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Washington Area Spark – Flickr photo collection guide

4 Oct
Cold winds blow on DC cafeteria workers: 1948

1948 cafeteria strike

by the administrator

[updated October 17, 2017]

The Spark collection is now approaching 3,000,000 photo views on our Flickr site with 2,700 images in 265 different albums, so we’re adding a research guide to help you find images of interest.

Further, our collection of images of struggles for freedom, economic and social justice, against imperialist war, for liberation is growing. We collect, research and publish these images from the pre-Internet era in the hope of connecting the struggles today with those of yesterday.

Hundreds attempt escape at makeshift jail: Mayday 1971

1971 Mayday detainees

The following are broad categories to help you find images. The image albums are not listed in any particular order within the broad categories.

Categorizing these albums within broad categories inevitably leads to disputes. Please accept these categories as finding aids instead of viewing them as political statements.

African American parents picket & boycott DC schools: 1947

1947 DC school boycott

Within Flickr, you may also browse albums (collection of related photographs and images), the photo stream (images by date uploaded) or by camera roll (by date of the image). You may also use the search feature at the top of any Flickr page by entering your own search terms. We strongly urge researchers to use search terms since an image contained in an album may relate to your area of interest even though the album is about a different issue.

As you view these images, we hope you will gain a greater appreciation of these agents of change and learn from their sometimes brilliant and sometimes disastrous strategy and tactics.

Image Albums:

Anarchism and Syndicalism

Sacco & Vanzetti: 1920-27
D.C. Weather bombings: 1971-75
Big Bill in DC: 1915


(See Vietnam War for Indochina conflict)

World Citizen: 1948-49
War against Iraq: 1991
Student Peace Union: 1958-67
Debs in DC: 1921
Antiwar: 1917
Women against war: 1920-80
Jeanette Rankin: 1914-40
Women’s International League: 1915-90
No forced ROTC: 1930-70
Anti-draft protests: 1947-72
Youth Congress: 1934-41
Pre-war peace pickets: 1941
No nukes: 1950-85

Civil Rights & Black Liberation Struggles before 1955

Safeway Jim Crow: 1935-41
Black postal clerks: 1868-1940
Frederick Douglas: 1818-1895
Cafeteria Local 471
Laundry strike: 1937
Interracial dance: 1929
Adam Clayton Powell in DC: 1940-70
Jim Crow at U.S. Engraving: 1947-50
Crime conference: 1934
Maryland lynch mobs: 1930s
Parents League: 1919
DC’s fighting barber: 1947-54
DC swimming pool integration: 1949-54
DC New Negro Alliance: 1934-43
DC National Negro Congress: 1936-55
Mary McLeod Bethune
Truman at NAACP: 1947
African American GAR: 1900-35
Youth Congress: 1934-41
For fair employment: 1941-50
Abolish poll taxes: 1940-48
Gone with the Wind: 1940
Interracial strike: 1937
Georgia lynching protest: 1946
DC Scottsboro action: 1932-35
Free Willie McGee: 1945-51
Bilbo has got to go: 1945-46
Mary Church Terrell: 1863-1954
Martinsville 7: 1951
No police brutality: 1941
No police brutality: 1936-40
No VA Jim Crow?: 1946
DC Jim Crow Theaters: 1922-54
Anti-lynching campaign: 1922
MD crab strike: 1938
Marie Richardson remembered
Fighting Capital Transit racism: 1941-55

Civil Rights & Black Liberation Struggles after 1955

King in DC: 1956-65
VA school segregation: 1957
Youth march: 1959
DC civil rights: 1966
Adam Clayton Powell in DC: 1940-70
Malcolm in DC: 1961-63
NoVa theater Jim Crow: 1962-63
Goodman, Schwerner, Chaney: 1964
Wallace in MD: 1964-72
MD school segregation: 1954-74
Rats cause riots: 1967
Poor People’s march: 1968
20th Anniversary march: 1983
Giles-Johnson: 1961-67
King holiday: 1968-86
DC civil rights: 1963-64
Bowie State: 1968
UMD Black Student Union: 1968-75
Stadium pickets: 1963-90
Terrence Johnson: 1979-80
March on Washington: 1963
Laurence G. Henry: 1960-61
March on DC: 1958
Cambridge, MD rights: 1963-67
DC Selma reaction: 1965
Prayer Pilgrimage: 1957
Demand open housing: 1963-66
MD civil rights: 1960-68
MLK assassinated: 1968
Glen Echo picket: 1960
Rockville, MD sit-in: 1960
Homes not roads: 1969
100 hour Hiser picket: 1960
DC rights warrior: 1960
Resistance to the Klan in MD:
African Liberation: 1972-86
DC Black Panthers: 1969-74
VA restaurant sit-ins: 1960
Racism at the Library of Congress: 1971-73
Children’s march for survival: 1972


