Activist History: the South Baltimore Voice and Chronicling Labor Movements

74336dd4-eec9-4e14-b27f-3e11cf887406Our group chose to research the South Baltimore Voice after the class’s initial visit to the library for an information session on the archives and special collections. We took an interest in the Voice because of its radical politics and local news coverage, and mission to give a public platform for individual South Baltimore voices.

We visited Special Collections in the library, where we were able to read back issues of the Voice donated to UMBC by the Alternative Press Center. The Baltimore-based Alternative Press Center is one of the oldest self-sustaining alternative media institutions in the United States. The APC donates the back issues of their collections to UMBC, with the most recent issues being published five years previously.

We chose to compile stories of labor organizing. The Voice started covering issues of workers’ rights in its very first issue, and every issue thereafter we found at least one article dedicated to local, national, or international labor movements, along with interviews of local workers discussing their working conditions and calls to action for community organizers. The Voice’s early issues covered only local news, but in their later issues they began to create a platform where local activists could connect to national and international movements. They covered a wide variety of labor movement-related topics, including workers’ health and safety, national and international strikes, union and company politics, and women’s labor movements. We thought that this connection of the South Baltimore residents to wider labor movements was an amazing gift that the Voice gave to Baltimore, since activism requires connections, and isolated movements will not succeed.

the voice livesWhile we had no problems finding the actual copies of the Voice, aside from the simple lack of archived issues (there was a sizeable gap between the first issue and the next issue available, and the last several issues seemed to be missing), there is almost no secondary material on the Voice. We were unable to find the date of its last publication, or why it shut down, though based on the last issue available to us we were led to assume the issue was a lack of funding. We were also unable to get into contact with any of the former staff members of the Voice. These proved by far to be our biggest obstacles in compiling the project on the Voice.

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