Complicating the Beloved Community
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and
the National Farm Workers Association
Elizabeth Sutherland Martínez had chosen her dress just for the occasion—it was red and black to match the flag of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). Martínez had traveled from New York City to California’s central valley to show support for the union of primarily Mexican American farm workers. Led by Cesar Chavez, the farm workers were marching 250 miles from Delano to Sacramento to draw attention to their struggles against Delano grape growers. That evening, as the marchers rested, ate, and visited in a community center in a small, dusty town along the route, Martínez was asked to give a speech as a representative of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She hurried to the ladies room where she scribbled a short address on a steno pad, changed into her specially selected dress, and ran back to the hall. In Spanish, Martínez spoke for SNCC when she proclaimed, “we are with you and we are proud of your march and your victory because it is a victory for all the poor of the world.”1
SNCC’S relationship with the farm workers illuminates previously hidden dimensions of the organization that expand our understanding of its philosophy, priorities, and mission.