Although writing can help decipher history, it’s our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"If they're hungry, let them eat grass or their own dung."

Minnesota's Sioux uprising of 1862

Reprint from Telelaget of America

The Sioux Uprising of 1862 was primarily the result of the government's failure to honor the terms of the Treaty of Traverse de Sioux in 1851.  The Indians gave up over 20 million acres of land, preserving for themselves a reservation of the land on each side of the Minnesota river, roughly from the Minnesota border to New Ulm. The government did not honor these terms, and a number of pioneer settlements began to sprang up on what legally was reservation land. The government promised yearly payments to the tribes for the land they gave up; the payments were often late and were gobbled up by the trading post owners who charged outrageous prices but offered credit to Indians during the year. In the summer of 1862, the payments were once again late and the Indians were starving. 

On August 4, 1862, representatives of the northern Sissetowan and Wahpeton Dakota bands met at the Upper Sioux Agency in the northwestern part of the reservation and successfully negotiated to obtain food. When two other bands of the Dakota, the southern Mdewakanton and the Wahpekute, turned to the Lower Sioux Agency for supplies on August 15, 1862, they were rejected. Indian Agent (and Minnesota State Senator) Thomas Galbraith managed the area and would not distribute food without payment to these bands.

At a meeting of the Dakota, the U.S. government and local traders, the Dakota representatives asked the representative of the government traders, Andrew Jackson Myrick, to sell them food on credit. His response was said to be, "So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry let them eat grass or their own dung." But the importance of Myrick's comment at the time, early August 1862, is historically unclear. Myrick was later found dead with grass stuffed in his mouth.

With the American army focused on the Civil War, it seemed to be to the Indians' advantage to take military action to redress these grievances.  Minnesota's pioneers were largely unaware of the just nature of the Indians' plight, and they suffered prolonged and intense terror in the fall of 1862. Estimates vary but between 450 and 800 settlers were killed. Large areas were depopulated as panic-stricken settlers rushed to Fort Ridgely or to towns like St. Peter. The settlers formed groups of citizen soldiers to protect themselves. They gave themselves names like The Le Sueur Tigers, St. Peter Guards, and the Scandinavian Guards of Nicollet County. Soldiers rushed from St. Paul to defend the counties of southern Minnesota.

The uprising lasted only six weeks. 425 Indians were indicted; 303 were sentenced to hang and 20 to imprisonment.  President Lincoln commuted all but 38 of the death sentences.  A massive scaffold was built, and on the day after Christmas in 1862, all 38 men and boys were hung simultaneously. It was the largest public execution in American history.

This American Life
(To listen to the oral documentary, click above)
Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen says, nobody ever talked about the most important historical event ever to happen there: in 1862, it was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hanged after a war with white settlers. John went back to Minnesota to figure out what really happened 150 years ago, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it much after.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Russell Means: A Look at His Journey Through Life

