Visit Alice 150 Years and Counting

‘I could tell you my adventures–beginning from this morning,’ said Alice a little timidly: ‘but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.’

If you haven’t visited Hornbake Library’s Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit, you better hurry! Soon there will be no going back to yesterday. The exhibit will be open until the end of July, so be sure to visit (or re-visit!) while you can.

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Can’t make it to Hornbake Library in person? Don’t worry, you can visit the online exhibit anytime!

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Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Speech to AFL-CIO

In 1961, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and leader of the civil rights movement, spoke at the AFL-CIO’s Fourth Constitutional Convention. Though the early labor movement had a complicated history with race relations, by the 1960s the AFL-CIO and the civil rights movement had fully embraced each other in solidarity. President George Meany introduced King as “a courageous fighter for human rights” and “a fine example of American citizenry.”

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In his speech, King commented on the similarities between the labor movement and the civil rights movement:

“Negroes in the United States read this history of labor and find it mirrors their own experience. We are confronted by powerful forces telling us to rely on the good will and understanding of those who profit by exploiting us.”

“Our needs are identical with labor’s needs, decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.”

Dr. King also drew attention to the need for solidarity between the two movements: “The duality of interests of labor and Negroes makes any crisis which lacerates you, a crisis from which we bleed.”

King asked two things of the AFL-CIO in his speech: root out racial discrimination in labor unions and provide financial assistance to the civil rights movement. King’s message did not fall on deaf ears: he received a standing ovation from the delegates.

Read Dr. King’s full speech online

Watch a clip from Dr. King’s speech (starts at 15:33)

Read more about the labor movement’s relationship with the civil rights movement

December 5th is the AFL-CIO’s 60th Anniversary!

On November 25, 1952, George Meany was elected as President of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).  During the later years of former AFL President William Green’s life, Meany was gradually handling more and more of the responsibilities of president.  As such, Meany was intent on his first priority being to strengthen the labor movement through a merger of the AFL and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).  Within six days he was sharing his early plans with the press.  He told them that the AFL and CIO had to meet and “get at this problem as trade unionists” and expressed hope “that we’ll have sense enough to unify the American labor movement in the near future.”  The AFL and the CIO were often “striving for competitive advantage” and that there was “too much effort wasted in competition between unions.” (1)

In 1952, Walter Reuther was elected President of the CIO after the death of his predecessor Philip Murray.  Reuther was also in favor of unity, and Meany arranged to meet with him in January of 1953.  According to an oral history interview by Archie Robinson, Meany recalls the meeting in Reuther’s Washington hotel room:

The two of us met, just by ourselves.  Reuther was CIO president for only about four weeks and I was AFL president for about six weeks; we were brand-new presidents.  I told him that I was not going to waste a lot of time unless there was some chance of success.

I put forward the proposition that we should try to end the raiding – that you could never get a merger unless you created the atmosphere for a merger.  And the way to do that was to stop the raiding, to whatever extent we could stop it.  Reuther agreed.

I proposed exploring what the actual situation was in regard to the warfare.  The warfare between the AFL and CIO was confined to a few unions; certain unions in the CIO didn’t bother us, we didn’t bother them.  A great many of the AFL unions had no interest in raiding; they didn’t have to defend themselves.  But there was extensive activity within a few unions. (2)

The next two years included several milestones leading up to the AFL and CIO merger.  The AFL and CIO formed a joint Unity Committee, made up of AFL and CIO representatives, to explore the possibility of merging. On October 15, 1954, the Committee made the “unanimous decision… to create a single trade union center in America through the process of merger…” (3) After the AFL and CIO each individually voted for merger on December 1 and December 2, 1955. The AFL-CIO held their first joint convention on December 5, 1955.

George Meany’s May 2, 1955 draft of the AFL-CIO Constitution. Contains handwritten notes from Meany and others. Office of the President, President’s Files, George Meany, 1947-1960 (2014-001-RG1-027), Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

The University of Maryland’s Special Collections in Labor Studies has archival materials about the AFL-CIO merger, including audio and film recordings.  Here are some audio clips from AFL-CIO’s first ever convention, held on December 5, 1955:


 

  1.  Archie Robinson, George Meany and His Times (Simon and Schuster, New York: 1981).
  2. Archie Robinson, George Meany and His Times (Simon and Schuster, New York: 1981).
  3. “Report and Recommendations of the Joint AFL-CIO Unity Committee,” 9 February 1955. Office of the President, President’s Files, George Meany, 1947-1960 (2014-001-RG1-027), Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Reflections on the Meaning of Thanksgiving, Then and Now

Today, the AFL-CIO’s commentary on Thanksgiving revolves around the discussion over whether retailers should open on the holiday, which Thanksgiving treats are union-made, and how working Americans give back to others during the holiday season. You can read the AFL-CIO’s most-recent Thanksgiving posts online on their blog.

