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Illinois Labor History Society

Fri, May 11, 2012

It is important for unions to educate their members and the public about the role of the labor movement in creating a more just and democratic society. Unions in Illinois are fortunate to have an organization devoted to this purpose.

Founded by a group of union activists in 1969, the ILHS is the oldest labor history organization in the nation. It is recognized internationally as one of the premier labor history societies in the United States today. For the past 42 years, it has published numerous books and pamphlets. It has also conducted labor history tours, organized seminars, educated students, dedicated monuments and historic sites, and helped preserve the inspiring story of unionism in Illinois.

The Illinois Labor History Society (ILHS) is a not-for-profit educational organization. Membership dues, contributions, and the selling of books, videos and other materials support it. ILHS also raises money from fees for labor tours, training programs and other services that it offers to the public.

ILHS plays an active role in creating public appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of labor by sponsoring commemorative events, producing books and audiovisual materials, and working to pre¬serve historic sites throughout Illinois. Its program involves the arts as integral to the preservation and development of a labor culture. It also assists students and teach¬ers with labor history projects by directing them to useful historical resources.

Moreover, ILHS acts as a liaison between the labor and academic communities, and it serves the media as an authoritative source for information and interpretation of union events in Illinois. It can be helpful to labor organizations and individuals with records of archival value who wish to place them in an appropriate repository.

While composed primarily of Illinois residents, its membership has become nationwide as academics, unionists, and persons interested in labor history seek a supportive network, and wish to associate themselves with an effort to produce and disseminate vitally needed materials concerning labor history.

Here is a brief summary of ILHS activities:

ILHS has worked hard to preserve historical sites such as Mt. Olive’s ‘Coal Miners’ Cemetery; the Mother Jones Monument, Pullman; and the Gate at the Chicago Union Stock Yards.

ILHS is the steward of the Haymarket Memorial in Forest Home Cemetery (Forest Park) and the surrounding plot of land on which Lucy Parsons, Emma Goldman and any other labor heroes are buried. The U.S. Department of the Interior recognized the monument as a National Historic Landmark in 1997. Every year, many people from around the world come to pay tribute to the Martyrs who died in the fight for the eight-hour day.

ILHS had the Monument profession¬ally restored; on May Day (2011), several thousand union supporters attended the ceremony rededicating the monument.

It has supported the production and distribution of films and videos includ¬ing the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937, Palace Cars and Paradise (Pullman Strike) and Democracy at Work, Discovery of Illinois Labor History.

The ILHS has sponsored the research and publication of numerous books, pamphlets and other materials. The Society operates a mail-order service for labor books and educational materials for children as well as adults. It has funded the reprinting of many out-of-print books related to labor history.

It has sponsored plays, murals and photo exhibits on Illinois labor history.

It has published several tour guides and has conducted group tours of Chicago’s historic sites.

ILHS has published curriculum guides for K-12 students on its website as well as union training programs.

It honors labor unions and leaders at its annual Union Hall of Honor, has spon¬sored labor history conferences and an annual May Day Celebration at the Haymarket Memorial.

It is the task of the ILHS to promote the study and appreciation of the profound contribution that unions have made for the betterment of society. For more information about ILHS, contact: www.illinoislaborhistorysociety.org

Written by Tom Suhrbur,
StreetWise Contributor


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