Today in Labor History July 11, 1302: Flemish weavers beat the Flemish and French cavalries in the Battle of the Golden Spurs. The French were attempting to subdue the County of Flanders. They had kidnapped the Count of Flanders, angering members of the Flemish guilds. Because of this, the citizens of Bruges went on to murder every Frenchmen they could find. This battle proved that poor workers could successfully fight wars on foot. Furthermore, it proved they could do so much more cheaply than traditional warfare fought by noblemen in armor on horseback. Consequently, it inspired more uprisings and rebellions by smaller, poorer states and communities.
The Battle of the Golden Spurs inspired Hendrik Conscience’s 1838 novel: “The Lion of Flanders, or the Battle of the Golden Spurs.” This was one of the very first examples of historical fiction.
Today in Labor History July 11, 1892: Striking Coeur D’Alene miners blew up the Frisco mine because Pinkertons shot one of their members. The striking miners belonged to the Western Federation of Miners. Prior to this, the mine owners had increased work hours, decreased pay and brought in a bunch of scabs. Ultimately, the authorities imprisoned over 600 striking miners in order to crush the strike.
July 11, 1905: The Niagara Movement, (precursor to the NAACP), was founded on this date. W.E.B. Du Bois was among its founders.
Today in Labor History July 11, 1919: The eight-hour day and free Sunday become law for workers in the Netherlands.
July 11, 1947: The authorities killed eight black prisoners in Brunswick, Georgia, for refusing to work in a snake infested swamp without boots.
Today in Labor History July 11, 1947: The Exodus 1947 left France for Palestine carrying 4,500 Jewish Holocaust survivors with no legal immigration papers. The British boarded the ship in international waters and sent the Jews to refugee camps in Europe. Over 100,000 Jews tried to illegally immigrate to Palestine as part of Aliyah Bet. British patrols stopped over half of these immigrant ships and sent most of the Jews (roughly 50,000) to internment camps in Cyprus, Palestine, and Mauritius. Over 1,600 of them drowned at sea and only a few thousand reached Palestine. Of the 64 vessels that sailed in the Aliya Bet, Exodus 1947 was the largest, with 4,515 passengers. Many historians believe that the Exodus 1947 played a major role in building international sympathy for Holocaust survivors and for a Jewish state in Palestine.
The Jewish paramilitary group, Haganah, bought the Exodus 1947 for Aliyah Bet activities. They bought it from a wrecking yard precisely because of its dilapidated and dangerous condition. They believed that the British would see the danger to its passengers and allow it through their blockade. However, the British boarded the ship anyway and a battle ensured. Several Jews died in the skirmish. The British deported the rest. In retaliation, the militant Zionist groups Irgun and Lehi blew up Central Police HQ in Haifa on September 29, 1947. As a result, the explosion killed ten people and injured 54.
Leon Uris wrote about it in his 1958 novel, “Exodus.”
Today in Writing History July 11, 1960: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was first published in the United States. This is one of my favorite books and it has been an inspiration for my own writing, particularly since it is narrated by a youth, Scout Finch, as is my first book, “Anywhere But Schuylkill.”