San Jose César Chávez site considered for National Landmark Status

August 9, 2016
Press Release

SAN JOSE, CA – U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) today applauded a federal study being conducted on McDonnell Hall to determine its potential for designation as a National Historic Landmark.

McDonnell Hall, built in 1911 and originally a Catholic parish in an impoverished San Jose neighborhood, served as the birthplace of César E. Chávez's social justice movement and the farm labor movement.

"This simple chapel nurtured one of our greatest civil rights champions and a movement that changed the lives of farm workers throughout our nation," said Lofgren. "The work of César Chávez had a profound impact and continues to benefit our community and the nation at large. We should not lose the few sites that remain from Chávez's life. We should preserve them and celebrate their history."

Chávez, who lived in East San Jose's Sal Si Puedes neighborhood, co-founded the National Farm Worker's Association, becoming a renowned civil rights activist who led the movement to improve labor conditions for farm workers. It was at McDonnell Hall where Chávez was introduced through his Catholic faith to the ideas of nonviolence, self-sacrifice, and social justice by Father Donald McDonnell, for whom the building is named. Chávez led the early activities of community organizing including voter registration drives and CSO meetings at McDonnell Hall, which also served as the staging ground for the Farm Labor Movement and the Delano Grape Strikes.

The National Historic Landmarks Program, administered by the United States Department of the Interior, focuses attention on properties of exceptional value to the nation, and that illustrate important persons or events in history. Designating McDonnell Hall as a National Historical Landmark will help preserved a significant local historical resource to benefit future generations. McDonnell Hall was designated a California historical landmark in 2014.

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