25 Cents


This saying from worker strikes in Kansas puts into perspective how desperate black workers were for an increase in pay.  The idea of one leaving the state of Kansas over a pay raise seems outrageous nowadays, but when you consider that these workers had to make ends meet with 75 cents a day it is clear that they had no other option.  These protests lasted for seven years before finally coming to a head in 1887, when the Knights of Labor had their greatest influence.  The Knights organized ten thousand sugar laborers to strike in Thibodaux, all of them demanding at least a dollar a day.  However, the military was called in, martial law was enforced, and on November 22, 30 black laborers were shot and killed, and hundreds more lay wounded.  “Lame men and blind women shot; children and hoary-headed grandsires ruthlessly swept down! The Negroes offered no resistance; they could not, as the killing was unexpected. Those of them not killed took to the woods, a majority of them finding refuge in this city…”

I believe Howard Zinn makes mention of this because it shows how adamant the US government was in terms of it’s policies on pay for black workers.  The fact that they would be willing to kill their own citizens just to quell a protest clearly demonstrates how forceful the government was when it came to civil unrest, even over such a trivial amount of money.