One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cesar Chavez, and the Dream of Dignity

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Winner of the Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction at the 2008 Oregon Book Awards. See link below for more information!

Robert Kennedy and César Chávez came from opposite sides of the tracks of race and class that still divide Americans. Both optimists, Kennedy and Chávez shared a common vision of equality. They united in the 1960s to crusade for the rights of migrant farm workers. Farm workers faded from public consciousness following Kennedy’s assassination and Chávez’s early passing. Yet the work of Kennedy and Chávez continues to reverberate in America today.
Bender chronicles their warm friendship and embraces their bold political vision for making the American dream a reality for all. While many books discuss Kennedy or Chávez individually, this is the first book to capture their multifaceted relationship and its relevance to mainstream U.S. politics and Latino/a politics today. Bender examines their shared legacy and its continuing influence on political issues including immigration, education, war, poverty, and religion. Mapping a new political path for Mexican Americans and the poor of all backgrounds, this book argues that there is still time to prove Kennedy and Chávez right.

Oregon Book Awards

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Bender (law, Univ. of Oregon Sch. of Law; Greasers and Gringos) frames his history of American Latino political participation within a study of the friendship of Robert Kennedy and César Chávez, who first met during JFK's presidential campaign. RKF oversaw outreach to Latinos, while Chávez headed the largest voter registration organization in California. Later, Chávez turned to rural union organizing of immigrant agricultural workers and called for help from RFK, who backed their 1966 strike. His backing of Chávez and the union, their shared belief in nonviolent activism, and their commitment to Catholic teachings on the poor created a bond between the son of Irish wealth and the Mexican farm worker. In turn, Chávez and the United Farm Workers Union worked to help RFK win the 1968 California primary from which Bender dates the decline of Chávez's union. After RKF's assassination, union political enthusiasm waned, and President Nixon sought to undermine the Farm Workers legally and economically. In the face of the anti-immigrant movement that began in 2006 and some anti-Hispanic vitriol from 2008 GOP candidates, Bender issues a plea for a revival of the RFK-Chávez concern for the dignity and well-being of the poor. He conveys both the fact and the emotion of the Latino dream for uplift, as shared by Chávez and RFK. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
—Duncan Stewart

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594514296
  • Publisher: Paradigm Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Bender, James and Ilene Hershner Professor of Law at the University of Oregon School of Law, is the author of Greasers and Gringos: Latinos, Law, and the American Imagination (New York University Press, 2003).

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Table of Contents

Part I: A Friendship Cut Short

Chapter 1: Viva (John) Kennedy

Chapter 2: Viva la Huelga

Chapter 3: Cesar's Fast and Deeds of Love

Chapter 4: Viva (Bobby) Kennedy

Chapter 5: One Night in America

Part II: The Dream of Dignity Survives

Chapter 6: Aftermath

Chapter 7: Viva la Causa: Rural Latinos and the Farm Worker Movement

Chapter 8: Viva la Raza: Urban Latinos and the Chicano Movement

Chapter 9: Vietnam and Mexican Americans: Patriotism and Protest

Chapter 10: Latinos and Poverty

Chapter 11: Immigration: Walls and Wages

Part III: Lessons from 1968: Latino Politics Today

Chapter 12: Latinos and National Politics

Chapter 13: Mexican Americans and the Catholic Church

Chapter 14: Mexican Americans and the Civil Rights Movement

Chapter 15: Looking Ahead: The Future of the Democratic Party and Immigrant Reform


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