historical essays explore fascinating issues and incidents. Each is fully
illustrated with photos and newspaper articles. Graduate and undergraduate students in History
and Labor Studies at the University of Washington produced these articles.
Long before the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) began organizing in the 1960s, farm workers had been contesting the unique challenges of working in the fields. This report--in ten brief chapters--examines the long history of farm workers in Washington State, focusing on their labor and political activism.
From 1948 to 1955, the Seattle Civil Rights Congress (CRC) provide legal defense and civil rights counsel to numerous Communist Party members and people of color while informing the public about civil rights. During its seven years of activity, the Seattle CRC maintained an active voice of dissent in an era of Red Scare tactics and silence on the subject of civil rights. Their efforts laid the groundwork for future civil rights activism in Seattle.
Until 1968, racial restrictive covenants prevented certain racial minorities from purchasing homes in specific King County neighborhoods, segregating Seattle and shaping its racial demography. This essay details the history of racial restrictive covenants in different King County neighborhoods, charting both the legal and social enforcement of racial covenants and the struggles to prohibit them.
The Coon Chicken Inn was a popular roadside restaurant in Seattle from 1930-1949. The restaurant's name and logo, which derived from racist caricatures of African Americans, was a galling reminder of segregation and discrimination for black Seattleites. This essay recounts the Coon Chicken Inn's history and documents little-known examples of African Americans organizing against the restaurant.
In 1966, voters repealed the several Alien Land Laws that had made it illegal for Chinese, Japanese, and for a time Filipino immigrants to own land in Washington State. This essay examines first the campaigns to restrict land rights and then efforts to repeal Alien Land Laws in the 1950s ad 1960s.
The fish-ins of the 1960s were to Native Americans what sit-ins were to the Black civil rights movement. Native activists defied state authorities, suffering arrest and jail time in order to reclaim fishing rights guaranteed in the treaties of the 1850s. In 1974, the federal courts finally recognized their rights. This prize-winning essay examines the historic campaign.
The KKK arrived in Washington State in 1922 and quickly became a powerful mass movement with tens of thousands of members and dangerous ambitions. This nine-part essay examines the meteoric history of the KKK in the 1920s, detailing the ideology, tactics, leadership, and social rituals of the organization.
In 1922, the KKK elected the governor of Oregon and passed a vicious law banning Catholic schools. Two years later, the Klan put a similar measure on the Washington State ballot. Voters rejected the xenophobic measure by a large margin. This essay examines the 1924 campaign.
Canadian-born Harold Pritchett helped organize the International Woodworkers of America in the mid 1930s and became the first president of the huge timberworkers union. But his Communist Party affiliation made him a target and in 1940, US immigration authorities banned him and he was forced to resign the Presidency. This paper explores the life of a Communist union leader.
In 1971, Marco Defunis, a Sephardic Jew and native of Seattle, Washington, brought suit against the UW Law School, claiming reverse discrimination. The case reached the Supreme Court which used it to set limits on affirmative action. The DeFunis case was very complicated for the Jewish community, as this award-winning essay explains.
The Seattle chapter of Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith was founded in 1913. In the 1950s it won a signal victory against the Laurelhurst Beach Club that systematically denied membership to Jewish residents of the Laurelhurst neighborhood. This essay tells the story of the twenty-year-long campaign..
The Congress of Racial Equality mounted a concerted campaign to end employment discrimination in Seattle. This essay examines the tactics of the campaign and evaluates methods of the small but very active CORE chapter.
Culminating two years of campaigns to end discrimination in employment, CORE launched a drive to win jobs for African Americans in Seattle's downtown retail district. This essay details the campaign and its impacts.
In a crushing defeat for civil rights, Seattle voters overwhelming rejected a 1964 ballot measure that would have made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race in the sale or rental of housing. This essay examines the surprising role of the city's newspapers in the open housing election.
When members of the BSU took over the administration building on May 20, 1968, they began a sequence of activism that transformed the University of Washington and helped rearrange the priorities of higher education in Washington State.
Denouncing the racist practices of Brigham Young University and the Mormon Church, the BSU demanded that UW sever its athletic contracts with BYU. When the administration refused, the BSU launched some of the most militant demonstrations of the era.
