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In Memoriam: Joan Preiss

Joan Papert Preiss, tireless activist and organizer for farm workers’ rights, passed away in Durham on June 1, 2012. Preiss helped to found and chaired the Triangle Friends of the United Farm Workers (TFUFW) from 1973 into the 2000s. One of the most active groups in the Eastern U.S. associated with the United Farm Workers of America, TFUFW helped to bring Cesar Chavez, Baldemar Velásquez, and Dolores Huerta to speak at Duke and organized regional boycotts of products to improve conditions for migrant farm workers. Preiss also served on the board of the National Farm Worker Ministry, which has published a memorial to her, and was involved with the work of Student Action with Farmworkers since its foundation at Duke in 1992.

Joan Preiss and Baldemar Velásquez, founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. From the Joan Preiss Papers.

Preiss’s legacy can be explored in her papers at the Rubenstein Library. The papers contain extensive documentation of  boycotts coordinated by TFUFW with other groups, including the creative and colorful picket signs, leaflets, and other materials (such as the “pickle tiara”) for which Preiss became known in Durham and beyond.

Preiss wearing her pickle tiara during the FLOC boycott of Mt. Olive Pickles. From the Joan Preiss Papers.

The Student Action with Farmworkers Records in the Library’s Human Rights Archive also contain documentation of Preiss’s involvement with SAF and students at Duke preceding SAF’s foundation.

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections, and Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.