All posts by Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

About Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

The Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs was established as the Labor History Archives at Wayne State University in 1960, with the goal of collecting and preserving original source materials relating to the development of the American labor movement. In 1975, the Walter P. Reuther Library was constructed with funds given to Wayne State University by the United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, and through a supplementary grant from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. A later gift from the UAW funded the construction of the library's Leonard Woodcock Wing, completed in 1991. The Reuther Library is the largest labor archives in North America and is home to the collections of numerous unions and labor-related organizations. Its collection strengths extend to the political and community life of urban and metropolitan Detroit, the civil rights movement in Michigan and nationally, and women's struggles in the workplace. The Reuther Library is also the home of the Wayne State University Archives, established by the Board of Governors in 1958 in recognition of the importance and permanent value of the University's official files, records, and documents.

Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work: Black-Owned Businesses and the Housewives League of Detroit



Allie Penn explains how her work on a grant-funded digitization project introduced her to the Housewives League of Detroit and led to a digital humanities project mapping Detroit Black-owned businesses from the 1930s through 1950s. Espousing the informal motto, “Don’t buy where you can’t work,” the Housewives League of Detroit was founded in 1930 by Fannie Peck to unite and empower Black housewives in the city while also strengthening the economic base of the Black community. An offshoot of her work on the Housewives League of Detroit collection, Penn has been mapping 1930s through 1950s Black-owned businesses, as advertised in Voice of Negro Business, a newspaper produced by the Housewives League of Detroit and the Booker T. Washington Trade Association, the Housewives League’s male counterpart founded by Peck’s husband, Rev. William Peck.

Penn is a Wayne State History PhD candidate, archivist, and a former Reuther Library staff member. The Housewives League of Detroit Records are located in the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library. They were digitized as part of a collaborative LSTA grant from the Library of Michigan to digitize and make available records documenting underrepresented populations. Partners on the grant also included the Arab American National Museum, which digitized the oral history project, “Arab Americans and the Automobile: Voices from the Factory,” and the Walter P. Reuther Library, which digitized the LGBT Detroit Records. These and other collections can be accessed online on the Michigan Memories portal: www.michmemories.org

Related Resources:
Michigan Memories
Detroit Black-Owned Businesses StoryMap

Related Collections:
Civil Rights Congress of Michigan Records
NAACP Detroit Branch Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Allie Penn
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


A group exploring primary source maps in the Reuther Library reading room, September 27, 2017

Creating that “A-Ha!” Moment: Using Archives and Primary Sources to Inspire Active Learning in the Classroom



Outreach archivist Meghan Courtney discusses the Reuther Library’s efforts to extend primary source instruction beyond history classes to inspire active learning in the classroom and empower students to become part of scholarly conversations. Through the Reuther’s innovative Archives and Primary Resource Education Lab (APREL), Wayne State economics students have studied Detroit-area public food programs to understand the intersection of economics and public health. Law students have examined police reports, eye-witness accounts, and contemporary reporting to weigh the evidence and draw their own conclusions about Detroit’s infamous 1969 New Bethel Incident. And K-12 teachers have learned how to integrate primary source instruction into their curricula at all age levels. Courtney also discusses how students and teachers can access digitized archival resources, and offers suggestions and resources for archives and special collections looking to make their archival instruction more robust.

Related Resources
Reuther Library Archives and Primary Resource Education Lab (APREL)
Reuther Library Primary Source Document Sets and Teacher Plans

  • Detroit 1967
  • Judge Damon Keith: A Life of Service and Great Purpose
  • League of Revolutionary Black Workers
  • Radicalism in American Politics
  • What is the Labor Movement

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Meghan Courtney
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Poorly Described Folders and Human Hair: Processing Report with ALUA Archivist Shae Rafferty



Shae Rafferty, the Reuther Library’s Labor and Urban Affairs Archivist, explains what happens behind the scenes to get donated collections ready for researchers. She discusses how collections are prioritized for processing, or organizing and describing them to make it easier for researchers to find the information they’re looking for. Rafferty describes some of the memorable things she has found in the collections she has processed, both pleasant (scrapbooks made by friends and Detroit theater ushers in the early 1900s) and unpleasant (human hair). She also recalls finding a deeply important but largely forgotten log of 1940s racial incidents in a folder unhelpfully titled, “Barometer Report,” emphasizing how important it is for archivists to re-evaluate and re-describe the contents of collections to make them more findable for researchers.

