What You Might Not Know About May Day in America

With May right around the corner, explore the history of May Day in America.

America’s forgotten holiday : May Day and nationalism, 1867-1960

Haverty-Stacke, Donna T. New York University, 2008
303p, 0814737056 $45.00, 9780814737057 $45.00

One often thinks of May Day in terms of tanks rumbling through Red Square. The leaders standing on Lenin’s Tomb would be surprised to know that the labor movement’s celebration of May Day began in the US. Haverty-Stacke (history, Hunter College, CUNY) traces the founding of May Day in America by labor activists and its celebration in the US from the late 1860s to its demise post-WW II. The May 1 celebration began as a march for the eight-hour workday and over time expanded to include other labor issues. Socialist groups and eventually the Communist Party of the US began sponsoring the event; the largest gatherings and parades were seen as a result of the communists’ planning and organizing efforts. Ironically, their successes in the 1930s would lead to the eventual disappearance of May Day. Haverty-Stacke recounts how after WW II, American labor avoided contact with the communists and May Day celebrations. Instead, more workers and their unions became active in the new Labor Day holiday. This readable book, which blends US labor, political, and cultural history, can be used as a companion to any US history or labor history text. Copious notes; thorough index.

Summing Up: Recommended. Academic audiences, lower-division undergraduate and up, and general readers.
Reviewer: C. J. Munson, Western Technical College
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies – North America
Choice Issue: Jun 2009