By ICTMN Staff October 22, 2012

Russell Means Testifying in Washington
AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander
Russell Means, who walked on early the morning of October 22, is seen here on January 31, 1989 testifying before a special investigative committee of Senate Select Committee.
As news of his walking on spreads across Indian country, we’ve taken the time to look back at Russell Means’ storied life. He passed at 4:44 a.m. on October 22 at his home in Porcupine, South Dakota.
Means laughed in response to being called the most famous American Indian since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse by the Los Angeles Times. Last year he told the Rapid City Journal: “I thought Jim Thorpe was,” he said with a grin. “Jim Thorpe was my hero.”
November 10, 1939
Born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Family moved to the San Francisco Bay area.
Graduated from San Leandro High School in San Leandro, California.
Became the first national director of the American Indian Movement (AIM).
Participated in a prayer vigil on top of Mount Rushmore to, as the New York Times put it, “dramatize Lakota claims to Black Hills land.”
Helped lead AIM’s Thanksgiving Day demonstration at Plymouth Rock where 200 American Indians seized the Mayflower, painted Plymouth Rock red and observed a day of mourning.
Participated in the Trail of Broken Treaties from California to Washington, D.C. (AIM was one of eight Indian organizations involved). Led the week-long occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to protest broken treaties.
Filed a $9 million lawsuit, as director of the Cleveland AIM chapter, against the Cleveland Indians baseball team for its use of “Chief Wahoo,” its toothy Indian mascot. “It epitomizes the stereotyped images of the American Indian,” Means said. “It attacks the cultural heritage of the American Indian and destroys Indian pride.”
Russell Means Dennis Banks 1973 03 07 AP730307066 270x182 Russell Means: A Look at His Journey Through Life
Russell Means, AIM leader on the Pine Ridge Reservation, left, tells villagers on March 7, 1973 in Wounded Knee that they must continue their fight against the government until their demands are met. At right is Dennis Banks another AIM Leader. (AP Photo)
February 27, 1973
Was a leader of the armed 71-day standoff at Wounded Knee against federal agents. Thousands of shots were fired, two Indians were killed and an agent was paralyzed. Means and Dennis Banks, another protest leader, were charged with assault larceny and conspiracy.
Case against Means from the Wounded Knee standoff dismissed for prosecutorial misconduct.
Clash between police and Indian activists outside a Rapid City, South Dakota courthouse.
Republic of Lakotah released its Declaration of Continuing Independence by the Frist International Indian Treaty Council.
Anna Mae Pictou Aquash is murdered on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, an act that was connected to AIM. Authorities believe three AIM members shot and killed Aquash because she was an FBI informant.
Murder charges are filed against Means and Richard Marshall, an AIM member, for the shooting death of Martin Montileaux at the Longbranch Saloon in Scenic, South Dakota. Means was acquitted, but Marshall served 24 years in prison.
Means shot in the abdomen during a tussle with an Indian Affairs officer in North Dakota.
In another incident, a bullet grazed his forehead while he was on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Mission, South Dakota in what Means called a drive-by assassination attempt. He received 12 stitches to close the wound.
Survived another assassination attempt in South Dakota when he was shot in the chest.
Led a caravan of 500 Sioux and Cheyenne during the centennial of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s last stand at Little Big Horn in Montana.
Russell Means Marlon Brando Today 1978 07 18 AP780718037 270x180 Russell Means: A Look at His Journey Through Life
Native American leader Russel Means and actor Marlon Brando appear on NBC's Today Show in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, July 18, 1978. Brando is a supporter of political rights of American Indians. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)
Participated in the “longest walk” when American Indians walked from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., which was the largest, single-day peaceful protest up to that time. The demonstration blocked all anti-Indian legislation in Congress.
Served one year in prison following the riot at the Rapid City courthouse. He was stabbed by another inmate while serving his time.
Gave “For America to Live, Europe Must Die!” speech at Black Hills International Survival Gathering.
