Untold Stories

In celebration of labor history month each May, the Untold Stories series presents programs and talks on both local and national labor history topics. Past programs in the series have featured historian Robin D.G. Kelley, singer Larry Long, author Cheri Register, and walking tours by local historian Dave Riehle. The series received the 2003 John Sessions Memorial Award from the American Library Association for service to the labor community.

The Friedrichs Case and the Future of the Labor Movement

Monday, May 2, 7 p.m.
Saint Paul Labor Center, 353 West 7th Street, Saint Paul

The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a landmark labor law case that could have undermined public sector unions and worker rights in general. While unions breathed a sigh of relief, the barrage of legal challenges is expected to continue.

Join a panel of union activists to discuss the meaning of these cases, their historical context and effect on the future of the labor movement. Speakers will include Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota; Tee McClenty, executive director of the Minnesota School Employees Association; and Debbie Prokopf, attorney and business agent for the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees.

This program is co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service.

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Centrali Tragedy of 1919 - largeElmer Smith and the Wobblies with Tom Copeland

Wednesday, May 4, 7 p.m.
Merriam Park Library, 1831 Marshall Ave

In his book, The Centralia Tragedy of 1919: Elmer Smith and the Wobblies, Tom Copeland, Macalester graduate and lawyer, tells the tale of Elmer Smith, also a Macalester graduate and lawyer. At the end of the Armistice Day Parade of 1919 in Centralia, Washington, Legionnaires, veterans, and others hostile to the Industrial Workers of the World, marched on the IWW union hall intending, again, to run the radicals out of town. The Wobblies knew of the plan and, on the advice of Elmer Smith, defended themselves and their hall. The attack began, the Wobblies fought back, four Legionnaires died, and three others were seriously injured. Later the Legionnaires lynched one of Wobblies. Twelve Fellow Workers and Elmer Smith were indicted for murder for one of the Legionnaire deaths. The jury acquitted Smith, but most of the others went to prison. Elmer Smith spent the rest of his life fighting, both in and out of court, for workers’ rights and for the freedom of his codefendants. Despite being jailed, ostracized, and disbarred, Elmer Smith never gave up the struggle. This is a story not often told but it needs to be heard by all those interested in the struggle to secure the rights of workers. 

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Reviving the StrikeJoe Burns: Reviving the Strike

Monday, May 9, 7 p.m.
Saint Anthony Park Library, 2245 Como Ave.

Strikes played a critical role in the development and growth of unions in the public as well as the private sectors. In recent years strikes seem to have virtually disappeared while unions have shriveled and inequality has grown.  As we try to understand the present and chart the path to a better future, what can we learn from the historical role of strikes in Minnesota and in the United States? Joe Burns is the author of Reviving the Strike: How Working People Can Regain Power and Transform America and Strike Back: Using the Militant Tactics of Labor’s Past to Reignite Public Sector Unionism Today. A veteran union negotiator and labor lawyer, he has negotiated contracts in the airline and health care industries. Add to calendar >>

Underg Groundmanuel_taconiteThe Iron Range: Past, Present & Future – Megan Marsnik & Jeffrey Manuel

Tuesday, May 17, 7 p.m.
Arlington Hills Community Center, 1200 Payne Ave.

The Iron Range has always held a special place in Minnesota’s labor history and lore. Now the future of the Range seems uncertain. The authors of two recent books give us a great opportunity to grapple with the connections between past, present, and future. Megan Marsnik is the author of the novel Under Ground, which centers around the roles of women in the miners’ strike of 1916. She teaches high school in Minneapolis. Marsnik is joined by Jeffrey Manuel, Associate Professor of Historical Studies at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, and author of Taconite Dreams: The Struggle to Sustain Mining on Minnesota’s Iron Range, 1915-2000. The authors will participate in a conversation and reading moderated by Peter Rachleff of the East Side Freedom Library.

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Trotskyists book haverty frontTrotskyists on Trial with Donna Haverty-Stacke

Thursday, May 19, 7 p.m.
Rice Street Library, 1011 Rice St.

Seventy-five years ago, 29 unionists and working-class socialists were prosecuted and labeled as dangerous revolutionaries by President Franklin Roosevelt’s Justice Department under the newly passed anti-radical Smith Act. Most were members and officers of the militant Minneapolis Teamsters Union that lead the historic 1934 truckers strikes. In Trotskyists on Trial: Free Speech and Political Persecution Since the Age of FDR, Donna Haverty-Stacke tells the story of how these strikers were imprisoned, and how the Smith Act was later invalidated by the Supreme Court. Haverty-Stacke is an Associate Professor of History at Hunter College, New York.

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From Swede Hollow to Arlington Hills: The Immigrant Past and Present of Payne Avenue (Walking Tour)

Sunday, May 22, 2 p.m.
Meet across the street from Yarusso Bros. Italian Restaurant, 635 Payne Ave, St Paul


Join labor historians Dave Riehle and Peter Rachleff for a walking tour of Payne Avenue.  We will focus on the street’s role as a center of immigrant working-class life, from the Swedes, Italians, and Germans of the 19th century to the Hmong, Mexicans, and Salvadorans of the 21st century.  The tour begin at Swede Hollow and proceeds about 1 1/2 miles to the East Side Freedom Library, where refreshments and restrooms will be available.  Add to calendar >>

A Celebration of History Day Projects

Thursday, June 2, 5 p.m.
East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier St.

Middle and high school students have created great projects — essay papers, story boards, websites, videos, and skits — which reveal many of the formerly “untold” stories of local history.  Join us as we learn from these projects and celebrate the young historians who have created them. This event will also celebrate the second anniversary of the East Side Freedom Library. Add to calendar >>

mapeUntold Stories is coordinated by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit thefriends.org or call 651-222-3242. Co-sponsors include AFSCME Council 5, Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church, East Side Freedom Library, Hmong American Farmers Association, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Metropolitan State University Institute for Community Engagement and Scholarship, Micawber’s Books, Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, Minnesota Historical Society, Ramsey County Historical Society, Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation, Twin Cities Labor History Society, and the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service. This series is supported by an endowment created with grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Saint Paul Foundation, as well as a gift from the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees Women’s Committee.