Tuesday, September 8, 2020

September 8, 1969 -- Reverend Jesse Jackson Jailed on Trespassing Charge


September 8, 1969 – The Reverend Jesse Jackson, leading a group of 600 protestors, is arrested on charges of criminal trespass at a construction site at the University of Illinois Circle campus after refusing to leave the site.  Jackson, along with two other men arrested for the same offense, refuses to make bond of $250 and is held in custody.  The demonstration is the result of Jackson’s effort to fight racial segregation in the city’s trade unions, an effort that was born of the belief that public construction contracts should include Black workers.  In a subsequent interview with the New York Times, Jackson says, “It’s not understood.  The same people who call us lazy lock us out of trade unions.  We’ve had to fight to get the right skills ot work … In the fight to rebuild where we live, there are countless jobs.  There are probably more jobs than people.  People ask how can you police poverty.  You can’t police poverty.  But you can develop people where you live so there’s less need for police.”  [New York Times, September 23, 1969].  In marching to the site at Halsted Street and Newberry Avenue where an $18 million science and engineering building is being constructed, the protestors defy an injunction issued on August 14, limiting the number of pickets at a construction site to six.  The injunction had been dutifully observed, but on the previous day, according to coalition leaders, union leaders walked out of talks scheduled between them and Black leaders.  It is a day of contrasts for Reverend Jackson as earlier in the day he had been honored as one of Chicago’s 10 outstanding young men at a luncheon at the Palmer House.  This evening he would spend the night in jail.  In the above photo Reverend Jackson uses a police microphone in the back of a police squadrol in an attempt to quiet demonstrators at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle Campus.

September 8, 1973 – Led by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, more than 8,000 people march through the Loop from a starting point at State Street and Wacker Drive, headed for a rally in Grant Park.  A spokesman for the Coalition for Jobs and Economic Justice, the sponsor of the march, says, “We are facing a crisis of everyday living.  It is the story of the jobless at the employment gate. It’s 40 million school children facing the loss of milk.  It’s the crisis of the welfare mother trying to fend off malnutrition at supermarket prices, the closed down factory, the bus line that died.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 9, 1973] Jack Edward, the Vice-President of the United Auto Workers says at the Grant Park rally, “In 1963 we had a friendly wind at our backs—John F. Kennedy. Now we have adversity at our faces—Richard M. Nixon, whose interest in economic and social justice was clearly demonstrated by his veto this week of a bill that would have raised the minimum wage in steps to $2.20 an hour and extended the protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act to about 7 million workers.”  Organizers had predicted a turn-out of 50,000 protestors, an estimate that was clearly optimistic.  As the above photo shows Reverend Jackson is still at it in 1975 as he leads a rally in favor of the Humphrey-Hawkins act that advocated using government-paid positions to combat the ravages of inflation and unemployment. 

September 8, 1929 – Gompers Park at the corner of Foster and Pulaski Avenues, a 39-acre expanse of green space that is divided by the Chicago River, is dedicated.  Originally a part of the Park District of Albany Park, one of 22 independent park districts that were brought into the Chicago Park District in 1934, the park’s plan was the work of landscape architect Henry J. Stockman. Clarence Hatzfield, a Chicago architect and member of the Albany Park board, designed the park’s fieldhouse.  The park was originally named after Samuel Matson, who had been the Superintendent of Albany Park’s Park District.  According to the Chicago Park District’s website, “Albany Park District President Henry A. Schwartz, an official of the shoemakers’ union, soon convinced the park board that it was inappropriate to name the park for a living person.” Therefore, on this day in 1929 the district renamed the park in honor of Samuel Gompers, who had served as the president of the American Federation of Labor from 1886 until his death in 1924.  A major donation from the Edward M. Marx Foundation led to the dedication of a life-sized statue of the labor leader on Labor Day of 2007.

September 8, 1860 – The schooner Augusta sails into Chicago, reporting that sometime during the night she had collided with the Lady Elgin on the lake.  The Lady Elgin, with somewhere between 400 and 700 passengers aboard, most of them members of Milwaukee’s Irish Union Guard, is holed below the waterline when the Augusta strikes her amidships in the midst of a lake squall, and within 20 minutes she sinks.  No one will ever know how many drown in the lake off Winnetka or die on the rocks just off shore.  Bodies continue to wash ashore well into December, some of them almost 80 miles from the wreck. Many of those aboard the Lady Elgin are never found.  Those who could be identified are returned to Milwaukee for burial, but a number of the unfortunate souls onboard the ship are buried in a mass grave In Highwood, not far from the Port Clinton lighthouse, a place that has since been lost to time.

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