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Eighty years later

Historical Society events shed light on pivotal year


TUESDAY, April 18 — From labor unrest to hot-button political fights, two free programs sponsored by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing this week offer fascinating dives into Lansing and Michigan history, part of a series of events focusing on the epochal year of 1937.

Thursday evening, professors Lisa Fine and John Beck will detail the little-known story of the massive Labor Holiday that suddenly shut down nearly all of Lansing on June 7, 1937. On May 21 of that year, workers at the Capital City Wrecking Company went on strike. On June 1, an Ingham County judge granted an injunction, which strikers largely ignored. In response, the local Ingham County sheriff arrested the wife of strike leader Lester Washburn in the middle of the night. Her husband, who was out of town, returned later in the morning to find his children at home alone and his wife in jail. In response to this event, local union leaders called for a general strike, which ended up involving several thousand people. The city was virtually shut down as cars were parked across major streets and stores closed.

Saturday, the Historical Society will present a program on Michigan's most famous governor, Frank Murphy, who was sworn in as governor in 1937. Speakers will cover Murphy's career from Detroit Recorder’s Court, where Murphy presided over the famous Ossian Sweet case, to U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Murphy was a champion of organized labor and the author of a famous dissent in the Korematsu case that assailed the Supreme Court's failure to strike down U.S. internment camps for Japanese-Americans as "racism."

Labor Rises Up in Lansing: The 1937 Labor Holiday and Its Wider State and National Context

7 p.m. Thursday, April 20


CADL Downtown Branch

401 S. Capitol Ave.

Building a Better World: The Life and Career of Governor Frank Murphy

1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22


Lake Michigan Room

Library of Michigan

702 W. Kalamazoo St., Lansing

(517) 282-0671, lansinghistory.org


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