To follow up on Goldy's post of yesterday (I spent Labor Day offline . . . ):

The American malady is amnesia. It's so easy to forget, easier than remembering. That's one reason why our Labor Day is in the fall while the rest of the world celebrates Labor on May Day—in commemoration of events in Chicago in 1886. Haymarket, and the state-sponsored judicial lynchings that followed it, helped galvanize the American labor movement and things we take for granted were paid for with blood.

But both "legitimate" labor and the bosses wanted nothing to do with Haymarket. The labor movement wanted to distance itself from "foreign" (ie, German immigrant) anarchists and socialists, and the bosses just want to throw everything down the memory hole.

The best online source on Haymarket, from Northwestern's Carl Smith and the Chicago History Museum.

And some folks do want to remember: an outfit in Chicago called Pocket Guide to Hell (a writer once came to Chicago expecting it to be "a pocket guide to hell," but said instead that Hell was a pocket guide to Chicago) is trying to help people remember by taking the re-enactment business perfected by the Amnesiacs of the South and re-enacting key moments in Labor History, from the Battle of the Viaduct to Haymarket.

Some words from Nelson Algren's Chicago: City on the Make:

The hard necessity of bringing the judge on the bench down into the dock has been the peculiar responsibility of the writer in all ages of man. In Chicago, in our own curious span, we have seesawed between blind assault and blind counter-assault, hanging men in one decade for beliefs [for] which, in another, we honor others.


"City of the big shoulders" was how the white-haired poet put it. Maybe meaning that the shoulders had to get that wide because they had so many bone-deep grudges to settle. The big dark grudge cast by the four standing in white muslin robes, hands cuffed behind, at the gallows head. For the hope of the eight-hour day.

Let's remember for a change.