Section » Radical Seattle Remembers

November 24, 1885: Anna Louise Strong

By • on October 18, 2012 at 5:57 pm

An undeniable icon in Seattle’s radical history, as well as that of the nation, Anna Louise Strong was born on the date in focus here in the uncannily-named Friend, Nebraska. She acquired many distinctions during her long life as a social justice activist, among them a Ph.D. in philosophy earned at the precocious age of 23.

Strong first arrived in Seattle in May 1914, when she brought to the city a national touring exhibit she’d organized to advocate for child welfare. She returned to live here a year later, and in 1916 she ran for, and was easily elected to, the Seattle School Board. When the board’s bureaucracy stifled her wishes to make the city’s public schools into venues for social service programs for underprivileged children, as well as neighborhood community centers, she soon turned to journalism as a source of personal and political fulfillment. Her experience covering the Everett Massacre for the New York Evening Post in November 1916 served as a catalyst for her transformation from a privileged young liberal to a passionate thirty-something radical.

Strong was also a public opponent of the United States’ entry in World War I in 1917, a stance that led to the loss of her school board seat in a recall election organized by the all-male remainder of the board. After the dual experience of her witness to the Everett Massacre and her ousting from the Seattle School Board, she became a prominent public advocate for workers’ rights, especially during the 1919 Seattle General Strike. Her coverage of the strike was arguably the greatest source of her fame, especially her editorial published in the Seattle Union Record on February 6, 1919, two days before the beginning of the strike. There she famously proclaimed:

“We are undertaking the most tremendous move ever made by LABOR in this country, a move which will lead — NO ONE KNOWS WHERE!”

During the 1920s, disappointed by the failure of the Seattle General Strike and other failures of the US labor movement in general, she turned her activist attentions to communism abroad, which led her to spend much of her later life in Russia and China in support of the respective revolutionary movements there. In 1958, at age 72, she finally settled in China, where she remained until her death in March 1970.

Sources: Murray Morgan, “Skid Road” (Viking Press, 1951; Ballantine Books, 1971; University of Washington Press, 1982); Roger Sale, “Seattle, Past to Present” (University of Washington Press, 1976); Anna Louise Strong, “I Change Worlds: The Remaking of an American” (H. Holt and Co., 1935; Seal Press, 1979); Tracy B. Strong and Helene Keysser, “Right in Her Soul: The Life of Anna Louise Strong” (Random House, 1983);

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October 11, 1972: El Nacimiento del Centro de la Raza

By • on October 11, 2012 at 9:39 am

Seattle’s autumn of 1972 was reportedly one of the coldest in then-recent memory, which made the direct action described below all the more memorable. On the date in focus here, more than 50 Latino/Latina (or, in the representational parlance of the time, Chicano/Chicana) activists, led by Roberto Maestas (1938-2010) and Juan Bocanegra, began an occupation [...]

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August 13, 1936: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Strike

By • on August 13, 2012 at 8:07 am

Seattle’s reputation as a pro-labor town has mostly been founded on the memory of the General Strike of 1919 and the WTO protests of 1999. But many other such events have occurred here to strengthen that reputation. Chief among these was the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newsroom strike of 1936. This event stands out especially for being [...]

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July 29, 1968: About That Typewriter…

By • on July 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm

In the heavy political weather of the summer of 1968, a war between the Seattle Police Department and the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party was almost inevitable. Tensions between the SPD and the Seattle BPP–barely six months old and already making an openly activist mark on a profoundly passive-aggressive city–were already stark enough [...]

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July 1, 1963: Seattle’s First Civil Rights Sit-In

By • on July 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm

The “Seattle Way” is nothing new. In fact, our city government’s infamous penchant for processing potential legislation towards a slow, agonizing death dates back at least to the early 1960s, the prime of the Civil Rights era. Then, people of color here, inspired by activists in the Deep South, began to pressure Seattle City Hall [...]

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June 1, 1961: “Block the Ditch”

By • on June 1, 2012 at 9:10 am

What would Seattle look like today without Interstate 5 slicing straight through it? It’s all too easy these days to take for granted the concrete monstrosity that runs through the heart of our city, dividing Seattle into two absurdly disconnected halves like the result of a brain operation gone horribly awry. But there was in [...]

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November 24, 1985: The Colman School Occupation

By • on November 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Seattle’s Colman School, located in Rainier Valley and built in 1909, stood out for many years as a symbol for the city’s African-American community due to the distinction of being the first school in Seattle attended by black students, as well as having hired many black teachers. When it was closed by the Seattle School [...]

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November 6, 1970: The Seattle Seven

By • on October 20, 2011 at 2:08 pm

“Did you ever hear of ‘The Seattle Seven’? … That was me … and six other guys.” And that stonily-intoned quote, culled from the script of the Coen Brothers movie classic The Big Lebowski, has likely introduced many to the memory of Seattle’s radical-historical counterpart to the Chicago Eight, the antiwar troublemakers so famously indicted [...]

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July 17, 1913: The Potlatch Riots

By • on July 17, 2011 at 12:19 pm

If you think it’s only been recently that The Seattle Times has been jiving its readership in order to promote a sordid political agenda (such as, say, the deep-bore tunnel), think again. The Times has actually been doing so for at least a century now. One noteworthy instance of such sordid media behavior began on [...]

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June 1, 1981: Domingo and Viernes

By • on May 31, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Seattle has long been a haven for both unionism and immigrants from troubled countries across the Pacific Ocean–especially Filipinos. Both of these elements of our city’s history came together on the date in focus here in an interesting, if tragic, event that demonstrated the deep roots that Filipinos have planted here over many decades. Two [...]

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