Today in Writing History July 26, 1856: Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was born. Some of his more well-known plays include “Man and Superman” (1902), Pygmalion” (1912) and “Saint Joan” (1923). He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925. Shaw was also an activist with the socialist Fabian Society. He was also a eugenicist and an anti-vaxxer. By the late 1920s, he had renounced the Fabians and became infatuated with dictatorships, including both Stalin and Mussolini. Great writer, warts and all? Or, another shit white male to cancel?
Today in Labor History July 26, 1877: Federal troops killed 15-30 workers at the “Battle of the Viaduct,” Chicago, during the Great Upheaval (AKA Great Train Strike). During the battle, U.S. troops and police attacked about 5,000 workers at Halsted & 16th Street in Chicago. A judge later found the police guilty of preventing the workers from exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly.
The Great Upheaval was a national strike wave involving major uprisings in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Saint Louis and many other cities. I write about in my historical “Great Upheaval Trilogy.” My first book, “Anywhere But Schuylkill,” takes place in the years immediately preceding the Great Upheaval. Book II, “Red Hot Summer in the Smoky City,” my current WIP, takes place in Pittsburgh, at the height of the Great Upheaval.
Today in Labor History July 26, 1894: President Grover Cleveland created a Strike Committee to investigate the causes of the Pullman strike and the subsequent walkout by the American Railway Union, led by Eugene Debs. After four months, the commission absolved the strikers, placing blame entirely on Pullman and the railroads for the conflict. Roughly 250,000 workers participated in the strike. And an estimated 70 workers died, mostly at the hands of cops and soldiers. To appease workers, the government created Labor Day to commemorate the end of the Pullman Strike. However, President Cleveland had other interests in creating the new holiday. Rather than rewarding workers, his goal was to bury the history of the Haymarket Affair and the radical anarchist and socialist history of the labor movement by choosing any day other than May 1 as the new national labor holiday.
The Tragic Week
Today in Labor History July 26, 1909: The Tragic Week, la Semana Tragica, began in Barcelona, with a General Strike and protests by regionalists, anarchists, radicals and angry workers. They were protesting the government mobilization of troops to fight in Morocco and the government’s terrible labor policies. People attacked churches and convents, wounding priests and police. The state declared martial law, lasting months. Rather than reform, the government assaulted Barcelona with the full force of the military. As a result, they killed many people, including Francisco Ferrer, founder of the Escuela Moderna (Modern School).
Today in Labor History July 26, 1936: Germany and Italy decided to intervene in the Spanish Civil War in support of Francisco Franco and the fascist Nationalist faction.
July 26, 1937: Spanish Civil War: The fascists won the Battle of Brunete during the Spanish Civil War.
Today in Labor History July 26, 1944: The Red Army liberated Lviv, Ukraine, from the Nazis. Only 300 Jews survived the Nazi occupation out of 160,000 who were living there before the Nazi invasion. The occupation is depicted in several books, including Robert Marshall’s “The Sewers of Lvov” (1991) and Krsytyna Chiger’s memoir “The Girl in the Green Sweater” (2007). Polish director Agnieszka Holland’s film “In Darkness,” which was nominated for an Oscar, is based on these two books.
Today in Labor History July 26, 1953: Fidel Castro led an unsuccessful attack on the Moncada Barracks, marking the beginning the Cuban Revolution. As a result of this attack, the movement became known as the 26th of July Movement
Today in Labor History July 26, 1990: President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law