“You cannot judge the real nature of a European revolutionary doctrine on the basis of the changes it proposes to make within the European power structure and society,” he says during the speech. “You can only judge it by the effects it will have on non-European peoples. This is because every revolution in European history has served to reinforce Europe’s tendencies and abilities to export destruction to other peoples, other cultures and the environment itself. I defy anyone to point out an example where this is not true.
The $9 million lawsuit against the Cleveland Indians baseball club for its Chief Wahoo mascot was settled out of court for $35,000 and is later widely criticized.
Served as a vice presidential candidate joining Larry Flynt in his unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination.
Ran for president. Means campaigned for the Libertarian Party nomination but lost it to Ron Paul, a former and future Congressman from Texas.
Announced his retirement from AIM.
Began his acting career by playing Chingachgook in “Last of the Mohicans.”
With the Colorado chapter of AIM, stopped the Columbus Day parade in Denver, which was meant to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery” of America.
Hosted HBO documentary “Paha Sapa.”
Appeared in “Natural Born Killers” as the “Old Indian.”
His autobiography Where White Men Fear to Tread was released with writing help from Marvin J. Wolf.
Here are a couple of passes from the memoir:
“For millennia, we Indians lived as part of the earth. We were part of the prairies and the forests and the mountains. We knew every blade of grass, every plant, every tree. We knew the winds and the clouds, the rivers and the lakes. We knew every one of the creatures that fly and crawl and burrow and run and swim—all our relatives with whom we share this earth. We are part of the earth, but not the most important part.”
“Sadly, the white man equates happiness with the pleasing of his senses. My Uncle Matthew King used to shake his head and say, ‘The white man is like a little child; you have to be patient with him.’ But Grandmother Earth is running out of patience. What Eurocentric societies have done to indigenous peoples all over the world they are now doing to themselves— poisoning the land and air and water, abusing one another as they abuse our sacred Grandmother. We are approaching the abyss of species suicide.”
Provided voice talent as Powhatan in Disney’s animated film “Pocahontas.”
Starred as Sitting Bull in the CBS mini-series “Buffalo Girls.”
Charged with threatening, and battery against Leon Grant, his Omaha father-in-law, and battery against Jeremiah Bitsui, a Navajo. Means pleads not guilty to these charges.
Russell Means Arrested Nebraska 1999 07 03 image 2 AP9907030895 270x364 Russell Means: A Look at His Journey Through Life
American Indian activist Russell Means, center, is arrested in Whiteclay, Nebraska, on Saturday, July 3, 1999. Means and eight other American Indians were arrested for crossing the police line after marching from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to Whiteclay. The march was held protesting treaty violations, the unsolved murder of two Sioux men and the sale of alcohol in Whiteclay. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Held a press conference regarding the murder of Anna Mae Aquash. He says, “The reason I called for this press conference for my participation is to tell the world, about the leadership of the American Indian Movement at that time, was well aware of what happened to Anna Mae, and two of the leaders ordered her death. Vernon Bellecourt made the phone call to the house on Rosebud, which… [Means gets emotional]… is my brother’s house…  and Clyde Bellecourt took the call from Vernon and then issued the order for her death, for her murder, in 1974 and 1975.”
“If AIM is the perpetrator of this grisly murder, in collusion with the FBI, then I want it brought out…”
Arrested in Denver, Colorado while protesting the Columbus Day parade.
Campaigned to become governor of New Mexico but was barred from the ballot.
Vernon Bellecourt denies allegations of involvement in Anna Mae Aquash’s murder.
Ran for the office of president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe but was beaten by Cecilia Fire Thunder, the first woman to be elected to that position.
Arlo Looking Cloud is convicted of first-degree murder for his role in the shooting death of Aquash.
Republic of Lakotah withdraws from the United States to become a free and independent country.
John Graham was convicted of felony murder for his role in the shooting death of Aquash.
Means is diagnosed with esophageal, or throat cancer and turns to indigenous medicines and spiritual healing ceremonies.
August 14, 2012
Made his last video post to his YouTube page. He titled the video “Clouds.” Watch it here:
Related articles:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Birthday to the #1 Miser in all of US History

Known during her time as "The Witch of Wall Street," Henrietta Howland Robinson was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the daughter of Edward Mott Robinson and Abby Howland. Her family were Quakers who owned a large whaling fleet and also profited from the China trade. At the age of two, she was living with her grandfather, Gideon Howland. Because of his influence and that of her father, and possibly because her mother was constantly ill, she took to her father's side and was reading financial papers to him by the age of six. When she was 13, Hetty became the family bookkeeper. At the age of 15, she went to a school in Boston.

When her father died in 1864, she inherited $7.5 million ($107 million in 2010 adjusted for inflation) in liquid assets, against the objections of most of her family, and invested in Civil War war bonds.

When she heard that her aunt Sylvia had willed most of her $2 million to charity, she challenged the will's validity in court by producing an earlier will which allegedly left the entire estate to Hetty, and included a clause invalidating any subsequent wills. The case, Robinson v. Mandell, which is notable as an early example of the forensic use of mathematics, was ultimately decided against Hetty after the court ruled that the clause invalidating future wills, and Sylvia's signature to it, were forgeries.

Green conducted much of her business at the offices of the Seaboard National Bank in New York, surrounded by trunks and suitcases full of her papers; she did not want to pay rent for an office. Later unfounded rumors claimed that she ate only oatmeal that was heated on the office radiator. Possibly because of the stiff competition of the mostly male business environment and partly because of her usually dour dress sense (due mainly to frugality, but perhaps ascribable in part to her Quaker upbringing), she was given the nickname the "Witch of Wall Street". 

She was a successful businesswoman who dealt mainly in real estate, invested in railroads, and lent money. The City of New York came to Hetty in need of loans to keep the city afloat on several occasions, most particularly during the Panic of 1907; she wrote a check for $1.1 million and took her payment in short-term revenue bonds. Keenly detail-oriented, she would travel thousands of miles – alone, in an era when few women would dare travel unescorted – to collect a debt of a few hundred dollars.

Some of her miserly antics included trying to check her son into a free clinic for the poor after he broke his leg, refusing to pay $200 for a horse, instead blackmailing the seller to force the price down to $60, only having two changes of clothes, never turning on heat or hot water and reportedly not even washing her hands, all to save money. After her children left home, Green moved repeatedly among small apartments in Brooklyn Heights and Hoboken, New Jersey, mainly to avoid establishing a residence permanent enough to attract the attention of tax officials in any state.

In her old age, Hetty Green began to suffer from a bad hernia, but refused to have an operation because it cost $150. She suffered many strokes and had to rely on a wheelchair. She also became afraid that she would be kidnapped and made detours to evade the would-be pursuers. She began to suspect that her aunt and father had been poisoned.

Hetty Green lived out her later years in inexpensive lodgings in Hoboken, New Jersey. When she died on July 3, 1916, she was thought to be the richest woman in America.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day

Do you know the difference?

*Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring those who died serving their country. 

*On a Veterans Day we thank and honor those who served in the military. Veterans Day is observed on November 11th of each year. This day used to be called Armistice Day.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. In proclaiming the holiday, he said:

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."

The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. A Congressional Act approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday: "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'."

In 1945, WWII veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. Weeks led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who supported the idea of National Veterans Day. Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and annually until his death in 1985. President Reagan honored Weeks at the White House with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 as the driving force for the national holiday. Elizabeth Dole, who prepared the briefing for President Reagan, determined Weeks as the "Father of Veterans Day."

U.S. Representative Ed Rees from Emporia, Kansas, presented a bill establishing the holiday through Congress. President Dwight Eisenhower, also from Kansas, signed the bill into law on May 26, 1954. Congress amended this act on June 1, 1954, replacing "Armistice" with "Veterans," and it has been known as Veterans Day since.

The National Veterans Award, created in 1954, also started in Birmingham. Congressman Rees of Kansas was honored in Alabama as the first recipient of the award for his support offering legislation to make Veterans Day a federal holiday, which marked nine years of effort by Raymond Weeks. Weeks conceived the idea in 1945, petitioned Gen. Eisenhower in 1946, and led the first Veterans Day celebration in 1947 (keeping the official name Armistice Day until Veterans Day was legal in 1954).

Although originally scheduled for celebration on November 11 of every year, starting in 1971 in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October. In 1978, it was moved back to its original celebration on November 11. While the legal holiday remains on November 11, if that date happens to be on a Saturday or Sunday, then organizations that formally observe the holiday will normally be closed on the adjacent Friday or Monday, respectively.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Electoral Votes: Does the System Really Work?

Electoral College critics point out the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000. in their arguments to prove the system doesn't work. In those three elections the candidate who won the Electoral College vote, did not win the popular vote. Besides forgetting the 50 other elections where the Electoral College agrees with the popular vote, critics conveniently ignore the factors that caused these three situations.

1824 - Adams vs Jackson

I1824, John Quincy Adams was elected president despite not winning either the popular vote or the electoral vote. Andrew Jackson was the winner in both categories. Jackson received 38,000 more popular votes than Adams, and beat him in the electoral vote 99 to 84. Despite his victories, Jackson didn’t reach the majority 131 votes needed in the Electoral College to be declared president. In fact, neither candidate did. The decision went to the House of Representatives, which voted Adams into the White House.

THE CRITICS CHARGE: In this election, critics point out that Andrew Jackson won both the electoral vote and the popular vote, but the House of Representatives circumvented the will of the people and chose John Quincy Adams as President. 

BACKGROUND: In this election four men, all from the same party, were running for President. Each was popular in a different section of the country: Adams in the Northeast, Jackson in the South/Southwest, Crawford in the South/Mid-Atlantic, and Clay in the West. When the votes were counted, Jackson had won the most electoral and popular votes, but had failed to carry a majority of electoral votes. It fell upon the House of Representatives to choose the president from among the top three electoral vote getters: Jackson, Adams, and Crawford. With Clay throwing his support to Adams (who is rumored to have done so for a cabinet post), Adams carried the vote on the first ballot and was named President.

WHY THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE SHOULDN'T BE BLAMED: The critics ignore the fact that the popular vote was not a true indicator of the will of the people in 1824. In fact, popular vote totals weren't even kept for elections before this one. Hardly any state had all four candidates on the ballot; most didn't have three. And six states didn't even have a public vote! Their legislatures chose the electors. This included New York, the largest state at the time, where Adams certainly would have been able to cut into or eliminate Jackson's popular vote lead. 

CONCLUSION: To say the Electoral College failed in 1824 is incorrect, because this was not a campaign where the candidates went after the popular vote; this campaign was fought for electoral votes.

1876 - Hayes vs Tilden

In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes won the election (by a margin of one electoral vote), but he lost the popular vote by more than 250,000 ballots to Samuel J. Tilden.

THE CRITICS CHARGE: In this election, critics say the system failed because even though Samuel Tilden had a substantial lead over Rutherford B. Hayes in the popular vote, he still lost by one electoral vote. 

BACKGROUND: On election night, it appeared that Tilden would win. He led the popular vote 51% to 48%, and led in the Electoral College vote 184-165 with 20 votes still undecided. Tilden only needed one vote to win; Hayes needed all 20. Both parties claimed the disputed votes (Florida's 4 votes, Louisiana's 8 votes, South Carolina's 7 votes, and 1 of Oregon's 3 votes). An Electoral Commission was set up by Congress, who awarded all 20 votes, and the presidency, to Hayes

WHY THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE SHOULDN'T BE BLAMED: The 1876 election was filled with so many irregularities, that blaming the Electoral College seems ridiculous. First off, Colorado had just joined the union and decided they didn't have enough money to hold an election so their legislature just sent three electoral votes for Hayes. Secondly, fraud abounded in the states of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Democrats intimidated blacks in order to keep them from voting, and Republicans, backed by armed troops, got as many blacks as possible to vote, as many times as they could. It's impossible to say who would have legitimately won these states, but most scholars agree Tilden would have won Louisiana and Florida, and Hayes would have won South Carolina. Lastly, the Electoral Commission set up by Congress is not part of the normal Electoral College system. It was composed of 8 Republicans and 7 Democrats who voted along political lines to give all the votes to Hayes. It turns out that the Republicans had secretly made a deal with the Democrats. If the Democrats would accept the results of the Electoral Commission, the Republicans would end Reconstruction in the South.

CONCLUSION: To say the Electoral College failed in 1876 is incorrect, because without the rampant fraud in the South OR without a biased Electoral Commission that voted on partisan lines the popular vote winner, Tilden, probably would have won the electoral vote as well.

1888 - Harrison vs Cleveland

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison received 233 electoral votes to Grover Cleveland’s 168, winning the presidency. But Harrison lost the popular vote by more than 90,000 votes.

THE CRITICS CHARGE: In this election, critics believe they have their best case against the Electoral College. Grover Cleveland won the popular vote while Benjamin Harrison won the electoral vote. Since no major issues of fraud, voter irregularities, or Congressional meddling is alleged, this is a straight up case of the system being wrong.

BACKGROUND: The main issue, if not the only issue, in the campaign was the tariff, brought to the forefront by the incumbent president Cleveland. He proposed lowering it, widely favored in the South; Harrison wanted to keep higher tariffs, widely favored in the North. One of the most civil and boring elections in history was also one of the closest. Cleveland had only a 0.8% lead over Harrison in the popular vote.

WHY THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE SHOULDN'T BE BLAMED: While this may be the critics best example to show the Electoral College is flawed, supporters would say this election shows why the system works. The Electoral College system encourages candidates to make their appeal as broad as possible in order to win. Cleveland basically ran a campaign based on one issue supported by a single region of the country and ran up the vote in that region, thereby padding his popular vote. In the six southern states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas, Cleveland received over 65% of the vote. In those six states Cleveland beat Harrison by 425,532 votes. In the other 32 states combined, Harrison beat Cleveland by 334,936 votes. 

CONCLUSION: To say the Electoral College failed in 1888 is to not understand how the system works. The Electoral College prevents one region of the country voting as a block from unduly directing the outcome of the election to the rest of the country. The real reason Cleveland won the popular vote (by only 90,536 out of 11,379,131votes cast) but lost the election was because of unusually high support in a single region of the country.

2000 - Bush vs Gore

In 2000, George W. Bush was declared the winner of the general election and became the 43rd president, but he didn’t win the popular vote either. Al Gore holds that distinction, garnering about 540,000 more votes than Bush. However, Bush won the electoral vote, 271 to 266.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ten Greatest Labor Strikes in American History

1) Great Southwest Railroad Strike

*200,000 strikers
*March-September 1886
*Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas

By the end of the 1800’s, the American railroad was expanding quickly. In 1886, the Knights of Labor struck against the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads, owned by robber baron Jay Gould. Hundreds of thousands of workers across five states refused to work, citing unsafe conditions and unfair hours and pay. The strike suffered from a lack of commitment from other railroad unions, the successful hiring of non-union workers by Gould, violence and scare tactics. Eventually, the strike failed, and the Knights of Labor disbanded soon afterwards.

2) The Pullman Strike

*250,000 strikers
*May 11 to Mid-July, 1894
*Centered in Chicago, Illinois

Facing 12-hour work days and cut wages resulting from the depressed economy, factory workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company walked out in protest.  The workers were soon joined by members of the American Railway Union (ARU) who refused to work on or run any trains, which included Pullman-owned cars.  Soon enough, 250,000 industry workers joined in the strike, effectively shutting down train traffic to the west of Chicago.  The strike ended when President Grover Cleveland sent federal troops to Chicago on July 6, 1894. However, widespread sympathy for the workers’ cause promoted pro-union sentiment across many areas of the country.

3) Great Anthracite Coal Strike

*147,000 strikers
*May- October, 1902
*Place: Eastern Pennsylvania

At the turn of the last century, the United Mine Workers of America began a strike which threatened to create an energy crisis. Seeking better wages and conditions, The UMWA struck in eastern Pennsylvania, an area that contained the majority of the nation’s supply of Anthracite coal . As the winter of 1903 approached President Theodore Roosevelt became concerned that a heating crisis could develop and attempted to intervene – unsuccessfully. Industrialist and financier J.P. Morgan  believed the strike could threaten his businesses and made a deal with the union. The UMWA’s initial demands were for a 20% wage increase. They wound up with a 10% raise.

4) Steel Strike of 1919

*350,000 strikers
*Sept 22, 1919 to January 8, 1920
*Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Following World War I, workers represented by the American Federation of Labor  (AFL) organized a strike against the United States Steel Corporation as a result of poor working conditions, long hours, low wages, and corporate harassment regarding union involvement.  The number of strikers quickly grew to 350,000, shutting down nearly half of the steel industry. Company owners, however, invoked public concerns over Communism and immigration as a way of turning public sentiment against the unions, resulting in the strike’s failure and ensuring an absence of union organization in the steel industry for the next fifteen years.

