About This Project
In the summer of 1975, a young photography student spent months in the Salinas Valley, watching farmworkers make history. Mimi Plumb shot dozens of rolls of film, packed all the negatives up in boxes, and went on to a distinguished career as an artist and educator. But she never forgot that summer. When she retired from teaching, Plumb went back to the boxes of negatives with the hundreds of images she had captured four decades earlier.
This project grew out of that re-discovery.
Miriam Pawel is an author and journalist who spent most of the past decade writing about the farmworkers, Cesar Chavez, and the history of the United Farm Workers union. She began to identify workers in Plumb’s photos. Together, the two met with groups of former farmworkers who had been in Salinas in 1975. Some of the meetings were emotional. Children saw pictures of their parents as young adults for the first time. Grown men who had no photos of their fathers found them in Plumb’s images.
Wendy Vissar, a photographer and web designer who had worked on several farmworker-related projects, joined the team to help tell the workers’ stories in a digital form.
The quotes that accompany photos on this website come from two sources. Journalist Bob Barber conducted interviews in 1975 that included many of the people Plumb photographed, and he taped events and rallies where she took pictures. His tapes are in the archives of the Walter P. Reuther Labor Library at Wayne State University in Detroit. The sound clips on the website come from those tapes. In recent months, Pawel and Plumb conducted oral histories to supplement those contemporaneous accounts. We hope the website will continue to evolve, as others come forward with stories of this pivotal time in history.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of California Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.