2020 | James N. Gregory

The UW Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies funded a 2016-2017 project that was published in the Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium. The project created online resources detailing the political geography of labor and radical movements that have been important in Washington State. Washington has a long history of radical movements that have in various ways influenced the political institutions and reputation of the state. The grant helped extend the Mapping American Social Movements Project which uses tools of digital history to reveal the geography as well as the life cycle of dozens of social movements that have been important in American political life. This research strategy shows how American radicalism has been reconstituted repeatedly over the last century as social movements come and go and as the geography of activism changes. Some places that fostered left-wing movements in the early 20th century changed political complexion decades later while others emerged as hosts for new social movements.

Washington State, with its reputation as a “Left Coast” state, was chosen to deepen this investigation. The researchers produced dozens of datasets, maps, charts, and observations that show the detailed geography of many social movements and of key labor campaigns that have influenced Washington State politics. In doing so, the research demonstrate that radicalism reorganized and relocated within the state, as well as, on a state to state basis. Counties in eastern Washington and northern Puget Sound that a century ago led in support for the Socialist Party and other radical movements became more conservative later in the century. Seattle, and to some extent Tacoma, have been more consistent, harboring radical movements of many types, generation after generation.

The results are published under the title “Mapping Washington Labor and Civil Rights History.” In total, the researchers produced more than 100 maps, charts, and interpretative reports.  They are grouped in six sections: (1) Washington voting history; (2) Race and segregation history for Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane; (3) Migration History; (4) Labor history locations in Seattle 1900-1940; (5) Radical movements: Socialist Party, Industrial Workers of the World, and Unemployed Citizens League; and (6) Racial justice movements: the NAACP, Black Panther Party, United Farm Workers (UFW), MEChA and other Chicana/o organizations.

The findings are further contextualized in the national context in "Remapping the American Left: A History of Radical Discontinuity" which was published in the May 2020 issue of Labor: Studies in Working Class History.