Jon Lewis


Jon Lewis

Photographs of the California Grape Strike

Richard Steven Street

464 pages
203 photographs


October 2013


$49.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Before the film, César Chavez, Chavez's life was depicted in photographs by his confidant, Jon Lewis.

In the winter of 1966, twenty-eight-year-old ex-marine Jon Lewis visited Delano, California, the center of the California grape strike. He thought he might stay awhile, then resume studying photography at San Francisco State University. He stayed for two years, becoming the United Farm Workers Union’s semiofficial photographer and a close confidant of farmworker leader César Chávez.

Surviving on a picket’s wage of five dollars a week, Lewis photographed twenty-four hours a day and created an insider’s view of the historic and sometimes violent confrontations, mass marches, fasts, picket lines, and boycotts that forced the table-grape industry to sign the first contracts with a farm workers union. Though some of his images were published contemporaneously, most remained unseen. Historian and photographer Richard Steven Street rescues Lewis from obscurity, allowing us for the first time to see a pivotal moment in civil rights history through the lens of a passionate photographer.

A masterpiece of social documentary, this work is at once the biography of a photographer, an exposé of poverty and injustice, and a celebration of the human spirit.

Author Bio

Richard Steven Street is the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow in the Department of American Studies, Princeton University. His photo essays explore the U.S.-Mexico border, homelessness, rural life, and the modern farmworker movement. His award-winning books include Beasts of the Fields, Photographing Farmworkers in California, and Everyone Had Cameras.


“With characteristic erudition, historian Richard Steven Street brings to life the incredible work of Jon Lewis, one of the foremost labor and civil rights photographers of the twentieth century. This book simultaneously captures agricultural California’s most pressing political struggles and the vision of a major, if unrecognized, artist.”—Stephen Pitti, professor of history at Yale University and author of The Devil in Silicon Valley: Northern California, Race, and Mexican Americans

“Jon Lewis’s magnificent photographs of the farmworker revolution in California evoke comparisons with the work of Dorothea Lange. They bend time past all forgetting to an era of struggle that stands on a par with Selma and Freedom Summer—the bitter fight to dignify Mexican and Filipino labor in the fields. Richard Street, who brought Lewis and his archive back into the light, provides a piercing account that honors both the brilliance of this photographer and the memory of a singular time and place.”—Richard A. Walker, professor of geography at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of The Conquest of Bread: 150 Years of California Agribusiness

Table of Contents



1. Epicenter

2. Memory

3. Predecessors

4. Obscurity

5. Marine

6. Ganz

7. Cornucopia

8. Steinbeck

9. Power

10. Fanatics

11. Flies

12. Dispossessed

13. Braceros

14. Pancho

15. Mordida

16. Unions

17. AWOC


19. Chávez

20. Organizing

21. Huelga!

22. Delano

23. Growers

24. Poverty

25. Welcome

26. Slaves

27. Friendships

28. Photographers

29. Witness

30. Advocates

31. Boycott

32. Zoo

33. Darkroom

34. Routine

35. Lessons

36. Doubts

37. Exhaustion

38. Kennedy

39. March

40. Participating

41. La Causa

42. Blisters

43. Sacrifice

44. St. Mary’s

45. Sacramento

46. Alone

47. Participant

48. DiGiorgio

49. Sweetheart

50. Harvest

51. Altar

52. Fraud

53. Prints

54. Violence

55  Chavarria

56. Rallies

57. Voting

58. August

59. People’s

60. Departure

61. Hock

62. Giumarra

63. School

64. Fast

65. Stranded

66. Book

67. Voice

68. Film

69. Contract

70. Broke

71. Redemption

72. Ubiquitous

73. Impact

74. Decide

75. Parting



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