Related Collections
Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR) / Human Rights Department Records
Lyrick Club Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Shae Rafferty
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


A Double Agent, A Conservative Affirmative Action Advocate, and A Black Nationalist Walk Into an Archive…: Field Report with Archivist Louis Jones



After a brief hiatus we’re back! Reuther Library Field Archivist Louis Jones discusses fascinating collections recently opened at the Reuther Library. William Gernaey was hired by Chrysler and Ford in the 1930s and 1940s to infiltrate the Community Party in Michigan, which in turn hired him to spy on local unions. Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. became the first African American manager at Michigan Bell Telephone Company in 1939, and later at AT&T, and although a conservative he advocated for affirmative action policies to raise opportunities for all African Americans. In 1965 Edward Vaughn opened the nation’s second black bookstore, Vaughn’s Books in Detroit, later represented his community in the Michigan House of Representative for many years, and has been actively involved in the NAACP in Alabama since his retirement. Together, their archival collections add to the Reuther Library’s extensive resources documenting 20th century politics and civil rights in Michigan. Jones is the field archivist for the Walter P. Reuther Library, and received a Ph.D. in history from Wayne State University.

Related Resources
Collection Spotlight: Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. Papers

Related Collections
William Gernaey Papers
Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. Papers
Edward Vaughn Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Louis Jones
Sound: Troy Eller English
Image: William Gernaey, “Communist,” Walter P. Reuther Library, Virtual Motor City Project: vmc26150
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Uncovering Detroit Sound: Sippie Wallace and Son House in the Folklore Archives



Archivist Bart Bealmear explains how he rediscovered recordings of famed African American blues musicians Sippie Wallace and Son House buried in the Reuther Library’s Folklore Archives. One of the most famous female blues vocalists in the 1920s, Sippie Wallace left the blues stage for four decades, choosing instead to sing and play the organ at Leland Baptist Church in Detroit. The recording Bealmear uncovered in the Folklore Archives captures Wallace demoing T.B. Blues in her living room in 1965, prior to her professional comeback in 1966. Bealmear also shares a clip from an April 18, 1965 WDTM interview with American Delta blues singer and guitarist Son House, recorded when he performed at the DeRoy Auditorium at Wayne State University in Detroit. In the excerpt, House tells the story of discouraging a man named Robert from playing the guitar due to poor skill — a man who turned out to be famed blues musician Robert Johnson.

Bealmear also promotes an upcoming concert featuring Detroit’s “Soul Ambassador” Melvin Lincoln Davis and Dennis Coffey, R&B and soul guitarist for the Motown Records Funk Brothers studio band. The concert will be held in the atrium of the Reuther Library on January 23, 2020 on the stage of the historic Bluebird Inn, restored and on loan from the Detroit Sound Conservancy. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Related Collections
Folklore Archive: Studies and Research Projects
Folklore Archive: Student Field Projects Records
Folklore Archive: Student Field Projects Photographs
Sippie Wallace, T.B. Blues, 1965
Son House, WDTM interview, April 18, 1965 (excerpt #1)
Son House, WDTM interview, April 18, 1965 (excerpt #2)

More Information
Detroit Sound Conservancy
Dennis Coffey

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Bart Bealmear
Sound: Troy Eller English
Image: Sippie Wallace, Walter P. Reuther Library, Virtual Motor City project: vmc49649_1

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


Hidden in the Fields: Invisible Agricultural Child Labor in the American Southwest and the Limits of Citizenship



Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez explains how labor laws helped define the modern boundaries of childhood and citizenship for both internationally and domestically migrant Latinx children working on American farms. Despite the child labor ban supposedly implemented in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act and later laws, legal loopholes have allowed migrant Latinx children to continue to work on American farms today and have limited their access to education. Padilla-Rodríguez explains how advocates fought to enact social welfare initiatives for farmworking children along their migratory route, while teachers and women UFW organizers pursued legislative channels to try to get stricter child labor protections, and special educational and childcare programs created for migrant youth. Padilla-Rodríguez is a Ph.D. candidate in the Columbia University Department of History and a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Latinx Research Center.

