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ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES


Hard Times in Illinois, 1930–1940

A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives


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DOCUMENT 42
RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED ELECTRICAL AND RADIO WORKERS OF AMERICA PROTESTING THE TREATMENT OF EDWARD PARKER
July 10, 1937



Explanation

Edward Parker of Staunton, Illinois was an organizer for the Illinois Workers Alliance (IWA) which was affiliated with the Workers Alliance of America (WAA). Early in its history the WAA led the unemployed and relief workers in protest demonstrations. Late in the 1930s WAA leaders more often were found lobbying on behalf of their members in state legislatures and in Washington, D.C.

Parker was arrested in Cairo on April 9 after he and several hundred unemployed men and relief workers had occupied the local relief office for over eight hours. He was charged with inciting a riot and assaulting and attempting to kill several police officers. Tensions were particularly high due to the fact that two months earlier relief workers had been employed building up the levee holding back the Ohio River which had been at flood stage. Men had worked long and hard hours and for that had been promised good cash wages. They had not yet been paid because of a lack of funds available and poor records keeping at the time of the crisis. Added to that Cairo in 1937 was a strictly segregated town of 15,000 divided evenly between whites and blacks. A majority of the unemployed were black.

Points to Consider

Why had workers from New Kensington, Pennsylvania put forward this resolution?

Locate Cairo on a map.

What had happened in Cairo which had resulted in Ed Parker's arrest?

What did an Ohio River flood have to do with the situation?


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