Fred Ross

Fred Ross

Fred Ross standing on stage with organizers and volunteers, Lamont, ca. 1967. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Fred Ross was a mentor and friend of César Chávez. Ross was the director of a farm labor camp near Bakersfield, California, where cotton pickers were protesting working conditions and low wages. Understanding their plight, he encouraged the farm workers to fight for their rights and supported them by grassroots organizing the migrant camp. He worked with community organizer Saul Alinsky and the Industrial Areas Foundation to help African Americans and Mexican Americans fight for their rights against school segregation, police brutality, and discriminatory housing conditions.

Ross was an adviser to a group of Mexican Americans who were suing the city of Westminster for separating Mexican schools. The federal court decision in Mendez et al. v. Westminster is now a landmark civil rights victory against racial segregation in public schools. In 1947, Ross and Edward Roybal created the Community Service Organization (CSO) to organize Latino communities in Los Angeles. After registering thousands of voters in East Los Angeles, Ross moved to San José in 1953 to open a CSO chapter. There, he met a young apricot picker named Chávez, who joined the CSO. Ross also recruited Dolores Huerta and Gilbert Padilla for the organization, before they decided to leave CSO and establish the National Farmworkers Association in 1962. 

Fred Ross Sr. standing with César Chávez on stage at Filipino Hall, Delano, September 1, 1966. Photo by John Kouns.


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