Year of Upheaval: 1919 and Its Legacies

When: Thursday, November 7, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Price: $15 & up | $10 Museum Members
Actors' Equity Strike of 1919
White Studio [Actors’ Equity strike of 1919.] 1919. Museum of the City of New York. 37.361.101.

The year 1919 witnessed some of the most violent and far-reaching developments in modern U.S. history. A massive wave of labor strikes mobilized a quarter of all American workers that spring, but signalled an end to union gains for at least the next decade. At the same time, a string of bloody race riots involving black veterans, migrants, and homeowners in the North and South contributed to the growth of a second KKK and 1920s nativism.  And the infamous "Palmer Raids" (organized by a twenty-four-year old J. Edgar Hoover, under President Wilson's command) led to the almost wholesale deportation of the Left, and created the basis for the later FBI's secret police. In short, the Progressive Era came to an end.

In this conversation, presented with CUNY’s Gotham Center for New York City History, four historians reflect on that tumultuous year in NYC and beyond: Steve Jaffe, curator of MCNY's City of Workers, City of Struggle exhibition, talks about the wave of labor actions that marked that year, including NYC's actors union strike; Shannon King of Worcester College talks about black-white relations in NYC leading up to 1919 and the impact of the “Red Summer”; Beverly Gage of Yale talks about Hoover and the origins of and the origins of modern domestic surveillance; and Vivian Gornick talks about the effect of the crackdown on the Left in the years that followed. Moderated by historian Ted Widmer.

About the Speakers: 
Beverly Gage is a professor of 20th-century American history and director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy at Yale University. Her forthcoming biography of J. Edgar Hoover is called G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the American Century.  She is also the author of The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in its First Age of Terror (2008) and serves as a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine

Vivian Gornick is a prolific memoirist, essayist, and biographer. She is the author of Emma Goldman: The Revolution as a Way of Life (2013). Her other books include The Odd Woman in the City (2015), Fierce Attachments (1987), The Men in My Life (2008), and The Solitude of Self: Thinking About Elizabeth Cady Stanton (2005).

Steven Jaffe is Curator at the Museum of the City of New York and the curator of City of Workers, City of Struggle: How Labor Movements Changed New York. He is the author of Activist New York: A History of People, Protest and Politics (2018) and New York at War: Four Centuries of Combat, Fear, and Intrigue in Gotham (2012).

Shannon King is an Associate Professor of History at The College of Wooster and the author of Whose Harlem Is This, Anyway? Community Politics and Grassroots Activism during the New Negro Era (2015), which won the National Council for Black Studies Best Book in Africana Studies Award.

Ted Widmer (moderator) is a Carnegie Council Senior Fellow and the creator and host of 1919: The Year of the Crack-Up, a special podcast and New York Times series about the events of 1919 around the world. He is a historian, writer, librarian, musician, and a Distinguished Lecturer at Macaulay Honors College (CUNY). His books include Listening In: The Secret White House Tapes of John F. Kennedy (2012); Campaigns: A Century of Presidential Races (with Alan Brinkley, 2001); and Young America: The Flowering of Democracy in New York City (1999).

$20 for Adults | $15 for Seniors, Students, and Educators (with ID)
$10 for Museum Members

Members: To receive your discount, click on the "Buy Tickets" button above, then sign in to your account on the ticketing page.

Groups of 10 or more get discounts; contact us at or 917.492.3395.

Accessibility: Assistive listening devices are available and our auditorium wheelchair lift can accommodate manual and motorized wheelchairs (max. capacity 500 lbs). Please contact the Museum at 917.492.3333 or with any questions.

Supporters and Partners

City of Workers, City of Struggle and its associated programs are made possible by The Puffin Foundation, Ltd

City of Workers, City of Struggle is presented in collaboration with the Kheel Center at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at NYU.

This program is co-presented with the Gotham Center for New York City History

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