Ernesto Galarza

labor organizer, historian, professor, activist
Born: 1905
Birthplace: Nayarit, Mexico, near Tepic

When Ernesto Galarza was eight, he and his parents migrated to Sacramento, California, where he worked as a farm laborer. Excelling at school, he became one of the first Mexican-Americans from a poor background to complete college, after which he received a M.A. from Stanford in 1929, and a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 1944. Galarza returned to California, where—at the height of the Cold War and McCarthyism—he organized unions for farm laborers, joining the effort to create the first multiracial farm worker union. While this effort failed, it created the foundation for the United Farm Workers Union of the 1960s. He wrote several books, most notably the 1964 Merchants of Labor, on the exploitation of Mexican contract workers, and the 1971 Barrio Boy, about his own childhood. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976.

Died: 1984