October 7 Joseph Labadie Dies

October 7, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1933.

That was the day Detroit anarchist labor leader, Joseph Labadie died. 

Born in Paw Paw in 1850, Jo was born to descendants of French immigrants and grew up among Native Potawatomi peoples in southwest Michigan. 

He became a printer, joined the local Typographical Union No.18 and worked for the Detroit Post and Tribune

He was an early leader of the Socialist Labor Party. 

By 1878, Jo organized the first Knights of Labor Assembly in Detroit. 

He served as the first president of the Detroit Trades Council and founded the Michigan Federation of Labor. 

He wrote tirelessly for a number of labor and socialist newspapers across the country. 

He embraced anarchism and soon produced a popular column titled, “Cranky Notions.” 

Labadie enjoyed the company and correspondence with radical labor leaders like Emma Goldman, Albert and Lucy Parsons, Eugene V. Debs, Benjamin Tucker, Terrance Powderly and others of the Progressive Era. 

He was often referred to as ‘The Gentle Anarchist’ for his insistence on non-violence and distancing from those Anarchists who advocated the use of violence as an acceptable tactic.

Labadie was also known to never throw out any printed material relevant to labor or radical causes. 

His biographer, Carlotta Anderson notes that, “the story of his life, deeds and thoughts is abundantly revealed through the treasure trove of letters, periodicals, clippings, manuscripts, booklets, photos and circulars once stored in his attic and now housed in the Labadie Collection of the University of Michigan. His stockpile of documents of social protest has proved a boon to scholars, enabling them to study the early labor movement in detail.” 

When he died at the age of 83, he considered this to be his legacy.


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