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The 1930s Origins of California’s Farmworker-Church Alliance


In the 1930s, Social Gospel ministers in the Los Angeles area organized to help farmworkers in Southern California. The reformist pastors worked across class, denominational, and racial lines and transcended language barriers as they built urban, coastal support for immigrant farmworkers in interior valleys. In the end, they failed, largely because employers were able to use the Communist affiliations of the farmworker union leaders to Red-bait and intimidate the ministers. Only when a later generation of labor leaders distanced their movement from Communism and grounded it in Christian rhetoric and imagery would this religious-labor alliance achieve victory.

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