Bud and Ruth Schultz have spent 25 years interviewing and photographing Americans who have stood up to their government in the name of civil rights, from the First World War to the present day. Here are their stories.
In the patriotic fervour of the First World War, more than 2,000 people were prosecuted for disagreeing with the government’s war policies.
Every day, every day, the rah-rah boys – preachers, teachers, newspapermen – were saying, “Whatever you do, don’t rock the boat”. The boat was on the way to war. The war hysteria mounted. The right to conduct meetings was cancelled. When people tried to hold meetings against the war, we were called traitors. People who opposed the war were fired. They lost their jobs widely and freely.
I wrote a simple little 32-page pamphlet called The Great Madness, which was published before the end of the war. I analysed the causes of the war – the political causes, the economic causes, and so on – showing that it was not a war of patriotism or a war for democracy, but a businessman’s war. The Espionage Act, which was enacted ostensibly to cope with the German spy system, was used against people such as me who opposed the war. An indictment against me was handed down in New York after the end of the war, and I was charged with writing a pamphlet that would interfere with recruitment and enlistment in the armed forces of the United States. It carried up to a 20-year sentence. We felt the trial was our chance to publicise our views and we used the pamphlet in presenting our case. We spent eight days going through it, paragraph by paragraph, and I gave a detailed explanation each time. The newspapers and magazines were full of it. We said we didn’t care if we were found guilty or not: we were interested in furthering the cause of peace and socialism. In the end, the jury acquitted me for writing the pamphlet and convicted the Rand School for publishing it.
Socialist Emil Seidel won election as mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 5 1910, the first such victory for a socialist in a major US city. Milwaukee was a significant industrial center and then the 12th largest US city, with a population of about 375,000: here.
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