked in community relations and became the CSO’s general director in 1958.
In 1962, after leaving the CSO, Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. Chavez led nationwide boycotts against buying grapes, lettuce and wine in an attempt to bring pressure on California growers to sign contracts with the UFW. His work led to numerous improvements for migrant and seasonal farm workers. He devoted himself to making people aware of the hardships of farm workers and fought for justice and social change. He died on April 23, 1993 in San Luis, Arizona.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded him the US Medal of Freedom posthumously. He is hailed as one of the greatest Mexican American Civil Rights leader in the 20th century. His birthday on March 31st has subsequently become a holiday in a number of states throughout the United States. A number of parks, cultural centers, libraries, schools, and streets have been named in his honor.