5) Railroad Shop Workers Strike of 1922

* 400,000 Strikers
* July-October, 1922
* Nationwide

In 1922, the railroad labor board announced that wages for railroad shop workers would be cut by seven cents – a considerable sum at the time. In early July of that year, 400,000 rail shop laborers from a conglomeration of unions went on strike. The great American railroads responded, immediately employing non-union workers to replace three-quarters of the empty positions. After the strike had lasted for some time, U.S. Attorney General Harry Daugherty persuaded a federal judge to ban all strike-related activities. The unions knew the ban put an end to their efforts and settled in October for a 5 cent pay cut and went back to work.

6) Textile Workers Strike of 1934

*400,000 strikers
*September 1, 1934 to September 23, 1934
*Entire Eastern Seaboard
On Labor Day in 1934, after years of long hours and low wages, American textile workers set out on strike, in response to the negligent representation of textile labor in FDR’s National Recovery Administration.  The United Textile Workers (UTW) organized 400,000 to walk out for just over twenty days, but a lack of outside support and an excess of textile materials, especially in the Southern states, forced the strike to end without any of the original demands being met.  Union spirit reached new lows in the following years and many workers were blacklisted as a result.

7) 1946 Bituminous Coal Strike

*400,000 strikers
*April-December, 1946
*Across 26 States
On April Fools day of 1946, the United Mine Workers of America called on 400,000 bituminous coal miners to strike for safer conditions, health benefits, and pay. The strike came at a time when the national economy was recovering from the second World War, and president Truman saw the UMWA’s actions as counterproductive to national industrial recovery. Truman approached the union with a settlement. When the workers refused the proposal, they were fined $3.5 million, forcing their agreement and the end of the strike. Although forced, most of the UMWA’s demands were met in Truman’s compromise.

8 ) Steel Strike of 1959

*500,000 strikers
*July 15, 1959 to November 6, 1959
During 1959, steel industry profits were skyrocketing.  Noticing this, the nation’s steelworkers, represented by the United Steelworkers of America, demanded higher wages.  At the same time,  management was working against the union to lose a contract clause which protected worker jobs and hours.  This conflict resulted in a 500,000 worker strike the effects of which were felt throughout the industry. In the end, the union received wage increases and preserved their contract clause.

9) 1970 U.S. Postal Strike

*210,000 strikers
*Two weeks in March, 1970
*Began in New York City, Spread Nationwide
During the Nixon Administration, U.S. postal workers were not allowed to engage in collective bargaining. Increased dissatisfaction with wages, working conditions, benefits, and management led the postal workers in New York City to strike. Encouraged by New York’s example, postal workers nationwide followed suit. With mail and parcel delivery at a standstill, Nixon ordered the National Guard to replace the striking workers – a measure which proved ineffective. The strike was so effective that within two weeks negotiations took place. The unions’ demands for wages and conditions were largely met, and they were granted the right to negotiate.

10) UPS workers strike

*185,000 strikers
*August 4, 1997 to August 19, 1997
The largest strike of the 1990’s was lead by 185,000 UPS Teamsters.  They were looking for the creation of full-time jobs rather than part-time, increased wages, and the retention of their multi-employer pension plan.  These workers gained major support from the public and eventually had all of their demands met.  UPS, however, lost more than $600 million in business as a result of the ordeal.

Resource: 24/
-Michael B. Sauter, Charles B. Stockdale, and Douglas A. McIntyre

To read more about US labor history, beginning in 1607, click here.

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Even though I am from Kansas, I enjoy venturing into other worlds from around the globe which is why my writing focuses on diversity. With fluid accessibility to modern media and traveling opportunities, my Midwestern world can expand and explore beyond my own backyard. In addition to studying cultures, I take pleasure in studying history. Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.

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