Today in Labor History January 8, 1811: Charles Deslondes led an unsuccessful slave revolt on the east bank of the Mississippi River near present day New Orleans. Around 125 enslaved men marched from sugarcane plantations on the German Coast toward New Orleans. They collected more men along the way. Up to 500 slaves participated in total, making it the largest slave insurgency in U.S. history. On their march, they burned five plantation houses, several sugarhouses, and crops, and they killed two white men. Most were armed with hand tools. However, 95 black people died in confrontations with the militia or by execution in the aftermath. Whites decapitated many of the executed men and displayed their heads on pikes to intimidate other slaves.
Today in Labor History January 8, 1864: Mary Kenney O’Sullivan (1864-1943) was born on this date in Hannibal, Missouri. O’Sullivan was the first American Federation of Labor (AFL) woman organizer. She also organized the Woman’s Bookbinder Union in 1880. And she was a founder of the National Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) in 1903.
Today in Labor History January 8, 1867: The U.S. Congress passed a bill to allow African American men the right to vote in Washington, D.C.
Today in Labor History January 8, 1877: Crazy Horse and his warriors fought their final battle against the U.S. Cavalry at Wolf Mountain, Montana Territory. Just six months earlier, Crazy Horse and Chief Gall had led Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors in the routing of Custer and the 7th Cavalry in the Battle of Little Bighorn. Many bands of Sioux and Cheyenne had returned to the reservations to get food and supplies in preparation for winter. However, Congress had demanded that they cede the Black Hills in exchange for these goods. They also replaced the civilian contractors in charge of these supplies with army soldiers.
These convinced many people to avoid the reservations and mistrust the U.S. government even more than they already did. Then, in December, U.S. troops defeated Sitting Bull’s band, as well as Dull Knife‘s Cheyennes, who had trekked through snow to join Crazy Horse. Considering their weakened condition and the approaching winter, Crazy Horse tried to negotiate peace with the army. The army responded by murdering Crazy Horse’s delegation. Consequently, they continued fighting. The final battle occurred on January 8, 1877. While only 3 people died on each side and the battle was essentially a draw. However, the U.S. considered it a strategic victory in light of their recent humiliation at Little Big Horn. Also because it showed they could avoid defeat under harsh winter conditions.
Today in Labor History January 8, 1883: In Lyon, France the trial of the anarchists known as “the 66” began on this date. “The 66” were accused of promoting workers’ strikes and the abolition of the rights of property, family, fatherland and religion. Leaders like Peter Kropotkin, Emile Gautier, Joseph Bernard and Toussaint Bordat received four years in prison. 39 of their cohorts received sentences ranging from six months to three years.
Today in Labor History January 8, 1892: 500-600 anarchist peasants led a revolt in Andalusia, taking over the town of Jerez and demanding the release of prisoners and economic relief. The authorities quickly quashed the uprising, killing three. They captured and tortured the leaders, executing four of them on February 10. They sentenced another 14 to life imprisonment. The Cadiz labor movement had to go underground because the general repression was so severe. The press condemned the government’s response. Protests erupted in many parts of Spain and other parts of Europe. Activists clashed with police at Spanish consulates throughout Europe. Anarchists set off numerous bombs in retaliation. Anarchist Paulí Pallàs tried to assassinate Catalonia Captain General Arsenio Martínez Campos for his role in the Jerez uprising’s repression and executions.
Today in Labor History January 8, 1920: The steel strike of 1919 ended in failure for the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers (AA) labor union. The AA launched the strike in September 1919, in the wake of World War I. One of their goals was to organize the steel industry, after years of losses. The worst was the Carnegie Steel strike at Homestead, Pennsylvania in 1892. That strike ended in a day-long gun battle the killed 10 and wounded dozens. A wave of de-unionization in the steel industry followed.
Today in Labor History January 8, 1933: Anarchist uprisings began in Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia. While the northern uprisings were quickly suppressed, another anarchist uprising broke out in the Andalusian town of Casas Viejas on January 11. The Civil Guards ultimately quashed it, too, slaughtering 24 people.
Today in Labor History January 8, 1969: In San Jose, California, teachers joined with striking students to oppose the Vietnam War.
Today in Labor History January 8, 1991: 200 Teamsters leaders held a “Labor for Peace” meeting to oppose the Gulf War, New York City.