My name is Kathleen M. Jackson, I am
a student at Youngstown State University, who is studying Labor studies
and American studies. At this site you will be able to view paintings from
the Butler Institute of American Art
that express the hard times and struggles during the times of the steel
mills and the dramatic strikes.
"Youngstown Strike" by William Gropper
The painting here demonstrates the
violence that was caused by the strikes. The colors used here are very
important because the artist’s is expressing the anger and suffering that
the people sustained. The black background gives you that depressing look,
however, the brightness of their faces was also very eye catching. The
facial expressions shown here are also a depiction of the horror they went
through. As you can see, the bodies on the ground, and the people throwing
fists, and continuing to fight for what they believed. This is not the
strike of 1937 but the strike of 1916. However, just a repeat of the strike
from 21 years ago. The people in this painting give a survived look; they
have lived through such hard times with the strikes and the "great depression".
The painting portrays both the workers and their families that protested
outside these factories during the strikes, however, after the protest
broke out, many people were killed and several were injured. This is an
important trademark in our history. This just one illustration of our steel
mill strikes and the reaction people had and what that did to their lives.
The steel mills are now closed today, yet the families of past generation
steel mill workers are still trying to recover and focus on their future.
To get to know the artist,
Gropper, a little better, so you can understand his perspective and
background click here.
"We Demand" by Joe Jones
This painting also portrays the hardships
during the years of the "Great Depression", how the industrial workers
were fighting or rather protesting the companies for better pay and treatment.
This painting illustrates both the industrial worker and their families
protesting in a long line, with the railroads right directly above them.
The painting focuses on the strong arms and hearts of the determined workers,
and they were not about to give up what they felt was right to protest
for. The economic times were very struggling and what they were "demanding"
was what they deserved. The industrial workers were protesting to receive
better pay, a better working environment and a better future. However,
as past history will show you, the industrial workers continued to receive
minimal pay and much more hard labor. This continued on throughout
the life of the steel mills, however, the workers needed to support their
families and had no choice but to work hard and just make ends meet.
Youngstown, as we knew it was known for its steel mills and when that was
taken away, so were the hearts of the industrial workers. There lifestyles
were dramatically changed and some saw no hope for a future.
You may visit the
Historical Center of Industry and Labor to examine more of why Youngstown is
called the "Steel Valley".