In the 1960s and 1970s, editorial cartoonist John Stampone delivered a different message in the Thanksgiving cartoons that he drew for the AFL-CIO News, the AFL-CIO’s main news publication. Stampone portrays Thanksgiving and its tasty bounties as both symbolic of and the result of American democracy. In a cartoon that Stampone drew to commemorate the holiday in 1966, a family says grace over a turkey that represents the “benefits of democracy.”

In a similar cartoon that Stampone drew in 1974, rays of light bearing the label “Freedom and Democracy” shine down on a family who are also gathered around their Thanksgiving table in prayer.

The cartoons’ overt patriotic message is open for interpretation and leave us with many questions. What did freedom and democracy mean to people in the 1960s and 1970s? What’s the relationship between the benefits of democracy and America’s labor movement? Why don’t Americans today color Thanksgiving with such strong shades of red, white, and blue?

Even though Stampone’s patriotic message seems so different from our modern discussions of the Thanksgiving holiday, the AFL-CIO News cartoons and the AFL-CIO’s more-recent discussions convey a similar and important message: Thanksgiving remains a beloved and cherished family holiday today.

UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives has the original cartoons drawn for the AFL-CIO News by LeBaron Coakley “Coak”, John Stampone “Stam”, Bernard Seaman, and Ben Yomen. Contact Us for more information about this collection and other items in the AFL-CIO archive.

Trick or Treat from Alice!

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Trick or Treat, watch your feet,

beware any rabbits that you meet, 

If you don’t, best beware,

you might end up in the Jabberwock’s lair!

Here’s our treat (with maybe a few tricks thrown in) from our Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit!

Some of the Lewis Carroll books in our exhibit have some frightful illustrations, here are a few of our favorites:

While almost every image of the Cheshire Cat’s grin is unnerving, here’s some that really gave us the chills:

And perhaps the scariest of them all…the Jabberwocky!alice-module2-throughthelookingglass1984Tenniel_11

Hungry for more?

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Our exhibit is now open to the public in Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland!

Archiving AFL-CIO

Spotlight on Paul Barton:

AFL-CIO European Representative, 1968-1994

Creating a plan

As a part of my Master of Library Science degree, I worked at the AFL-CIO Archives for my field study course and worked on a semester-long project with the institution.  The collection I worked on was the unprocessed records of Paul Barton, the European Representative of the International Affairs Department of the AFL-CIO, to make them accessible to the public.  This collection is twelve linear feet of records created and accumulated by Barton between 1945 and 1992.  To make these records accessible we conducted a survey of the records, created a processing plan, and wrote the finding aid.

Understanding the subject

Barton/Veltrusky working in his Paris apartment, circa 1970s.

Barton/Veltrusky working in his Paris apartment, circa 1970s.

As a part of this process we conducted some research on Paul Barton to provide context for the records.  Paul Barton, whose real name was Jiri Veltrusky, was a Czech from Czechoslovakia born on June 5, 1919.  Barton who, as an intellectual in Prague received his PhD in the philosophy of aesthetics of semiotics with a special interest in theater, was a member of the Prague Circle, a group of intellectuals, as well as an advocate for free trade unions and democracy.  When the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia successfully launched a coup and took over the government in 1948, Barton, like other pro-democracy advocates, was forced to flee the country or face persecution, ultimately fleeing to Paris where he would live the remainder of his life.  In the early years of his exile Barton used several pseudonyms before settling on Paul Barton.  While in Paris he spent time writing articles and supporting the labor union movement, becoming a representative of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions before joining the AFL-CIO around 1968.  Upon joining the AFL-CIO he served as the European Representative of the AFL-CIO International Affairs department, serving in the Paris office until his death on May 31, 1994.

Contextualizing the collection

Books authored by Barton

Books authored by Barton

Barton’s papers reflect the many communities the AFL-CIO worked with as the records are found in six languages, English, French, German, Russian, Czech and Spanish.   The topics in the records also demonstrate concerns held by Barton and the AFL-CIO, with topics ranging from trade unions in the USSR and developing countries and forced labor in the USSR.  The records also reflect the views of labor unions concerning such historical events like the Prague Spring in 1968 and the 1970 Polish Protests.

These records complement currently available collections in the AFL-CIO Archives, including the records of Jay Lovestone (2014-001-RG18-003), Irving Brown (2014-001-RG18-004), and the Country Files from the International Affairs Department (2014-001-RG18-001 and 2014-001-RG18-010).  The Thomas Kahn papers are also related, however they are not open to the public yet.  Note: Records dating after 1965 may be restricted.

Contact us if you have any questions or are interested in researching these collections.

Explore UMD’s labor collections, including the AFL-CIO archive.


By Chris Carter
University of Maryland iSchool graduate, May 2015