Washburne Trade School


The Washburne Trade School both created opportunities for Chicago's workers, and helped to maintain the racial exclusivity of the city's craft unions. Opened in 1919 under a federal mandate to train trades workers, the Washburne Trade and Continuation School moved from the intersection of West 14th Street and Union Street to 31st Street and Kedzie in 1958. See: Washburne School "The Harvard of trade schools," provided general skills training and housed apprenticeship training programs jointly sponsored by unions, contractors, and the Chicago Board of Education. Like the Chicago Schools in general, Washburne has a controversial history. From the 1920s to the 1960s, Washburne was virtually all-white; African American youth attended Dunbar Vocational Center, which did not even have high school level programs until 1952. As late as 1960, only twenty-six of the school's 2,700 apprentices were black. During the larger movement in the 1960s to desegregate Chicago's schools, civil rights organizations pressured the Board of Education to integrate apprenticeship programs, and the percentage of African Americans, Latinos, and women in Washburne's programs increased through the 1970s and 1980s. At the same time, however, the number of apprenticeship programs decreased as unions pulled out of Washburne to open suburban training facilities. These unions included plumbers, ironworkers, cement masons and glaziers, and, in 1986, carpenters, pipe fitters and electricians. Painters and drywall finishers left in the mid-1990s. In 1965, 17 unions maintained programs at Washburne, but by 1978 there were only 8 unions at the school and 2 by the mid-1990s when the city merged Washburne with the City College system. Its major program now is the Culinary Institute.

Labor Trail

Labor Trail

The Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies (CCWCS) is proud to present the Interactive Labor Trail, made possible by a generous grant from the Illinois Humanities Council. This on-line history resource builds on “The Labor Trail: Chicago's History of Working-Class Life and Struggle,” a map of 140 significant locations in the history of labor, migration, and working-class culture in Chicago and Illinois. The Labor Trail is the product of a joint effort to showcase the many generations of dramatic struggles and working-class life in the Chicago area's rich and turbulent past. The Trail's neighborhood tours invite you to get acquainted with the events, places, and people -- often unsung -- who have made the city what it is today. In addition, the statewide map is just a starting point for further exploration of Illinois' labor heritage. This Interactive Labor Trail expands the number of locations and provides a greater depth of information, while giving map users the chance to add their knowledge of locations and events in the Chicago area’s working-class history.

We invite all individuals, groups, and institutions interested in the labor and working-class history of Chicago, Cook County, the Calumet Region, and Illinois to contribute to the map. Users can add new sites, edit or build upon existing entries with additional text, photographs, primary sources, audio and video files, as well as links to related websites.

Easy-to-use instructions for adding to the on-line version of the map are available at www.labortrail.org.

More information on the Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies is available at: www.workingclassstudies.org

The Labor Trail: Chicago's History of Working-Class Life and Struggle

Project Director:
Leon Fink, University of Illinois at Chicago

Project Advisors:
Tobias Higbie, Newberry Library
Lisa Oppenheim, Chicago Metro History Education Center
Liesl Miller Orenic, Dominican University

Administrative Director:
Jeffrey Helgeson, University of Illinois at Chicago

Project Assistants:
Aaron Max Berkowitz, University of Illinois at Chicago; John H. Flores, University of Illinois at Chicago; Erik Gellman, Northwestern University; Dan Harper, University of Illinois at Chicago; Emily LaBarbera-Twarog, University of Illinois at Chicago

Web Design:
William Atwood and Melissa Palmer