New Spotlight galleries featuring images from the David Bacon Photography Archive

December 9, 2021
Benjamin Lee Stone
Watsonville march, April 1996


Thanks to the hard work of Special Collections Cataloging and Metadata Librarian Laura Wilsey, six new galleries of images from the David Bacon Photography Archive are now available for viewing in the Bacon Spotlight exhibit. These six galleries, containing 570 images, highlight Bacon's extensive coverage of the struggles of farm workers and immigrants for civil rights and economic justice, as well as images from the Occupy movement and movements for immigration reform.   The galleries are: United Farm Workers: Watsonville Strawberry Campaign; Farm Workers: Under the Trees; Farm Workers: Hunger in the Fields; Immigrants: Immigrant Workers Demand Amnesty; Social Protests: Images from the Occupy Movement; Immigrants: Pushing for Immigration Reform-San Francisco and Oakland, 1996-2003.  

Photographer David Bacon provided a new description of the images depicting the seminal events of the Watsonville Strawberry Campaign of 1996, noting

"Starting in the 1996 strawberry harvest, the United Farm Workers mounted the largest bottom-up union organizing drive in the country. It began just three years after the death of UFW founder Cesar Chavez and two years after union members marched for 20 days from Delano to Sacramento. [images depicted in an allied gallery United Farm Workers : The Year Cesar Died]

The beginning of the Watsonville campaign was marked by growers plowing under their fields, and the firing of many workers active in the organizing. At the beginning of the campaign's second year 30,000 farmworkers and their supporters converged on Watsonville from around the country. Marching through the barrio of this small Central Coast community, they demanded that growers rehire the fired workers and respect their right to organize.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney then arranged a neutrality agreement with Watsonville's largest grower, Gargiulo Corp. which became an independent company, Coastal Berry. Instead of bringing labor peace, however, over the next two years a company union sought to displace the UFW, and UFW supporters were beaten in the fields. Several hotly fought union elections later, workers in the UFW finally won contracts, first in Oxnard, and then in Watsonville itself.

The Watsonville strawberry organizing campaign has been the largest farmworker organzing effort since the 1970s. The photographs in the archive document the leaders and workers involved, in images taken, at work, in meetings in the fields, and in some of Watsonville's desperately poor neighborhoods. The archive's photographs include hundreds of other images that place Watsonville in context, giving an in-depth look at the lives and social movements of farmworkers up and down the Pacific Coast over the past 35 years."

Special Collections continues to add digital images from the David Bacon Photography Archive to the Bacon Spotlight exhibit.