Civil Rights and Labor Movements in the Pacific Northwest
Prof. James Gregory
312B Smith 543-7792
This class explores the history of social justice activism in the Pacific Northwest. Civil rights movements representing many different communities, labor unions, women’s movements, LGBTQ activists, and various radical organizations have played major roles in defining political values in the area since the late 19th century. No other region has a more vibrant history of labor and civil rights activism. Students will design research projects that examine particular issues, events, or organizations related to this theme.
The UW History Department is home to the online Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium, a set of website projects that explore issues relating to this course. Students in earlier HSTRY 498 seminars have been involved in producing these projects and there may be an opportunity for some students in the current class to publish their research papers. You will find the projects here Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium
Here are the principal projects:
- Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project
- Seattle General Strike of 1919 Project
- Great Depression in Washington State Project
- Antiwar and Radical History Project
- Mapping American Social Movements
General method of instruction
This seminar is a hands-on historical research project. We will not only read about the history of civil rights and labor movements; we will also be producing historical materials and interpretations that will be valuable to others interested in this subject. There is one major assignment: a 15+ page research paper on an issue, incident, organization, or individual. If the quality of the work warrants it, these reports may be published as part of one of the Consortium web projects. In addition, students will keep a research journal and turn in short assignments based on it. At the end of the quarter students will deliver a 15 minute research presentation.
Tentative Schedule (Please note: attendance is mandatory. I expect to be notified if you must miss a class.) Schedule is subject to change.
Sept 28: introductions; look over the list of Research Topics and Sources
Oct 5 class preparation:
- Read: Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994), chapters 2,3,4 and 6. Read: Gigi Peterson, "Recobrando / Recovering The Struggle against Racial Discrimination: The Journey of the Pablo O’Higgins Mural for Seattle Ship Scalers Union," Labor: Studies in Working-Class History, Volume 8, Issue 4 (2011) pp.7-40. (download both readings here)
- Assignment: upload a 1-2 page response to each reading. (1) What does Taylor argue about civil rights activism in the Black Community and the Japanese American community? (2) Summarize Peterson's argument in one paragraph. Evaluate her sources in a second paragraph. Due by 11:00 am.
Oct 12 class preparation: Assignment: Upload a 1-2 page description of your research topic. Due by 11:00 am.
Oct 19 class preparation: Locate and read two secondary sources and at least one primary source. Upload a 1-2 page report on sources. Due by 11:00 am.
Oct 26 class preparation: reading TBA. Turn in research journal pages for week. Due by 11:00 am.
Nov 2 class preparation: reading TBA. Turn in research journal pages for week. Due by 11:00 am.
Nov 9: class preparation: Turn in research journal pages for week. Due by 11:00 am.
Nov 16: class preparation: Turn in research journal pages for week. Due by 11:00 am.
Nov 20 (Sunday): Rough Draft due by midnight
Nov 23: no class
Nov 30: Research presentations begin
Dec 7: Research presentations
Papers will involve research in both primary and secondary sources. The topics listed below are preferred because I am confident that sources are readily available, but I am willing to consider other topics.
Civil Rights/ Segregation issues
- Before internment: Seattle’s Japanese Community 1910-1941: examine the economic and community life of Nihonmachi
- Enforcing whiteness in Shoreline/Bothell: In 1970 these suburbs were 99% white. How was segregation enforced?
- Miller Freeman and the anti-Japanese origin of Bellevue: The founder/developer of Bellevue was also the leader of the Anti-Japanese League
- Colored Marine Employment Benevolent Association and Maritime unionism 1921-34: Excluded from white unions, Black and Asian workers sometimes formed their own labor organizations.
- Excluding Natives: In the 1860s whites passed laws making it illegal for Native people to live or stay in Seattle
- African American Activism in the 1930s The NAACP and Communist Party were involved in pioneering civil rights campaigns
- Filipino deportation campaign 1948-53 When the feds tried to deport leaders of the Cannery Workers union, attorneys won a landmark Supreme Court ruling
- Passing the 1949 Fair Employment Practices Act Civil rights activists lobbied the legislature to pass a fair employment act which turned out to be weaker than expected.
- Anti-Defamation League of the B’Nai B’rith—Fighting Anti-Semitism Examine the history of Jewish civil rights activism
- The Civic Unity Committee and the 1940s campaign against discrimination This city sponsored committee led educational campaigns against discrimination with some effect
- Narrating Seattle’s Pan-Asian Youth Movement: Asian Family Affair newspaper 1972-1982 This radical Asian American newspaper helped shape a movement and a new consciousness
- Mineo Katagiri and the Asian Coalition for Equality (ACE), 1968-70 ACE and the Oriental Student union were two of new Asian American radical organizations
- Oriental Student Union (OSU) Protest, Seattle Central Community College 1970-1971
- Geography of the American Indian Movement 1970-1990. AIM was the most publicized and persecuted of the Indigenous American movements fighting for rights and sovereignty.
Seattle General strike era topics:
- Policing the Strike: examine the preparations for violence and the actions of police and army units
- Labor will feed the people: the culinary unions fed up to 30,000 people at dining stations
- 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic: just weeks before the strike, the Spanish flu killed 1,400 people in King County
- The Centralia Tragedy: examine newspaper coverage of the IWW shootout in November 1919
- Rounding up radicals in the wake of the strike: hundreds of IWWs and other radicals were arrested and many deported
- Carpenters and Building trade unions in the General Strike: What roles did these powerful unions play?
- more information about general strike topics and sources
- Fascism in the Pacific Northwest: The Silver Shirt Legion William Dudley Pelley’s Silver Legion of America was one of the most prominent attempts to develop an American fascist party during the Great Depression.
- 1936 Newspaper Guild Strike One of the first strikes by newspaper reporters anywhere in the country, the Seattle PI strike helped secure the future of the Newspaper Guild and galvanized the local labor movement
- Organizing Women Garment Workers in 1930s
- Launching the CIO on the West Coast 1937-1940 when the American Federation of Labor expelled the CIO unions in 1937, a west-coast CIO was launched, led by the newly independent Longshore workers union, the ILWU. Over the next few years CIO unions fought with AFL unions for jurisdiction in many industries.
- 1936 Longshore strike
- 1948 Boeing strike
- Seattle’s Civil Rights Movements: A Walking Tour and Interactive Map
- The businesses of Seattle’s Nihonmachi (Japanese community) 1920s.