By Sandy Southivilay

On January 17, 1915, a prominent activist for women rights, racial equality, and worker’s right, Lucy Parsons, lead one of the biggest unemployment demonstrations. More than 15,000 people gathered on the streets of Chicago, Illinois to rally against the city’s high unemployment rate and the appalling number of starving families. Parsons and demonstrators marched down Halsted, requesting City Hall to provide food relief and work for those in need.

Although the demonstration was peaceful, many people were arrested. Angered and outraged, citizens took the offense to court where the court ruled in favored of the demonstrators. The government realized that something needed to be done to lower the unemployment rate and provide for people of Chicago.

The unemployment parade illustrated that when fought in unison, solidarity can change the outcomes of the lives of many people inflicted. However, this was not the only achievement to come from the unemployment parade.

Two days prior, the famous poem laureate, Ralph Chaplin, completed “Solidarity Forever,” the well known fighting theme song for organized labor. It was at this demonstration where the song was first sung.

Two version below by Pete Seeger and Lenard Cohen:

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