Let the people of New York see labor’s story!
Stop the censorship of The City at the Crossroads of History
An Open Letter to the Puffin Foundation and the Museum of the City of New York:
As individuals deeply concerned about both the history and current status of the labor movement, we are writing to oppose the suppression and censorship of a major new labor mural, The City at the Crossroads of History.
The four panels of the recently created mural illuminate many of the great chapters in the history of social movements in the city, including labor strikes, desegregation struggles, the building of industrial unions, women’s and gay rights, the civil rights movement and more.
An entire section of the mural was designed for young people to be photographed with the likes of A. Philip Randolph, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King, Eugene Debs, Frida Kahlo, John Lennon and other inspiring figures.
One of the county’s leading mural artists, Mike Alewitz, was commissioned by the Puffin Foundation to create this work specifically for a new gallery about the history of social activism in New York. It is the product of years’ research and preparation. But after being promised installation at the Museum, it has been rejected on political grounds - presumably because it unabashedly and proudly reveals the militant history of the working class.
We believe that events like the strikes of maritime workers, the Stonewall rebellion, the fight for the 8-hour day, rent strikes, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the Black nationalist movement and the rest of our history deserves to be seen by the very people who build and provide the resources to maintain cultural institutions like our foundations and museums.
We believe that Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass, Margaret Sanger and a host of other individuals who went to jail or gave their lives for our movement should not be hidden from view.
To deny our legacy, in a gallery that purportedly represents the tradition of social activism, is an insulting slap in the face to activists, artists, unionists and all those whose work contributes to the prosperity of the city.
Mike Alewitz was asked to create this work and encouraged to do so over the course of several years. His mural proposal was unanimously praised and accepted by the Puffin Foundations’ officers and the committee of leading historians and cultural figures that oversaw the construction and installation of the Puffin Gallery.
Now the museum, at the behest of Director Susan Henshaw Jones, has refused to install the mural. Attempts by the National Coalition Against Censorship and others to discuss the issue have not even been acknowledged.
For a top museum official to step in and deny the installation of the mural is no different than censorship directed against other artists, such as when Diego Rivera had his murals removed by Nelson Rockefeller.
We believe that the people of New York have a right to see their history. We demand that the Museum of the City of New York and the Puffin Foundation provide an adequate exhibition space for our story!
Mike Alewitz, Muralist, Associate Professor, Central CT State University
Amy Bahruth, Asst. Director, Health & Safety Program, American Federation of Teachers
Bill Barry, Former Director of Labor Studies, Community College of Baltimore County
Elaine Bernard, Ph.D., Executive Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School
Kate Bronfenbrenner, Director of Labor Education Research, Cornell ILR
Leslie Cagan, Peace and Justice Organizer
Jim Catterson, Director, Energy Industries Section, IndustriALL Global Union, Geneva
Peter Cervantes-Gautschi, Founding Executive Director, Enlace
Arthur Cheliotes, President, Local 1180, Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO
Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America; Vice-President, AFL-CIO; Democratic National Committee
John Walton Cotman, Associate Professor, Graduate Program Director, Political Science, Howard University
Lincoln Cushing, Author and Archivist
Jed Dodd, General Chairman, Pennsylvania Federation BMWED-Teamsters
Tim Drescher, Co-Author, Agitate! Educate! Organize! American Labor Posters
Steve Early, Labor journalist & Author
Anne Fischel, Media and Community Studies, The Evergreen State College
Carol Gay, President, NJ State Industrial Union Council
Eric A. Gordon, Chair, National Writers Union, Southern California Chapter
Suzanne Gordon, Author & Journalist
Peter Goselin, Attorney
Briann G. Greenfield, Executive Director, NJ Council for the Humanities
Stanley Heller, Producer, "The Struggle" Video News
Gary Huck, Cartoonist, United Electrical Workers (UE)
Tom Juravich, Professor of Labor Studies and Sociology, UMass Amherst
Tamara Kay, University of New Mexico
Tavia La Follette, Artist-in-Residence, Carnegie Mellon University, CREATE Lab
Paul Le Blanc, Professor of History, La Roche College
Ken Margolies, Senior Associate, The Worker Institute at Cornell
Barbara McCloskey, Chair, Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh
Beverly Miller, President, United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, IATSE
Janet Braun Reinitz, Co-author, On the Wall: Four Decades of Community Murals in New York City
Shelley Streeby, Director of Graduate Studies, Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego
Joe Uehlein, Founder, Labor Heritage Foundation, Former Secretary-Treasurer, Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO
Jane Weissman, Administrative Director, Artmakers Inc.; Co-author, On the Wall: Four Decades of Community Murals in New York City
Marela Zacarias, Muralist
Bennet Zurofsky, Attorney
(Organizations listed for identification purposes only)
Powerpoint: the city at the crossroads of history: