Grapes of Conflict

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Grapes of Conflict


Sydney Smith, long a participant in the effort to wrest a modicum of justice for farm workers, has analyzed here the growth of the National Council of Churches’ Migrant Ministry and its expanding self-understanding of ministry to the poor.

This historic alliance which was forged between the faith community and the farm workers under the leadership of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union of America resulted in the nationwide grape boycott and improvements in the conditions and pay of the migrant farm workers. This is a memorable narrative of the history of the movement up through the grape strike, plus a theological analysis of why churches came to this position.

Cesar Chavez wrote the foreword and personally autographed the special edition version of this title, as did Chris Hartmire who wrote the introduction.

Cesar Chavez says, “The migrant ministry is central to the farm workers struggle for justice and central to the improvements that farm workers and their children have experienced over the years. Grapes of Conflict is a great story in the histories of labor and the faith community. Syd Smith, himself a key figure in the story, has done a service for us all by analyzing and recording these events.”

John C. Bennett, former president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York said, “This book is a story and an analysis of the unusual relations between the religious community and the creative and progressive Farm Workers Union which, thanks to their inspiring leadership and wide support from those committed to social justice, have done much to support these neglected and exploited workers in our society.”

Harold E. Fey, editor emeritus of the Christian Century, adds, “Grapes of Conflict is an invaluable primary source on the church’s prophetic identification with farm workers through the Migrant Ministry in [their] struggle. Sydney shared that struggle.”



Sydney D. Smith, State Commissioner (Presbyterian) of the California Migrant Ministry from 1958 until 1972 when it became the National Farm Worker Ministry, felt when he retired he needed to gather the history of this pivotal work so it would not be lost to future generations. A colleague and friend of Chris Hartmire, who directed the Migrant Ministry and then the Farm Workers Ministry, Smith had access to what was happening in this struggle and its vital history at a personal level.


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