Laundry strike: 1937
Cafeteria Local 471
Federal workers school
Interracial Dance: 1929
Communist Assn.: 1944
Anti-Deng protests: 1979
May Day: 1935
MD crab strike: 1938
Seamen march on DC: 1937
Md.-D.C. communists: 1920-65
Release John Porter: 1928
Bicentennial protests: 1976
Hunger Marches: 1931-32
Immigration rights: 1930
Rosenberg execution: 1953
Celanese strike: 1936
Passaic strike: 1926
Madalyn Murray O’Hair: 1963
DC unemployed protest: 1930
DC Red Scares
Marie Richardson remembered
Sammie Abbott appreciation
DC Scottsboro action: 1932-35
No police brutality: 1936-40
Police raid Progressives: 1948
Spanish Civil War: 1936-39

D.C. Area Miscellaneous 

CCNV: 1973-1990
D.C. voting rights: 1932-64
Group Health: 1959
Hit and Stay: 1968-75
Homes not roads: 1969
Police raid Progressives: 1948
Sammie Abbott appreciation
Free Press battle: 1969
Surveying police surveyors: 1971-73

Fight Against Fascism

Spanish Civil War: 1936-39
Wallace in MD: 1964-72
Responding to the right: 1940-85
Liberation of Dachau: 1945
Off to fight fascism: 1942-45
Anti-fascist protests: 1930s
Resistance to the Klan in MD:

Immigrant Rights

Sacco & Vanzetti: 1920-27
Anti-deportation: 1940
Immigrant rights: 1977
Mt. Pleasant riot: 1991
Immigration rights: 1930
Meeting at Central Presbyterian: 1973


LBGT rights: 1975-90
DC LGBT rights: 1965-74
MoCo gay teacher fired: 1972-73

Labor Movement

Safeway Jim Crow: 1935-41
Black postal clerks: 1868-1940
Government union: 1934
Patco strike: 1981
Laundry strike: 1937
Cafeteria Local 471
Federal workers school: 1937
Big Bill in DC: 1915
Price controls: 1946
Navy Yard wage cuts: 1921
Jim Crow at US Engraving: 1947-50
Tom Mooney in DC: 1939
Release John Porter: 1928
John L. Lewis in DC: 1935-69
Postal employees: 1934
Terrence Powderly: 1849-1924
Group Health: 1959
Debs in DC: 1921
Hotel workers: 1930-49
Celanese strike: 1936
DC truck strike: 1940 ca.
Transit strike: 1955
Transit strike: 1951
Samuel Gompers: 1850-1924
Passaic strike: 1926
Solidarity Day: 1981-82
Stadium pickets: 1963-90
D.C. Labor Meetings
Government workers: 1928
Communications workers: 1940-80
ATU 689 birth: 1916-17
D.C. area strike wave: 1945-46
Capital Transit strikes: 1945
Mother Jones 1837-1930
Taft-Hartley protests: 1947
Seamen march on DC: 1937
WPA protests: 1936-40
Interracial strike: 1937
DC streetcar women: 1943-61
MoCo teachers strike: 1968
MD crab strike: 1938
Marie Richardson remembered
Fighting Capital Transit racism: 1941-55
Post busts pressmen’s union: 1975
Post printers lockout: 1973
K. Graham burned in effigy: 1976
DC Metro wildcats strikes: 1978
Farmworkers Safeway boycott: 1973
Transit strike: 1974
Confrontation at Mineral Pigment: 1973
On the job murder at Metro: 1974
Racism at the Library of Congress: 1971-73
Terps at issue in hotel fight: 1974
Union fight at Lanham hotel: 1974
Hotel workers hit GOP: 1974
Say no to Rhodesian chrome: 1973
Caucus pickets steel talks: 1977
Farah boycott: 1973
May Day picket: 1974
Teamsters strike Safeway: 1974
Meatcutters strike betrayed: 1973
Retail clerks lose strike: 1974
ATU Local 689: No Service 1974
Union staff strike NEA union: 1974
People’s Drug strike: 1974
Fairfax Hotel strike: 1974
(new!) Painters strike: 1937
(new!) Longshore battle: 1951-54


