The Shoeleather History Project

Stories from Hartford's Grassroots

About this site

imageHistory is bunk. Anyway, that’s what the old fascist Henry Ford said. Ford was the guy who ruthlessly opposed  union efforts by his employees, published and distributed the dangerous anti-Semitic fantasy Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and received the Grand Cross medal from Adolf Hitler for helping to build the Nazi war machine.  You can look it up.  Maybe that’s why Henry didn’t like history. His Nazi medal is still in his archives, hidden away.

Actually, history is cool.  There are three basic reasons I think history is so important– critical, really– to all of us who believe that 0ur society needs fundamental, transformative social change:

Practical knowledge– In 2011, outraged citizens sat-in at the Wisconsin State Capitol in response to the governor’s imageattack on workers.  They were following in the footsteps of students who in 1960 occupied the lunch counters at Woolworth’s in a successful challenge to Jim Crow.  These young civil rights activists found inspiration in the 1936-37 sit-in by auto workers at the Flint factory.  Their actions echoed the Wobblies of 1906, who occupied the General Electric plant in New York instead of walking out on strike.  And those Wobs learned from Lucy Parsons, who inspired them with a vision of  “strikes of the future” from the 1905 IWW convention stage.

imageInspiration– Every generation believes that they live in “the worst of times,” which then gives rise to impatience, cynicism, and  discouragement.  But if history teaches anything, it is that there are victories but no permanent defeats.  We are in it for the long haul. As Rabbi Tarfon said, “It is not granted you to complete the task, and yet you may not give it up.”

A Continuum– The people’s  history we honor is not some ancient,  static text.  It’s a river in which we all swim.   Each one of us has a place in the ongoing struggle for social and economic justice.  “Never  doubt that you can change history,” Marge Piercy reminds us.  “You already have.”

“We  need to recover the disappeared story of the struggle of common people to create a democratic culture.  We need to inject into the current debate a vision of a just society where competition is replaced with cooperation, where greed is replaced with love allowing power to be shared by all.”

-Peter Kellman

Thanks…

imageTo my old comrade Terry McDonough (now Terrence McDonough, professor of Economics, National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway).  In the 1970s we researched and wrote some local Hartford history, and Terry came up with the name “Shoeleather History.”

Some of the  projects we’ve organized or cosponsored:

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Low-tech storytelling in the Digital Age, Boston

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11 comments on “About this site

  1. Paul FIlson
    July 15, 2013

    Steve. I’m on your side. This website rocks!

    • Win Heimer
      July 26, 2013

      I second that emotion!

  2. Blair Bertaccini
    November 30, 2013

    Steve: Just finished your book about the IWW in CT. I had read about the Wobblies syarting on HS, but knew nothing abouttheir presence in CT. The lack chronological sequence threw me a little bit. There are minor errors along the like saying McCarthism started in the 1940s and that New Canaan is in Litchfield County, Canaan and North Canaan are inLitchfield County, NewCanaan is in Fairfield County.Some of my grandfather’s friends organized a society in Bantam, I wonder if the IWW ever made it to there?

  3. Jimmy Higgins
    November 30, 2013

    Thanks for the corrections Blair! Your message got cut off as you were writing about your grandfather. I’d be interested in the story. Additions and corrections are now listed on “More Hidden History of the Wobblies.”
    Steve

  4. Jill Friedman
    January 7, 2014

    Hi Steve…I’m reading every word of your site!!! I love that the Bobby Sands Memorial is at the end of my street…every time I drive by I think our time and energy to work continuously to free political prisoners internationally.
    The Shoeleather History Project is so fascinating and it makes me proud of our amazing history here in Hartford.
    In Solidarity,
    Jill Friedman

    • Jimmy Higgins
      January 7, 2014

      Thanks Jill. This is a lot of fun. I’m retired now so I have a lot of time to write! Take care, Steve

  5. Frank DeFrancesco
    August 2, 2014

    How can one contribute an article to this project? I think it is of utmost importance to document the history of LGBT Hartford and this seems like such a great place to do so.

  6. Lauren Coodley
    May 4, 2015

    I was so excited to read about your book in Z magazine. In writing about my town of Napa, I have tried to include significant labor history. It is interesting how both Connecticut and Napa would not seem to have participated in the labor movement, but there was actually significant organization in both. Your can read more about my book at my website. I plan to order your book.

  7. Tom Gogan
    October 19, 2015

    And still rockin’ strong! Steve, this site is a treasure trove.

  8. Gregory Spear
    April 29, 2017

    I love your site, Steve. It is so great to connect with you again after all those picket lines in 1199 and anti Iraq war demos. it is really wonderful that you are keeping the history of struggle in Connecticut alive.

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The Shoeleather History Project