Labor’s Role in Abolishing the Poll Tax


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


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.


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

The 45th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade: The “Neutrality” of the Labor Movement

The labor movement has always been involved in social issues. The labor unions may not always start on the most progressive side of the matter, but they end up promoting a mission to better human rights for all. This progression is captured in the displays of the Labor History Collection exhibit “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America.” This pattern is on-going so there are still some debates that the labor movement as a whole have not decided on, such as the legalization of abortion.

CLUW Pro-Choice Button

A Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) button that states their stance is pro-choice. Come check it out in the “Union Feminism: Sisterhood is Powerful” display! AFL-CIO Artifact Collection.

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Continuing The Dream: Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coretta Scott King founded The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Social Change in 1968, the year of Dr. King’s assassination.  The organization worked toward establishing a living memorial to Dr. King for decades.  One major accomplishment was passing legislation to honor and remember Dr. King’s birthday and legacy as a federal holiday. The King Federal Holiday Commission began its work in 1984 to formalize and organize the efforts of many local and state observances of the holiday, finally bringing it all to fruition when President Clinton signed the King Holiday and Service Act of 1994 on August 23rd of that year.

Check out the online exhibit “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” to find a film clip of MLK speaking!

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The Labor Movement and Film, Part 2: “For the Union Makes Us Strong”

Let’s continue on the journey of exploring the Labor History Collections films that are featured in the “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” exhibit! In part 1 of this blog series, we looked at Leading the Way: Black Trade Unions in South Africa, Pay Equality, To Dream, and Solidarity Day. All four of these films explored various events from history that correlate to the social justice topics that are discussed in the displays. Though the topics may be different, the films help viewers understand how social justice issues and the labor movement are intertwined and how historical events resonate today.

The film Toxic Earth explores the alliance between the labor and environmental justice movements. Today, environmental topics are always in the news and are being discussed in political debates. The ability to watch this discussion transform within the context of the labor movement can help us see how we have gotten to the point of the conversation we are in today.

“Today’s environment is the one we will earn and choose by organizing and working on the issues of occupational and environmental health. By demanding “Right To Know” laws, controls on acid rain, strict regulations, and enforcement of standards. The alternative is leaving life and death decisions in the hands of polluting corporations, relaying on lax and inadequate government supervision. Our greatest strength is in working together.”

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Curator’s Choice: Favorite Item in the Labor History Exhibit

For the past year I have helped co-curate the Labor History Collections exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America.” It has been an exciting and rewarding experience that has taught me so much about the vast history of the labor movement. One of the displays that I designed and installed was “Labor, Recreation, and Rest: The Movement for the Eight-Hour Day”. While looking through the vast Labor History Collections here at University of Maryland, Special Collections and University Archives, I came upon a very odd and fragile document. At first I did not know the significance, only that it was House Resolution 8357 and was approved by President Harrison on August 1, 1892.

H.R. 8357, 1892

House Resolution 8537, the first federal resolution for the eight-hour workday.

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Exhibit on the Japanese Constitution

Gordon W. Prange Collection

Check out the Prange Collection exhibit of materials related to the Constitution of Japan!  “TheJapanese Constitution Turns 70!” commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Constitution’s enactment.

The exhibit is on display in the Maryland Room on the first floor of Hornbake Library North through October 2017.  Displayed items include:

  • Tentative Revision of the Meiji Constitution by Joji Matsumoto (January 4, 1946)
  • Draft Constitution of Japan (First Government Draft) (March 4, 1946)
  • Brines, Russell. (1947, May 22). Spirit of New Constitution Nullified. The Pacific Stars and Stripes.
  • Rikuzo Kamiyama. (1948). Shakai to seikatsu. Tokyo: Gakudo Ryogi Sosho Kankokai.

For more information about the Constitution, please see this series of blog posts.

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