America’s Social Arsonist

America's Social Arsonist

On March 29, 2016, labor journalist and author Gabriel Thompson released “America’s Social Activist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century,” the first biography of the extraordinary work of Fred Ross, Sr.

This first biography of Fred Ross, Sr. is very readable and it’s telling of why he became an organizer and how his efforts were impacted by the historic times in which he lived. Labor journalist and author Gabriel Thompson shares the stories of the courageous men and women who my father trained to become leaders in the fight for social justice. Amongst those he mentored were some of the most influential organizers in American history including Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Thompson helps to recover a forgotten chapter of American history and provides vital lessons for all organizers today.

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About the Author:
Gabriel Thompson is a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. He is the author of several books, and has written for Harper’sNew York, Slate, Mother Jones, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Nation.

About the Book:
Raised by conservative parents who hoped he would “stay with his own kind,” Fred Ross instead became one of the most influential community organizers in American history. His activism began alongside Dust Bowl migrants, where he managed the same labor camp that inspired John Steinbeck’s 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. Labor organizing in this country was forever changed when Ross knocked on the door of a young Cesar Chavez and encouraged him to become an organizer.

Until now there has been no biography of Fred Ross, a man who believed a good organizer was supposed to fade into the crowd as others stepped forward. In America’s Social Arsonist, Gabriel Thompson provides a full picture of this complicated and driven man, recovering a forgotten chapter of American history and providing vital lessons for organizers today.