• Dolores Huerta
    Dolores Huerta

Southwestern University is honored to welcome the influential and highly respected activist Dolores Huerta to campus on Thursday, January 18th, as part of our “Remember, Honor and Act – MLK50” celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy.

Dolores Huerta is an activist and labor leader who has dedicated her life to fighting discrimination and improving social and economic conditions for farm workers, immigrants and women. She has positively impacted the lives of many, achieved multiple honors throughout her lifetime, and still actively pursues her passions at the age of 87.

Terri Johnson, Assistant Dean For Student Multicultural Affairs at Southwestern says, “I wanted the students to have the opportunity to meet a living Civil Rights Legend. So much of the work of the Coalition for Diversity and Social Justice centers on Social Justice, Environmental Justice and Human Rights which embodies what Dolores Huerta represents. We are truly honored to have Dolores Huerta bring her story and her powerful voice to the Southwestern University community.”

Dolores Huerta’s amazing life story resembles the plot of a movie, complete with drama, suspense, conflict, violence, and romance. Her lifelong passion for civil rights and equality led her to create the Agricultural Workers Association (AWA) and to co-found what would become the United Farm Workers (UFW). This same passion also led to her being arrested a total of 22 times (for peaceful protests), and being beaten nearly to death with a baton by police officers during a protest in San Francisco (she later won a settlement which she used to benefit farm workers). In 1968, she stood beside Robert F. Kennedy moments before he was shot inside the Ambassador hotel in L.A. (he died the next day from his wounds). She also led a highly publicized and ultimately successful grape boycott, and coined the famous phrase Sí, se puede (Spanish for “Yes, it is possible” or, roughly, “Yes, one can”) during her famous friend Cesar Chavez’s 25-day fast in Phoenix, Arizona in 1972.

Dolores has won too many awards and honors to name, including:

  • Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award
  • United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights 1998
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • First Latina inductee in the National Women’s Hall of Fame 1993
  • Awarded the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship in 2002
  • Recognized as one of the ’100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century’ by Ladies’ Home Journal
  • Received an honorary degree from Princeton University in recognition of her numerous achievements May 2006
  • Jane Addams Distinguished Leadership Award

Dolores was married and divorced twice, and has 11 children.

A Life of Many Accomplishments

Born in 1930 in New Mexico, Dolores’ parents divorced when she was three and she moved with her mother and two brothers to Stockton, California. Her mother Alicia Chavez was well-respected in the community, involved in civic affairs and organizations. Dolores describers her as a “very intelligent woman and a very gentle woman” and credits her with giving her the foundation for her non-violent, strong spiritual stance.

In high school, Dolores was active and involved in many activities including girl scouts, although she experienced firsthand the way Mexican Americans, especially farm workers, were treated. Once, a teacher accused her of cheating by stealing another student’s work, which she believed was racially motivated.

Her passion for helping farm workers continued after she earned her teaching certificate and began teaching elementary school. She hated to see her students, many of them the children of farmers, coming to school hungry and without shoes. “I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children.”

In 1955, she helped Fred Ross start the Stockton chapter of the Community Services Organization (CSO), a grassroots group that worked to end segregation, discrimination and police brutality and improve social and economic conditions of farm workers. In 1960, she co-founded the Agricultural Workers Association.

Through her work with the CSO, she met and became friends with then Executive Director Cesar Chavez. They bonded through a shared passion for helping farm workers, and co-founded the National Farm Workers Association.

In 1965, she directed the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee’s national boycott during the Delano grape strike, which resulted in the California grape industry signing a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the UFW in 1970.

“An Evening with Dolores Huerta,” at Southwestern Event Details

Southwestern is thrilled to offer an exceptional opportunity to hear directly from one of the most influential activists of our time. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by:

  • Coalition for Diversity and Social Justice
  • Kappa Delta Chi
  • Office of Diversity Education
  • Diversity Enrichment Committee
  • Jessie Daniel Ames Endowed Lecture in Feminist Studies
  • Latin American & Border Studies

Date: Thursday, Jan. 18th

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Location: The Olin Building on the Southwestern Campus (link to map)

Room 105

Tickets: Free and open to the public


For additional information on this event contact Terri Johnson, Assistant Dean For Student Multicultural Affairs, at tjohnson@southwestern.edu.