The March 1968 BSU confrontation at Franklin High was a pivotal moment for Seattle Civil Rights movements. It helped solidify the reputation of the BSU and launch the Black Panther Party.
This two-part essay traces the history of Chicano political and cultural activism in Washington State. The movement emerged in two locales: in the Yakima Valley and Seattle. Reflecting the split geography, the movement linked together campaigns to organize and support farmworkers with projects that served urban communities and educational agendas.
Started in 1942 by Seattle women of different faiths and races, Christian Friends for Racial Equality (CFRE) pioneered interracial and interreligious cooperation that laid the groundwork for Seattle's more activist movement in the 1960s.to break down social and cultural barriers to interracial cooperation.
In the early morning hours of March 8, 1970, members of the United Indians of All Tribes jumped the barbed wire fences of Fort Lawton and reclaimed the soon-to-be-decommissioned military base as land that belonged to Native peoples. Thus began an 18 month long struggle that resulted in the establishment of Daybreak Star Cultural Center, one of the first urban Indian cultural centers in the United States.
The invasion of Fort Lawton set off a frenzy of media coverage.The major newspapers expressed mild sympathy while reinscribing old stereotypes. Smaller newspapers took stronger positions. American Indian publications were also divided. This essay analyzes the press coverage, finding differences of perspective while arguing that the volume of press coverage was an important breakthrough for Native politics.
Founded in 1958 by Pearl Warren and seven other Native women, The American Indian Women's Service League proved a pivotal institution for Seattle's growing urban Indian population. In 1960, the group opened the Indian Cultural Center which provided social and health services, taught Native cultural awareness, and laid the foundation for the political activism of young urban Indians in the late 1960s and 1970s.
In October 1977, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission began two days of hearings in Seattle in response to mounting tension between local government and business interests and Native American communities over the issue of tribal sovereignty. This article explores the backlash campaign that followed the 1974 Boldt fishing rights decision and the Civil Rights Commission's effort to sort out the controversy.
On June 24, 1974 ten women began their first day of work at Seattle City Light, the city’s public utility. Tthe women represented the first stab at gender integration of the all-male, unionized, Seattle City Light electricians. They would become the first female linemen, sub-station constructors, cable splicers, the first unionized female utility electricians in Seattle and the first in the nation.
Congressman Albert Johnson co-authored the 1924 Immigration Act that effectively closed America’s borders to non-white immigrants for the next forty years. In 1920 he brought his Congressional committee to Seattle to investigate the "threat" posed by Japanese immigrants. This paper examines the hearings and Washington's anti-Japanese crisis of 1920.
In 1970, the Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League changed course on a museum exhibit that was supposed to merely celebrate their community, and instead decided to also revisit the painful history of internment. The exhibit, "Pride and Shame", ended up traveling around the country, and has been credited with helping launch the internment redress movement.
Florise Spearman and Dorothy Williams became the first African
Americans ever hired at
Boeing. This capped a two-year campaign led by the
Northwest Enterprise, Seattle's black-owned newspaper, and a
coalition of black activists. The Aeronautical Workers union fought the
demand for open hiring, It took federal intervention to force the company and the union to end the white-only
What began as a fight
between two white police officers and two unarmed black men in Seattle’s
predominantly non-white Central District became political when
an officer shot and killed one of the African Americans. African American community leaders demanded justice
and set up "freedom patrols" to monitor the police.
On December 17th, 1944 U.S. Major General
Henry C. Pratt announced that the federal government would officially end the
exclusion order that prevented Japanese and Japanese-Americans from returning
to the West Coast. The
announcement set off a fiery debate over "resettlement," with some
Seattle residents supporting the right of return, while others, including many
public officials, tried to stop it.
Historically the construction trades have
been a bastion of white, male unionism. Since 1986 the Electrical Workers
Minority Caucus has carved out a space for workers of color and female
workers in IBEW Local 46, the union representing electrical workers in the
Pacific Northwest. This essay explores the history of race, gender, and
struggle before EWMC and examines the organization's role in Local 46 today.
an era marked by racial segregation, Washington was an anomaly: one of only
eight states without laws banning racial intermarriage.
anti-miscegenation bills were introduced in both the 1935 and 1937 sessions of the
Washington State Legislature, an effective and well-organized coalition led by
the African American, Filipino, and Labor communities mobilized against the
Wife of publisher Horace
Cayton Sr., mother of the famous sociologist Horace Cayton Jr. and labor
leader Revels Cayton, Susie Revels Cayton was also Associate Editor or the
Seattle Republican and an activist in Seattle's African American
community. This biographical essay uses her writings to
provide a window into her personal life and to help clarify
her dual commitments to her family and her community.
