Fred Ross trained a dizzying array of community organizers. His organizing strategies proved most influential in the Mexican-American community in California. Ross led voting drives in Los Angeles before travelling north to San Jose where he recruited Cesar Chavez to join the Community Service Organization (CSO) and began to instruct Chavez in techniques of community organizing. This article focuses on the development of Ross’s organizing techniques while working with dust bowl migrants in camps for migratory farmworkers funded by the Farm Security Administration. The New Deal, for Ross, provided an opportunity for community mobilization as he combined economic and cultural populism into a critique of California’s “factory farm” agricultural system.

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