July 7, 2021

MAY DAY: An International Labor Poster Exhibit From the collection of Stephen Lewis

MAY DAY: An International Labor Poster Exhibit From the collection of Stephen Lewis

Date(s) - Wednesday, July 7, 2021 - Thursday, August 26, 2021
9:30 am - 5:30 pm

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WHAT: MAY DAY – An International Labor Poster ExhibitFrom the collection of STEPHEN LEWIS
WHEN: July 7 through August 26, 2021
WHERE: Forbes Library – Hosmer Gallery 40 West St. Northampton, MA.

Library Hours: currently Monday 2:30-5:30; Tuesday through Friday 9:30-5:30; Saturday 10:00-2:00. Hours may change; please check for updates when planning your visit.

For library information, please visit forbeslibrary.org or call (413) 587-1011. The Library is accessible.

Helped made possible by support from Roofers Local 33, and Asbestos Workers Local 6

When most Americans think of May Day, they think of tanks parading through the streets of Moscow. May Day, the first of May is known throughout much of the world as the day for workers. While May Day eventually turned out to not be such a great deal for many workers in Russia, it is nonetheless celebrated today in over one hundred countries by workers, many of them members of trade unions. And in most countries, the celebrations are not about military parades, rather about highlighting struggles workers are going through. The reason it is not celebrated in a number of other countries is because organized workers are severely repressed. It is not a recognized holiday in the US and Canada. Instead, those two countries celebrate Labor Day. The reason for this is that the celebration of May Day was linked to Communism, Socialism, militant workers and other activists who fought for improving the lot of workers. This is not something the people in power in this country wanted to celebrate. The irony of this is that the movement of celebrating May Day as a workers’ holiday emanated from right here in the US. A national strike was called for May 1, 1886, if Congress did not pass legislation shortening the workday to 8 hours. On May 1, 60,000 workers went on strike in Chicago. The strike gained momentum and two days later the police shot several strikers. Following further violence in Chicago, the movement spread worldwide. The struggle for the 8-hour day was realized years later.

People in the Northampton area will have a chance to have a taste of May Day from around the world, with a poster exhibit at the Forbes Library during the months of July and August. Stephen Lewis will be exhibiting May Day posters at the library. Lewis has numerous May Day posters that he has collected, from France, Spain, Namibia, Australia, Denmark, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Germany, and Liechtenstein to name a few. Don’t let the fact that May Day is May 1st dissuade you: the exhibit is fabulous to view any month of the year.

The exhibit is part graphic art, part history, part culture and part political message. Artists may appreciate the various ways a theme is depicted by many different artists, hailing from different countries and cultures. Lewis has made the foreign language posters more accessible by including translation of key phrases to English. Historians can see what social and political changes were being advocated for in different countries at different times. Activists can see some of their favorite causes, including the celebration of May Day itself, agitated for in these posters..

Visit the exhibit and appreciate the struggle of workers round the world to achieve better working conditions and benefits which some of us enjoy today and many more continue to struggle for. A part of the legacy of May Day was the struggle for the 8-hour workday. That struggle for shorter working days was the cause of the famous Bread and Roses Strike which took place in Lawrence, MA in 1912. Fittingly, Lewis is a former member of the Board of Directors that runs the annual commemoration of that struggle on Labor Day, in Lawrence.

This project is supported in part by Roofers Local 33, and Asbestos Workers Local 6

Lewis has a collection of 9000 posters which he exhibits regularly around Massachusetts. The exhibits in general are about labor and progressive political issues He can be reached at lewisposters@gmail.com