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Sweat And Blood: A History of U.S. Labor Unions (and other labor history resources)


Found in: social studies, preK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Sweat And Blood: A History of U.S. Labor Unions (2009) by Gloria Skurzynski, a brief, well-illustrated history of labor, is an excellent overview for social studies students in grades 5-8. The book opens with the first case of worker power in 17th century Jamestown and closes with thoughts on the future of organized labor. It highlights the big names in labor and capital and testifies to the work of men, women, and children of all races who have contributed to our well-being. The book includes source notes and selected bibliography and lists books and websites for further investigation. You can find this book for FREE at the library or for sale on Amazon.

No one book can cover all aspects of labor history. Others to consider are:

  • Strike: The Farmer Workers’ Fight For Their Rights (2014) by Larry Dane Brimmer. Brimmer uses oral history, FBI files, diaries, letters, and newspaper stories to describe the 1965 strike of Filipino field hands in California and the rise of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers of America;
  • We Shall Not Be Moved: The Women’s Factory Strike of 1909 (1996) by Joan Dash. Dash’s narrative describes the working conditions that moved 20,000 garment workers to strike;
  • Mother Jones: One Woman’s Fight For Labor (1995) by Betsy Harvey Kraft. Kraft’s illustrated history tells of Mary Harris Jones’s efforts on behalf of child workers in textile mills, miners, and steel workers.

In Labor Unions and Working Conditions: United We Stand, students in grades 6-12 use primary source documents to study the working conditions of U.S. laborers at the turn of the century.

In Organizing the Farm Worker Movement, students in grades 7-12 explore the conditions that led to the organization of farm labor.

In Fire! The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Trial and Its Aftermath, students in grades 6-12 research the factory fire to simulate the Triangle Fire Trial.
The Mother Jones Museum has collected Lessons for K-4, 5-8, and high school. One of these is The Most Dangerous Woman in America? The Mock Trial of Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, in which middle school students use images, newspaper articles, and excerpts from Mother Jones' autobiography to conduct a mock trial.

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