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William J. (Bill) Adelman Remembered

September 17, 2009
By Leslie F. Orear, President Emeritus, Illinois Labor History Society

A life of devotion to the pursuit of labor history came to an abrupt end on September 15th with the death of William J Adelman, a founder of the Illinois Labor History Society and its Vice President. The cause of death was a heart attack.

Adelman began his professional career as a high school history teacher. Later Professor Adelman joined the faculty of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

He was one of the few academics offering a labor history perspective in the Chicago region during the 60s and 70s. His lectures, seminars and tours to labor sites became extremely popular, particularly in the labor union community. His content was always designed to produce the maximum understanding of the historical roots of contemporary issues, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the subject was legendary.

As one of an informal group of labor attorneys, educators and editors he helped create the Haymarket Workers Memorial Committee which issued a call for a ceremony in Haymarket Square on May 1, 1969 to correct public misunderstanding of the "so-called" Haymarket riot. The success of that effort led to the incorporation of the Illinois Labor History Society and Adelman's election as Vice President that same year.

Aware of the need for better teaching tools, Adelman produced self-guided tours to the Pullman community where the great strike of 1894 had taken place and to areas associated with the Haymarket Tragedy of 1886. He continued the series with Pilsen and the West Side, including the Ashland Avenue neighborhood known as Union Row because of its numerous labor union headquarters. His visual works began in the 16mm days with "Packingtown USA" followed by "Palace Cars and Paradise," a walking tour of the Pullman community with Adelman himself as guide. Both have been transferred to video. Most of these materials are available today through the Illinois Labor History Society.

He served on the official public committee to select the sculptor for the Haymarket Memorial sculpture installed by the City of Chicago in Haymarket Square in 2004 after 35 years of agitation by the labor community. This historic event followed the naming of the Haymarket Martyrs Monument in Forest Home Cemetery as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. National Park Service in 1998. Adelman had urged such action at a conference held by the Park Service.

In May 2009, Adelman's "Haymarket Revisited" was republished in the English language by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions in New Delhi with a foreword by its president, M.K. Pandhe. In this new version entitled "Glorious Saga of May Day Martyrs," Pandhe notes that he and his wife had been members of a Haymarket tour party in 2008. Pandhe declares: "...I must mention the remarkable guidance given by Prof. William J. Adelman.... For over two hours he narrated the entire background to us in a lucid manner which reflected his firm commitment to the working class and their legitimate struggles... I was deeply impressed. by the book ["Haymarket Revisited"] and thought that Indian readers should know about the glorious struggle of the Chicago workers."

Adelman was immediately informed when the book arrived at the ILHS office in late August of this year, but unfortunately he did not have the opportunity to see it before his untimely death.

   

Report on ILHS-CFL May Day Event

Chicago workers celebrated May Day with an afternoon rally in Haymarket Square by the Memorial Sculpture at Randolph and DesPlaines. The crowd cheered the presentation of a plaque from the AFL-CIO to be attached to the base of the Monument. Last year's plaque came from the Chicago Federation of Labor. Other plaques have been presented by unions in Iraq, Columbia, S.A., and UNI (Union Network International).

Ross Hyman, spokesman for the AFL-CIO, delivered a message from President John Sweeney, Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka and Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker. They declared: "Because we believe deeply in solidarity with workers everywhere, we're proud that the AFL-CIO now has a plaque at the place where May Day itself—the international day for workers—was born. That is happening because the Illinois Labor History Society and the Chicago Federation of Labor played a key role in the building of this monument. We will always be grateful to them for what they've done."

Continuing in the same vein, they declared: "...the best way to honor the Haymarket Martyrs is to advance the cause they fought and died for. Here and now, that means restoring the freedom of workers to organize into unions by passing the Employee Free Choice Act."

Responding for the Chicago Federation of Labor was its Secretary-Treasurer, Jorge Rodriguez. ILHS President Larry Spivack opened the meeting with welcoming remarks, and Board Member James Thindwa of Jobs with Justice acted as Master of Ceremonies.

Among those who addressed the meeting were: Tim Yeager of UAW; S. J. Hawking of ARISE; Margarita Klein, Chief of Staff, Workers United; Skippy (as he prefers to be called) of the IWW; and Armando Robles, President of UE Local 1110 that occupied Republic Windows and Doors.

Well-known folksinger Bucky Halker had the crowd singing along with him as he opened and closed the event. Worthy of note was the large number of young people, mostly from the IWW, who were present. The event was also attended by Mary Brogger, the sculptor of the Memorial. She expressed her pleasure at the appearance of the growing number of plaques from around the world.

   

Franklin Rosemont Remembered

rosemontSadly, the Illinois Labor History Society reports the death of Franklin Rosemont, managing editor of the Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co., arguably this country's most important publisher of labor, radical and what might be called "alternative" books.

Organized in 1886, the Kerr Company introduced Marx to the American political discussion through publication of the Communist Manifesto. Kerr also published the International Socialist Review. During the great Pullman Strike of 1894, Kerr brought out The Pullman Strike by Rev. William Carwardine, Methodist minister at Pullman, which provided a full account of the workers' grievances against the Company. When Mother Jones wrote her Autobiography, it was at the behest of Kerr who published this classic in 1925 with an introduction by Clarence Darrow. The Autobiography and The Pullman Strike were reprinted under the sponsorship of the Illinois Labor History Society in 1971-72, shortly after the founding of the Society in 1969.

A member of the IWW since his childhood, Franklin was the son of Henry Rosemont, a prominent figure in the Chicago Typographical Union, and of Sally Rosemont, a jazz musician and union member. He was elected to the Board of Trustees of the ILHS in 1981, where he served until his untimely death at age 65 on April 12, 2009. He and his wife Penelope, Secretary-Treasurer of the Kerr Company, were inducted into the Union Hall of Honor of the Illinois Labor History Society in 2005. The citation describes them as "faithful stewards of the Charles H. Kerr Company, publishers of labor and radical classics since 1886."

Franklin was an author in his own right, his most recent book being Joe Hill: The IWW & the Making of a Revolutionary Workingclass Counterculture. Profuse with IWW illustrations, it should be in every labor historian's collection. Another of his major contributions is the Haymarket Scrapbook, written with David Roediger in 1986 to mark the centennial of the Haymarket Tragedy. The Big Red Song Book was his most recent collaboration with David Roediger, Salvatore Salerno and the late great folklorist Archie Green.

Les Orear
President Emeritus
Illinois Labor History Society

   

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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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