Teaching Labor’s Story

Labor History Themes

Primary Source Types

Teaching Labor’s Story Glossary

Historical Eras

  • Era 1: Three Worlds Meet (Beginnings to 1620)
  • Era 2: Colonization and Settlement (1585-1763)
  • Era 3: Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)
  • Era 4: Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
  • Era 5: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
  • Era 6: The Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900)
  • Era 7: The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)
  • Era 8: The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
    • 8.1 UAW-CIO song, 1942. *This song is about the struggles by auto workers to organize a union and their patriotic pride as both producers for and soldiers in the American war effort during World War II. It equates unionism with patriotism. 
    • 8.2 Blank Pay Days, 1933  *This document is excerpted from an article written by a Chicago school teacher about how the Great Depression was affecting her work and personal life; published 1933 in The Saturday Evening Post.
    • 8.3 Spasmodic Diary of a Chicago School Teacher, 1933  *An excerpt from a published selection of a diary that belonged to an anonymous Chicago public school teacher, which was published in The Atlantic Monthly in November 1933.
    • 8.4 Memorial Day Massacre, 1937  *An eyewitness narration of unedited newsreel footage of the 1937 Memorial Day Massacre in Chicago, Illinois when steel unionists and their supporters were met with police violence on their way to demand the right to set up a mass picket in front of Republic Steel. 
    • 8.5 Murder of Frank Hanes, 1939. *These three letters describe the murder of an African American farm worker named Frank Hanes by Mississippi plantation owner Tom Alexander. Bernice Wims wrote to the U.S. attorney general to request an investigation, but the federal government refused to act.
    • 8.6 Charles Houston, Scottsboro Case, Revisited, 1939. *Charles Houston delivered this speech to an International Labor Defense conference on July 8th, 1939. His “Special Paper on…Educational Equality” speech draws a connection between labor, civil rights, and education. Houston specifically links the Scottsboro Case to labor control. 
    • 8-7-The-Soup-Song-1930“The Soup Song” uses humor and sarcasm to convey workers’ experiences and attitudes during the Great Depression.  As a widely popular participatory song, it was an effective tool for labor organizing.
  • Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
    • 9.1 Triumph of the Paraprofessionals, August 22, 1970  *This opinion piece by civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin celebrates the signing of the first union contract for paraprofessional educators — community-based classroom and school support staff, nearly all of them black and Hispanic women — in New York City. It was published in the New York Amsterdam News, the city’s largest black-owned newspaper, in 1970.
    • 9.2 Chavez Explains the Need for Boycotts, 1972  *A TV interview with United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez conducted at the height of the struggle during the 1972 election season.
    • 9.3 NOW, Statement of Purpose, 1966   This Statement of Purpose, a founding document of the National Organization for Women (NOW), outlined the founders’ explanation of the problems facing American women and asserted that their sex should organize to solve them. As the largest feminist membership group of the “second wave” era, NOW attacked many of the gendered inequalities that defined American life—especially those related to work
    • 9-4 DRUM, Demands 1969 * All autoworkers on the Dodge assembly line were represented by United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 3, but some workers, particularly Black workers, did not feel equally protected and supported by their union. In 1969 a group of these autoworkers joined with community activists to form the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM). This is one of the first list of demands DRUM issued to Dodge management.
  • Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)