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While There Is a Lower Class I Am in It

ID Number: 5699
Maker: Artist Unknown
Technique: offset
Date Made: 1965-1980
Place Made: United States
Measurements: 43 cm x 28 cm; 16 15/16 in x 11 in
Main Subject: Labor; Prisons & Prisoners
Materials: paper (fiber product); wrapped, corners
Digitized: Y

Full Text:
While There Is A Lower Class I Am In It, While There Is A Criminal Element I Am Of It, And While There Is A Soul In Prison I Am Not Free. MR Eugene Debs


Acquisition Number: 1994-153

Notes:
Eugene Victor Debs (1855-1926) was born to French parents in Terre Haute, Indiana, where his father ran a small grocery store. At age 15 he went to work on the railroads. After serving as secretary of his local of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen (1875-80), he became the union's national secretary and editor of its magazine (1880-92). He then served in the Indiana legislature from 1886 to 1888. Championing the cause of industrial unionism, he organized the American Railway Union in 1892, and led the boycott of all Pullman cars during the great strike of 1894; for defying the government's injunction he was jailed for six months. Converting to socialism while in jail, he helped found the Social Democratic Party in 1897, which merged in 1901 with another group to form the Socialist Party (SP). In 1905 he helped found the Industrial Workers of the World (also known as the IWW or Wobblies), which he eventually disavowed because of its use of violence. He ran for the U.S. presidency in 1900, 1904, 1908, and 1912 as the SP's candidate, winning over 900,000 votes, 6% of the total cast, in the 1912 election. During these years he supported himself by lecturing and writing. In 1918 he spoke out against the trials being conducted under the 1917 Espionage Act, under which individuals opposed to America participating in the world war were being charged with sedition; he himself was then tried for sedition and sentenced to ten years in jail. While in jail in 1920, he again ran for president on the Socialist ticket; he received his largest vote ever. Public protest persuaded President Harding to release him in 1921, but Debs never ceased working for the cause of Socialism. He died on October 20, 1926.


Production Notes: Printed on red paper

Copyright Status:
Copyright status unknown; may be protected by copyright law.


Exhibition Annotation:
Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) was a champion of industrial unionism, five time Socialist Party candidate for president, anti-war activist, and civil liberties advocate. He organized the American Railway Union in 1892 and led the boycott of all Pullman cars during the great strike of 1894. In 1901, he helped form the Socialist Party (SP) and in 1905 he helped found the Industrial Workers of the World (also known as the IWW or Wobblies). In the 1912 presidential election, Debs won more than 900,000 votes, 6% of the total cast. He was tried under the 1917 espionage act for speaking out against WWI and the draft and sentenced to ten years in prison. In 1920, while in prison, he again ran for president on the Socialist ticket and received his largest vote ever. Public protests persuaded President Harding to pardon him in 1921.



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