Graphic Witness: visual arts & social commentary
Winter Soldiers image

WE’LL HAVE TO GO BACK a while to get the full picture.

You’re a mechanic, Mr. Jones—a union man. You know how long it took the workers in your trade to get the 8 hour day? And how many strikes and lockouts and arrests for “conspiracy” and “criminal syndicalism” and “littering the sidewalk” and finks and frameups and injunctions and heartaches add up to the 8 hour day?

The same thing with free schools. Forty-four years after labor, parents and civic groups began the fight, free common schools became the law in New York State. “Education of the sons of the poor was feared as a breeder of discontent among the lowly.” It was only after long years of effort and petition by the Workingmen’s Association and other forward looking groups and individuals of like mind, that a poor man’s college—the Free Academy—became a reality in 1847. The Free Academy is now the City College.

So that you have the mechanics and the rest of the workers in the New York of that day to thank for the city colleges of to-day, Mr. Jones, and for the New York City elementary and high schools.

Pretty much the same kind of fight for free schools as for the 8 hour day. And pretty much the same kind of people fought against both, the big property owners and the big employers of labor. And pretty much the same kind of red baiting and witch hunting to confuse the real issues. And the same persecution. Pretty much everything is the same—except that the enemies of labor and the schools are stronger to-day.

But then, so are the people.

Marston Hamlin