Place matters. In analyzing historical events and rights movements, we need to pay close attention to the divergent locales where they happened. This article focuses on one such event, the lettuce workers’ strike of 1936, as it played out in Salinas, California. The setting of Salinas made a difference in labor relations and race relations, both in the way the strike came about and, just as importantly, in how and why it was ended. Strikers and their adversaries (growers and labor contractors) were multiracial and multiethnic but shared a common bond in their deep attachment to the city of Salinas. They knew one another intimately and had every incentive to heal the breach.
Place Matters: The 1930s Labor Actions and Salinas, California
CAROL LYNN McKIBBEN is an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer. She has been teaching courses in California history, urban history, and immigration history for the Department of History and Urban Studies at Stanford University since 2006 and is currently an affiliate lecturer with the Bill Lane Center for the American West. She has also engaged in numerous community-based research projects on the Monterey Peninsula for thirty years. Her first book, Beyond Cannery Row: Sicilian Women, Immigration, and Community in Monterey, 1915–1999 (2005), placed women at the center of a transnational migration story that focused on the ways migration reshaped Sicilian fishing families as they moved back and forth from villages in Sicily to Monterey, California, and, at the same time, altered the character of that city over the course of the twentieth century. Her second book, Racial Beachhead: Diversity and Democracy in a Military Town (2012), showed how federal investment and the diversity of personnel stationed at nearby Fort Ord transformed a small community, Seaside, into an important center of civil rights activism in California. Her most recent book, Salinas: The History of Race and Resilience in an Agricultural City (2022), tells the story of community building and struggle in a multiracial city.
Carol Lynn McKibben; Place Matters: The 1930s Labor Actions and Salinas, California. California History 1 November 2023; 100 (4): 72–99. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ch.2023.100.4.72
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