Labor’s Role in Abolishing the Poll Tax

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This circa 1940s broadside was used in the state of Texas to notify voters to pay their poll tax.
AFL-CIO Posters, Broadsides, and Art, 1900- (RG99-001)

So, what IS a poll tax?

As far back as the 14th century, poll taxes were used to create revenue, as well as maintain caste and class systems by taxing individuals at a fixed amount, rather than based on income, in the United States.  It almost exclusively applied to taxing certain individuals when they went to vote.  Continue reading

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African-Americans in the Early Labor Movement

DYK that labor unions did not allow African-Americans to become members back in the day? Being a member of a union was important to be able to bargain for workers’ rights and fight against the discrimination that black workers faced. Many skilled black workers sought to join unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) between 1881 and 1915. But, white craft union members, who were primarily affiliated with the AFL, were afraid of the competition and didn’t allow African Americans to join. On the other hand, industrial unions were more accepting of black workers.

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) union members pose with locomotive firemen, ca. 1940. AFL-CIO Photographic Print Collection (RG96-001)

Who were early allies?

The Knights of Labor, the AFL until 1915, the United Mine Workers of America, the International Longshoreman’s Union, and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Some black workers allowed to join:

The Teamsters, the Cigar Makers, the Hotel and Restaurant Employees, the Carpenters, and the Printers.

Very few black workers allowed to join:

The Pressmen, the Lithographers, the Photo-Engravers, the Iron Steel and Tin Workers, the Molders, the Pattern Makers, the Glass Workers, the Boot and Shoe Workers, and the Wood Workers

For more information about the relationship of the civil rights movement and the labor movement, visit our exhibit “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” in person or online or email us at askhornbake@umd.edu.


Jen Eidson is a Special Collections Processing Archivist in the University of Maryland Libraries.

Labor and Civil Rights Leader: A Portrait of A. Philip Randolph

Continuing the efforts of W.E.B. DuBois, Eugene Debs, and others was A. Philip Randolph. Randolph’s election to President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1929 was just the beginning of his life-long fight for civil rights and workers’ rights for African-Americans.

Check out the Civil Rights section of our “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” exhibit!

“Justice is never given; it is exacted and the struggle must be continuous for freedom is never a final fact, but a continuing evolving process to higher and higher levels of human, social, economic, political and religious relationship.”

– A. Philip Randolph

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New Exhibit: Un-solicited! Gifts that Spiro T. Agnew received while Vice President

The new exhibit in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library showcases some of the unique gifts received by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew during his time in office, 1969-1973.  It draws upon the work that members of the Maryland and Historical Collections unit at the University libraries have been doing to inventory memorabilia and other three-dimensional objects within the Spiro T. Agnew papers.

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Exhibit: Un-solicited! Gifts that Spiro T. Agnew received while Vice President

The U.S. Constitution forbids elected officials from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State” “without the Consent of the Congress” (Art. 1, Sec. 9). However, it does not forbid elected officials from accepting unsolicited gifts from private individuals or groups of American people. Apart from gifts from international heads of state which the U.S. Congress has approved, the offices of the President and Vice President each year receive and accept thousands of unasked-for gifts, including artwork, food, souvenirs, posters, even animals. Continue reading

Join us for a pop-up museum celebrating activism

Participate in our pop-up museum celebrating activism on Wednesday, February 21st from 12-4pm in the first floor lobby of Hornbake Library.

Bring your badgers, flyers, posters, pins, photos, audio and music, video and other material from social media, marches and cultural events for our temporary museum.

We want to preserve your stories of activism. Record your story at the event.

Be a part of campus history!

PopUpMuseum

Contact Laura Cleary with questions
lcleary@umd.edu
301-405-9988

Bobby Seale and the Black Panther Party in the Archives

Bobby Seale, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party, will visit UMD on February 1st as part of the Arts and Humanities “2017-2018 Dean’s Lecture Series: Courageous Conversations”. Seale’s visit prompted us at Special Collections and University Archives to look in our collections for information on Seale and the Black Panther Party.

Student newspapers such as the Diamondback and The Eclipse tell us that Seale spoke at UMD in Ritchie Coliseum in 1972 and in Hoff Theater in 1995. Seale also spoke at the STamp Studnet Union in 1974.

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Unions Protest the “War on Immigrants”

On June 10, 2002, protesters marched down Constitution Avenue with signs reading “STOP ASHCROFT’S WAR ON IMMIGRANTS” and “ASHCROFT: WHERE IS THE COMPASSION?”  These impassioned union members of SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 82 called for fair immigration laws and fair treatment of immigrants. This protest came in response to Attorney General John Ashcroft’s statement four days earlier:

“…arresting aliens who have violated criminal provisions of [the] Immigration and Nationality Act or civil provisions that render an alien deportable … is within the inherent authority of the states.” [1]

Ashcroft delivered this statement in light of the attacks on September 11, 2001, after which President George W. Bush’s administration tightened immigration restrictions in the interests of national security. Ashcroft called this policy a “new war [in which] our enemy’s platoons infiltrate our borders … The vulnerabilities of our immigration system became starkly clear on September 11.”[2] Bush and Ashcroft’s critics, including the SEIU and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) accused the administration of conflating the War on Terror with a war on immigrants in the United States and treating immigrant workers unfairly.

Founded in 1921, the SEIU has a long history of organizing workers in the service industry, including many immigrants. The Labor Collections team selected a photograph from the SEIU’s June 2002 protest in Washington, DC for the exhibit display “Immigrants Get the Job Done” because the SEIU is historically active in support of immigrant worker’s rights. In the photograph, you can see a “Justice for Janitors” banner, referencing one of the SEIU’s most famous campaigns. The Justice for Janitors movement, mainly comprised of low-wage immigrant workers, uses methods such as civil disobedience, in order to achieve social and economic justice, including fair wages, improved working conditions, and better healthcare.[3]

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SEIU Local 82 marching against criminalization of undocumented immigrants, June 10, 2002. Photographer Bill Burke. Page One, Photography, Inc. Records. You can see this photograph in person in the exhibit “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” in person or online.

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