Honor America Day: 1970
Yippie smoke-in: 1973
Legalize pot: 1979


Revolutionary culture
Random radicals
Statement flags: 1930-75

National Liberation & Anti-Imperialism

(For Indochina War, see Vietnam War)

GW Sino Soviet: 1969
DC Area SDS: 1963-69
War against Iraq: 1991
Spanish Civil War: 1936-39
NSA-CIA to NLF: 1967-71
Palestine protest: 1971
Puerto Rican nationalists: 1950-54
Irish republicans: 1919-21
No to imperialism: 1920-90
African liberation: 1972-86
Free 12 Iranian artists: 1973
Say no to Rhodesian chrome: 1973
CIA out of Greece: 1974
Down with the Shah: 1974
Keep out of Mideast war: 1973
Antiwar: 1917

Prison Rights

Rebellion against system: DC jail 1972
DC Women’s Detention Center: 1973
Tear the walls down: 1973
DC jail uprising trial: 1974

Slave Resistance/Revolts/Military Action

Escape from slavery: 1853-58
Frederick Douglas: 1818-1895
Fight for freedom: 1861-65
MD slave revolt: 1845
African American GAR: 1930-35


Debs in D.C.: 1921
People’s Party: 1972


Catholic U strike: 1967
Youth Congress: 1934-41
Anti-deportation: 1940
NSA-CIA to NLF: 1967-71
DC area SDS: 1963-69
No forced ROTC: 1930-70
GW Sino Soviet: 1969
Bowie State: 1968
UMD Black Student Union: 1968-75
Howard U protests: 1967
U of MD ignites: 1970
Cutbacks and layoffs must stop at the U. of MD: 1973
ROTC off campus: U of MD 1971
U of MD antiwar protests: 1972
Terps at issue in hotel fight: 1974
MoCo teachers strike: 1968
Rennie Davis at Montgomery College: 1973

Transit in the DC Area

Group Health: 1959
Exact bus fare: 1968
D.C. streetcar women: 1943-60
Transit strike: 1974
ATU 689 birth: 1916-17
On the job murder at Metro: 1974
ATU Local 689: No Service 1974
Fighting Capital Transit racism: 1941-55
Transit strike: 1955
Transit strike: 1951
Capital Transit strikes; 1945
DC Metro wildcat strikes: 1978

U.S. National Domestic Politics & Issues

Farmers’ protest: 1977-85
No social security cuts: 1981
Earth Day: 1970
Price controls: 1946
Townsend pension plan: 1936
Bicentennial protests: 1976
Chippewas protest on the Mall: 1970
Throw the Bum Out: 1973-74
Wanted: William E Colby 1973
Madalyn Murray O’Hair: 1963
BIA takeover: 1972


Mr. Zero in DC: 1921-32
Hunger marches: 1931-32
Bonus Army: 1932-34
Coxey’s army: 1894-44
Jobless: 1949
Youth Congress: 1934-41
D.C. unemployed protest: 1930
WPA protests: 1936-40
Unemployed League: 1934
Workers Alliance: 1935-40
Cutbacks and layoffs must stop at the U of MD: 1973
No cuts in jobless benefits: 1975-77


Bonus Army: 1932-34
Dewey Canyon III: 1971
African American GAR: 1930-35
Vets march on the White House: 1974
Servicemen demand bonus: 1973
VA target of vets picket: 1974
Vets hit military court: 1974
Demanding justice at Justice: 1974