Related Collections
Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee Records
Dolores Huerta Papers
Michigan Farm Worker Ministry Coalition Records
National Farm Workers Association Records
National Farm Worker Ministry Records
Ronald B. Taylor Papers
UFW Organizing Committee (UFWOC) Records
UFW Office of the President: Cesar Chavez Records
UFW Texas Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


Punishing Promise: School Discipline in the Era of Desegregation



Matt Kautz explains how his observations while teaching in Detroit and Chicago led him to study the rise of suspensions and other disciplinary tactics in urban districts during school desegregation, fueling the school-to-prison pipeline. His research has focused particularly on Boston, Detroit, and Louisville during court-ordered desegregation, for which there is ample documentation of school disciplinary codes, statistics on usage against students, and responses from administrators, teachers, law enforcement, and the community. Kautz is a Ph.D. candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University

Related Collections
AFT Local 231: Detroit Federation of Teachers Records
Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR) / Human Rights Department Records
Detroit Public Schools Community Relations Division Records
Wayne State University College of Education, Dean’s Office: Detroit Public Schools Monitoring Commission on Desegregation Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewees: Matt Kautz
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


(5213) Matilda (Rabinowitz) Robbins, Arrest, 1910s

Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir of Wobbly Organizer Matilda Rabinowitz Robbins (Part 2)



In the second of a two-episode series, artist Robbin Légère Henderson discusses the life of her grandmother, Matilda Rabinowitz Robbins, a Socialist, IWW organizer, feminist, writer, mother, and social worker. Henderson shares stories from Robbins’ autobiography, Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century, explaining how the optimism of a 13-year-old immigrant from the Ukraine was soon undone by the realities of working in garment sweatshops on the East Coast, leading to Matilda Robbins’ brief but influential role as labor organizer for the International Workers of the World from 1912 to 1917.

Related Resources
Exhibit Announcement: “Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman”
Blog: Love Letters
Book: Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century
robbinhenderson.com

Related Collections
Matilda Robbins Papers
Industrial Workers of the World Records
Ben Légère Papers
John Beffel Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewees: Robbin Légère Henderson
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


(5213) Matilda (Rabinowitz) Robbins, Arrest, 1910s

Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir of Wobbly Organizer Matilda Rabinowitz Robbins (Part 1)



In the first of a two-episode series, artist Robbin Légère Henderson discusses her exhibition of original scratchboard drawings featured in the illustrated and annotated autobiography of Henderson’s grandmother, Matilda Rabinowitz Robbins, a Socialist, IWW organizer, feminist, writer, mother, and social worker. Henderson shares stories from Robbins’ autobiography, Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century, explaining how the optimism of a 13-year-old immigrant from the Ukraine was soon undone by the realities of working in garment sweatshops on the East Coast, leading to Matilda Robbins’ brief but influential role as labor organizer for the International Workers of the World from 1912 to 1917.

Related Resources
Exhibit Announcement: “Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman”
Blog: Love Letters
Book: Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century
robbinhenderson.com

Related Collections
Matilda Robbins Papers
Industrial Workers of the World Records
Ben Légère Papers
John Beffel Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewees: Robbin Légère Henderson
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


“You Do It and You Teach It”: 90 Years of Dance at Wayne State



Eva Powers, recently retired associate professor and former chair of the Maggie Allesee Department of Dance, share the fascinating history and bright future of the modern dance program at Wayne State University. One of the longest-running dance programs in the country, it traces its origins to the Dance Workshop, founded in 1928 by Professor Ruth Lovell Murray. A pioneer in dance education, Murray’s philosophy, “You do it and you teach it,” was evidenced by the Dance Workshop’s influence on a robust dance program within the Detroit Public Schools well into the 1970s. Powers also describes the bright future of the dance program at Wayne State, with state-of-the-art facilities, an impressive roster of alumni renown as much for their teaching as for their artistry, and well-respected faculty drawing more students to dance than ever before.

Reuther Library archivist Aimee Ergas discusses the photographs, videos, choreographic notes, and other documents contained within the Wayne State Dance Department Records, as well as other robust collections contained within the Michigan Dance Archive at the Walter P. Reuther Library, including the personal papers and teaching notes of Harriet Berg, Denise Szykula, and Genevieve Siegel Schoenberg.

Related Resources
Michigan Dance Archives at the Reuther Library

Related Collections
Wayne State University Dance Department Records
Dance Oral Histories
Detroit Recreation Department Dance Program: Shirley Harbin Records
Michigan Dance Archives: Leslie O’Day Benyo Papers
Michigan Dance Archives: Harriet Berg Papers
Michigan Dance Archives: Marygrove College Department of Dance Records
Michigan Dance Archives: Genevieve Siegel Schoenberger Papers
Michigan Dance Archives: Denise Szykula Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewees: Eva Powers and Aimee Ergas
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink