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Guide to the Fred Ross Papers, 1910-1992 M0812
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Collection Details
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  • Prominent institutions in the collection include:
  • Prominent or frequently-mentioned individuals include:
  • Related Material
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  • Publication Rights:
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  • Title: Fred Ross papers,
    Identifier/Call Number: M0812
    Contributing Institution: Dept. of Special Collections & University Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 22.0 Linear feet (32 boxes, 1 flat box)
    Date (inclusive): 1910-1992

    Prominent institutions in the collection include:

    1. American Council on Race Relations (ACRR)
    2. AFL-CIO
    3. Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC)
    4. California Federation for Civic Unity (CFCU)
    5. Central America Peace Education Training Project
    6. Community Action Training Center (CATC)
    7. Community Service Organization (CSO)
    8. Guadalupe Organization, Inc. (GO)
    9. Industrial Areas Foundation
    10. LULAC
    11. National Farm Worker Ministry
    12. National Farm Workers' Association (NFWA)
    13. National Farm Workers' Union (NFWU)
    14. NSO
    15. Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign
    16. State Relief Administration (SRA)
    17. Survival Institute
    18. Teamsters
    19. United Farm Workers (UFW)
    20. War Relocation Authority (WRA)

    Prominent or frequently-mentioned individuals include:

    1. John Adler
    2. Saul Alinsky
    3. Dan Bacar
    4. Bill Beachy
    5. Jenny Brashear
    6. Dave Burciaga
    7. Cesar Chavez
    8. Andy Coe
    9. [Ellie] Cohen
    10. Greg Costello
    11. Joe Deety
    12. Chris Donoughue
    13. Joe Dukes
    14. Nancy Elliot
    15. Dianne Feinstein
    16. Mike Ganley
    17. Marshall Ganz
    18. Warren Hagstrom
    19. Bob Hardie
    20. Chirs Hartmire
    21. H. Hasawara
    22. Hayes
    23. Ralph Helstein
    24. Dolores Huerta
    25. Nick Jones
    26. Dave Koeler
    27. Ignacio ("Nacho") Lopez
    28. Mark Lyons
    29. Barbara Macry
    30. David Martinez
    31. Mary McCarthy
    32. Blain McGowan
    33. Eliseo Medina
    34. Dolores Mendoza
    35. Ray Mork
    36. Henry Nava
    37. Frank Ortiz
    38. Bob Parcel
    39. Lois Pryner
    40. Clint Reilly
    41. Tony Rios
    42. John Rodrigo
    43. Arturo Rodriguez
    44. Edward R. Roybal
    45. Hector Tarango
    46. Jo M. Tobin
    47. Ruth Tuck
    48. Barbara Wyler

    Related Material

    Another small collection of Ross' papers, measuring 1-1/2 linear feet, is held by the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University in Detroit. This collection includes daily field activity reports documenting Ross's training of Chavez as an organizer for the Community Service Organization from 1954 to 1965 and an untitled manuscript, written around 1973, about Chavez and his early work in the organization of farm workers. It is uncertain if duplicates of the Ross materials in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs are included in the Stanford collection.


    The Ross Papers comprise the personal and professional materials of Fred Ross and occupy approximately 22 linear feet.
    The general condition of the papers reflects Ross' peripatetic lifestyle as an organizer. Before being acquired by Stanford, the Ross papers were stored in various locations; a few of the papers have extensive water and mold damage. Many of the files and papers are incomplete, break off suddenly, or have had to be reconstructed or reorganized. The general organization of the papers is also affected by the fact that Ross suffered from Alzheimer's disease at the end of his life. Often he went back and relabelled files, sometimes erroneously; when these errors were obvious, they were corrected in the folder title. In going through many of his files, Ross removed items to use for his autobiographical manuscripts and then did not replace them. This means that some files have obvious gaps. When the missing materials could clearly be identified, they were put back with the larger files to which they belonged. When the provenance of stray items could not be easily determined, they were filed by themselves or, when found in a group, filed together with other "missing pieces" under titles such as "misc. manuscript pages" or "organizing materials (without organization names)." Overall the processor followed the principle of preserving as much of the original order as possible and leaving it to the individual researcher to determine what may belong together.
    Most of the materials in the collection were put into regular-size manuscript boxes; slightly larger articles were put into legal-size manuscript boxes that are designated in the collection as "legal." Very large pieces are in oversized boxes marked "OS."
    The Manuscript and Audiotape Series may be the richest for researchers. It is here that Ross' organizing work and personal experience are most fully documented.


    Fred W. Ross was born August 23, 1910 in San Francisco to Fred W. and Daisy C. Ross. He grew up in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles and attended Belmont High School until 1929. An English literature and social science major, he graduated from the University of Southern California in 1937.
    Giving up his original plan to become a teacher because he could not find a job during the Depression, Ross became a caseworker with the state relief administration. In 1939 he became the manager of the Arvin Migratory Labor Camp near Bakersfield, the same camp John Steinbeck drew on to write The Grapes of Wrath. Ross encouraged the inhabitants to organize themselves. In 1941 he began to work for the War Relocation Authority helping Japanese American internees leave the camps and obtain jobs and housing.
    In 1946 Ross went to work for the American Council on Race Relations to promote "Councils for Civic Unity" in California in response to the racial tensions that had surfaced during the war. The eight Hispanic Unity Leagues Ross organized fought segregation in schools and elsewhere. From 1947 to 1952 he worked for Saul Alinsky and the Industrial Areas Foundation. With their support Ross established the first Community Service Organization in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles. In 1952 he met Cesar Chavez, then a young man in San Jose, and hired him. Both men founded 22 CSO chapters throughout California in the 1950's. As a decades-long mentor, Ross had a strong influence on Chavez, who remembered that "as time went on, Fred became sort of my hero. I saw him organize and I wanted to learn."
    In 1964 Ross was hired by the National Presbyterian Church to establish a community self-help group in Guadalupe, Arizona, a poor small town, populated by Yaqui Indians and Mexican Americans, where the church owned much property. The following year, 1965-66, Ross taught community organizing at Syracuse University in the first course of its kind. In 1966 Ross began his work with Cesar Chavez's UFW, training hundreds of organizers. He organized many well-known strikes and boycotts, among them the Giumarra strike of 1967, the grape boycott of 1968, the lettuce strikes of 1970 and 1973, and the Gallo wine boycott of 1973.
    In 1978 Ross directed Jerry Brown's campaign for governor of California. Ross helped to organize the United Domestic Workers of America and the 1979 Chiquita Banana Boycott. In 1984 he became involved with Nuclear Freeze, Jobs with Peace, CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador). He also worked with the anti-interventionist group Neighbor to Neighbor with his son, Fred., Jr .
    Ross developed and taught organizing techniques such as the house meeting. This work is well-documented in the Papers. In 1989 Neighbor to Neighbor published Ross' Axioms for Organizers as a booklet. The same year, El Taller Grafico press (UFW) pubished Ross' first book, Conquering Goliath: Cesar Chavez at the Beginning.
    In 1937 Ross married Yvonne Gregg; they divorced shortly after the birth of their son, Robert, in 1940. Ross married Frances Gibson in 1943, and they had three children, Julia, Fred, Jr., and Rob. Fred Ross died on September 27, 1992.

    Preferred Citation:

    [Identification of item] Fred Ross Papers, M 812, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


    Acquired from Fred Ross, Jr., 1995

    Publication Rights:

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.

    Access Restrictions: