Chicago Teachers Union Founding


Sarah Howard on the Founding of the Chicago Teachers' Union

Founded in the 1930s, the Chicago Teachers' Union became "the progessive force" in education in Chicago, despite the fact that it was officially recognized by the Chicago Board of Education until 1967. In the accompanying video Sarah Howard -- great great grandniece of the legendary labor activist and teacher Lilian Herstein -- describes Chicago teachers' struggle for more school funding and fair labor conditions during the Depression. Between December 1932 and December 1933, Chicago teachers worked without pay, and in 1933 the Board of Education imposed radical budget cuts. They closed schools, increased class sizes, and dropped extracurricular programs. One of the schools the Board of Education closed was the highly popular Crane Junior College, which had opened in 1911 as part of the Crane Technical High School. Although Crane Junior College remained closed until the 1950s -- when it reopened and eventually became Malcolm X College -- Chicago teachers and students forced the Board of Education to open the Herzl Junior College in the North Lawndale neighborhood. In 1937, the many separate teachers' organizations that had been fighting under an ad hoc steering committee formally organized the Chicago Teachers' Union.

Labor Trail




2245 W Jackson Blvd

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

More information on the Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies is available at:

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