Frank Jenkins (1902-1973)
was a Seattle longshoreman and one of the first African
Americans to hold leadership positions in the International Longshore and
Warehouse Union. A participant in the 1934 strike that created the ILWU, for
the next thirty-three years he served Seattle's Local 19 in various
leadership capacities and was regularly elected to the Coast Labor Relations
committee of the International union.
Chicano students at the UW mobilized for the first time in the fall
of 1968. They formed the United Mexican American Students (UMAS), which soon led a campaign to boycott of California table grapes in support of the
United Farm Workers which had been on strike
since 1965. The successful boycott
made turned a small group of Chicano students into a force to be reckoned
February 19, 1934, a group of Communists decided that discrimination toward African Americans and
Filipinos in Seattle must come to an end. Led by a young, African American, Revels Cayton, the group entered a Seattle City Council
meeting demanding laws that would make discrimination based on race illegal.
This essay examines the activism of
Revels Cayton, son of the prominent middle class black leaders Horace and
Susie Cayton, brother of the influential sociologist Horace Cayton, Jr.
Journalism became very important to Filipino American community development and politics and no one did more to establish the journalistic enterprise than Victorio Velasco, who is best known as the editor of the Seattle-based Filipino Forum (1928-1968). This paper looks at his early career as a student and journalist after coming to the US from the Phillipines in 1924.
Seattle was home to the most important
Filipino-American-led labor union, the Cannery Worker's and Farm Laborer's
Union. Organized in 1933, the union represented "Alaskeros," the men who
shipped out each spring to work in the Salmon canneries of Alaska. This
essay narrates the dramatic early years of CWFLU. The union
was still in its infancy when two of the founders, President
Virgil Duyungan and
secretary Aurelio Simon, were
concentrated on the early years of the Cannery Workers Union and on the two
sets of assassinations that plagued the Filipino-American-led union, the
murder of Duyungan and Simon in 1936 and the second dual assassination of
union leaders Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes in 1981. This essay
explores the critical middle period as the union negotiated the 1940s and
1950s, dealing with deportation threats, internal turmoil, but also
consolidating and becoming a critical resource for Filipino-American
communities on the West Coast.
do we want? Integration. When do we want it? Now!" This familiar chant from the
civil rights movement reflected the desires of
parents of school age children in 1966. That
year, for two days, K-12 students poured out of
’s public schools and attended “freedom schools” to protest racial
segregation in the
school system. This essay tells the
story of that boycott—from its origins to its effect on Seattle’s students
Seattle’s politics of fair employment entered a
new phase when African American construction workers and activists began to
protest racially exclusionary hiring practices in Seattle’s construction
unions in the fall of 1969. Led by electrician Tyree Scott, workers used
direct action to challenge institutional barriers to African American
employment in Seattle. In the process, they became pioneers in shaping the
early national politics of affirmative action. This unit includes
interviews, documents, a short history of the UCWA, and full reproductions
of the UCWA newspaper No Separate Peace.
explores the first three years of the Seattle chapter of the Black
Panther Party from its founding by Black Student Union members in 1968
through the 1970 crisis negotiated by Mayor Wes Uhlman. The essay is
presented in three parts.
The General Strike of 1919 demonstrated the power of organized labor in Seattle. For black workers this was not beneficial. Seattle unions
were often racist and excluded Blacks from their ranks. At other times they
voiced support for Blacks, but in actuality they did little to erase the color
bar in unions.
The Communist Party of
Washington State struggled diligently to fulfill Lenin’s pledge, working to
improve conditions for people of color in the Pacific Northwest.
The CP was one of the first left groups to take up the issue of racism
and oppression. During the 1930s,
1940s, and 1950s, the CP made important strides in the areas of union
desegregation, public education about racial injustices, and legal support for
civil rights activities.