Collection Highlight: The Labor Heritage Foundation

John Handcox performing with Mike Honey. 0115-LBR, Box 14, Folder 26.

The Labor Heritage Foundation (LHF), an Allied Group of the AFL-CIO, was founded in 1983 by Joe Glazer, Joe Uehlein, and Saul Schniderman. The non-profit strives to promote labor activism through a combination of music, arts, and culture. Donated to the University of Maryland in 2016, the LHF records document decades of labor activities and events including: correspondence with leaders in the labor movement like Pete Seeger and Archie Green, administrative documents, songbooks, photographs, and audiovisual materials.

Three years after its founding, LHF produced the 1986 “Carry It On!” concert headlined by folksinger Pete Seeger. The concert was sponsored by multiple unions including the United Steelworkers of America and the United Mine Workers of America. “Carry It On!” was a benefit concert for the LHF and featured guest performers such as Earl Robinson and Hazel Dickens.

“Carry It On!” concert program, which included music sheets. 0115-LBR, Box 30, Folder 4.

Audio recordings in the collection include two “Carry It On!” tape reels. 0115-LBR, Box 38.

Of course, this concert was not the only event the LHF produced. The Great Labor Arts Exchange (GLAE) takes place every summer. The 40th Anniversary Great Labor Arts Exchange will be held June 20 to 23, 2019 at the Tommy Douglas Conference Center, 10000 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20903.  At this three-day conference, participants sing, play music, and learn how to write lyrics, skits, or even create puppets for labor activism. The GLAE features a free Tuesday night concert and a scholarship for attendees of color, known as the John L. Handcox scholarship. The Joe Hill Award is also awarded at the GLAE. This award honors those who have used arts and culture to promote the labor movement with significant impact. Previous recipients include Anne Romaine, Cesar Chavez, and Baldemar Velasquez.

The collection includes promotional materials for GLAE such as the 1990 flyer featuring a large Mother Jones Puppet. At the 1990 GLAE, puppeteer Amy Trompetter demonstrated her 12-foot tall Mother Jones puppet. Mother Jones, a historical figure remembered for organizing mine workers, is an icon in the labor movement and that is especially evident in this collection. Articles, pictures, and even a script on Mother Jones are present in the collection. The collection also contains many photographs of past GLAEs some of which showcase the giant puppet.

The 12-foot tall Mother Jones puppet. 0115-LBR, Box 32, Folder 28.

The front and back of the 1990 GLAE flyer. 0115-LBR, Box 50, Folder 18.

Another unique GLAE performance was the “Links on the Chain: Songs of the Labor and Civil Rights Movement” presentation. “Links” was a one hour performance that featured music, narrative, and a background slide presentation. The acclaimed program was written by Michael Honey and performed by Honey and David Sawyer, who also performed at the “Carry It On!” concert. An endorsement from Pete Seeger is visible on the advertisement proof. LHF hired Honey and Sawyer to perform “Links” on several occasions, including at the 1988 GLAE. The collection includes the script, slides, and music from the presentation.

The original poster for “Links on the Chain.” 0115-LBR, Box 60, Folder 2.

There are many more fascinating items and stories in the collection. This collection is a great resource for researchers interested in how labor activism and culture intertwine. The Labor Heritage Foundation records can be viewed here.

Banner photograph from 0115-LBR, Box 32, Folder 4.

Maya Reid is a second year MLIS graduate student with a specialization in Archives and Digital Curation. She is a student assistant working in the Labor Collections at the University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives.

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