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The United States has the bloodiest history of labor of any industrialized nation on Earth. It is a story rich in human drama and tragedy. It is also one of progress and hope. This is a resource that teachers of United States history can use to incorporate our rich social and labor history into their courses. Using the ideas employed here teachers will increase student understanding of the American economic system and the important issues we all face as workers today. The concepts and lessons will build on each other so that at the end of the school year the student should have a working knowledge of the importance of labor in society. A guiding theme of this work is how laborers have earned a voice in the workplace and increased their share of the economic pie. Teachers should highlight the stark contrast between today's working environment and the relationship between workers and owners of the past.

The scope of United States history has been divided into eleven basic periods. These will correspond with the unit divisions that many modern textbook companies use. In each period the main events and issues of US labor history are introduced. Concepts, ideas and resources are presented to aid the teacher. In several of the units specific lessons are available for immediate use.

It was not felt desirable to clutter this guide with footnotes. Therefore a complete list of sources used is listed in the bibliography.

This curriculum guide is created by James D. Brown, Jr. for the Illinois Labor History Society in cooperation with teachers from the metro Chicago area and local union members. The Illinois Labor History Society is a non-profit organization with a mission to preserve and promote awareness of labor history in Illinois. ILHS is staffed by volunteers. This project is also produced by volunteers and one graduate intern. The HTML version is maintained by Chicago-Kent College of Law.

A note on use of this document: occasionally, in the later portions of each chapter you will find handouts and documents that supplement the chapter and that involve student exercises. These materials are listed after the table of contents to provide you with direct access to them.


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"And I long to see the day when Labor will have the destiny of the nation in her own hands and she will stand as a united force and show the world what the workers can do." --- Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, 1830-1930

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