Image - The Commonwealth Club of California

Fred Ross: America's Social Arsonist

Gabriel Thompson, Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing, San Jose State University; Author, America's Social Arsonist

This program is part of the Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Gabriel Thompson's is the first biography of Fred Ross, who believed a good labor organizer should fade into the crowd. But the mentor of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta is hard to forget. In America’s Social Arsonist, Thompson provides a full picture of this complicated and driven man. Raised by conservative parents, Fred Ross disappointed them by becoming a very influential community organizer.

His activism began alongside Dust Bowl migrants when he managed the same labor camp that was fictionalized in The Grapes of Wrath. During World War II, Ross worked for the release of interned Japanese Americans, and after the war he dedicated his life to building the political power of Latinos across California, which succeeded after Ross knocked on the door of a young Cesar Chavez and encouraged him to become an organizer.