Vietnam War

Protest Viet partition: 1954
DC area SDS: 1963-69
Antiwar: 1967
DC antiwar: 1971
DC national antiwar rally: 1970
NSA-CIA to NLF: 1967-71
Dewey Canyon III: 1971
Chicago 8/7 conspiracy: 1968-70
DC Weather bombings: 1971-75
DC Anti-Vietnam War: 1968
DC Anti-Vietnam War: 1966
Hit and stay: 1968-75
Largest Anti-Viet War protest: 1971
Moratorium: Oct. 1969
Anti-draft protests: 1947-72
Howard U protests: 1967
Moratorium: Nov. 1969
Mayday: May 5, 1971
Honor America Day: 1970
DC anti-Vietnam War: 1965
Mayday: May 4, 1971
Mayday: May 3, 1971
Mayday: May 2, 1971
Mayday: May 1, 1971
March on Pentagon: 1967
Republican convention: 1972
Rennie Davis at Montgomery College: 1973
U of MD ignites: 1970
Counter-Inaugural: 1969
Inauguration protest: 1973
ROTC off campus: U of MD 1971
DC Anti-Vietnam War: 1972
U of MD antiwar protests: 1972
Final march: Vietnam War 1975
March on the Pentagon: 1972
Wanted: William E. Colby: 1973

Women’s Rights

Abortion rights: 1989
Green Guards: 1940
Women’s vote: 1910-20
Women against war: 1920-80
Jeanette Rankin: 1914-40
Women’s International League 1915-90
Universal childcare: 1971
DC streetcar women: 1943-60
Women’s rights: 1970
DC Abortion: 1972
Ratify the ERA: 1976
MD crab strike: 1938
Marie Richardson remembered

Washington Area Spark Historical

Washington Area Spark
Spark and On The Move mastheads
Photographers of Spark & On the Move
Images published in Spark
Images published in On The Move
Spark and On The Move in action: 1973-74
Spark and On The Move trivia
Two children at Spark house: 1972
Mike Quatro concert: 1972

2,000 historic photos of DC activism now online

26 Jan
Hunger March women prepare to board truck: 1932

Hunger March in Washington, D.C. – 1932

We’ve posted photo 2K on our Flickr site as our fifth year comes to a close.

Browse three different ways:

Album (related images)
Photo stream (by dated posted)
Timeline (by date of image)

Or you can use the search feature at the top of the Flickr page to find your topic, person or date that interests you.

Some of the newest interesting albums:

Debs in DC: 1921Famed socialist leader and presidential candidate Eugene Debs in DC – Debs comes to Washington, DC following his release from the Atlanta Penitentiary in 1921 where he had run for president of the U.S. and received nearly a million votes. Where did he go? Whom did he visit? Who visited with him? What did he see?

Mr Zero in DC: 1921-32Mr. Zero – before the Yippies of Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and ‘Pie Man’ Aron Kay who understood modern media, there was Mr. Zero who grasped the impact of the new photographic capabilities of daily newspapers. He used his theatrics to advance the interests of the unemployed in the 1910s and 20s.

Hunger Marches: 1931-32While most have heard of the Bonus Army march on Washington in 1932, few have heard of the Hunger marches that occurred in 1931-32 that had as great an impact at the time and provided the impetus for the unemployment insurance system we know today.

Celanese strike: 1936The Celanese Strike of 1936 in far off Cumberland, Maryland produced the great communist labor leader George A. Meyers who went on to become head of the 10,000 member textile union, head of the Maryland-DC CIO and later the head of the Communist Party USA’s trade union work. Meyers, as head of the local CIO, spearheaded efforts to desegregate defense industries in the Baltimore-Washington area at the beginning of World War II.

Poor People's March: 1968Poor People’s March: 1968. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. planned this march to be a massive civil disobedience action that would shut down Washington, DC to demand economic justice. After his assassination, the focus was changed to a lobby effort that was doomed by the change of focus, relentless rain and lack of effective leadership. Many historians mark this as the end of the national focus of the modern civil rights movement that began with the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in 1957.

Maryland Lynch Mobs: 1930sThe last major wave of lynchings in Maryland occurred in the 1930s, see images and read about these barbaric crimes that have no historical markers. And see those that stood against them.


The vintage Washington Area Spark is now online. Scroll way down your screen on the right and click on any issue for the original tabloid paper published from 1971-75.

Some of the all time favorites albums:

DC Unemployed Protest: 1930
Maryland Civil Rights: 1960-68
Virginia Restaurant Sit-Ins: 1960
Fighting Capital Transit Racism: 1941-55
U of MD Ignites: 1970

Thanks for you interest. Do you have historic photos you’d like to share? Contact us at

 –The administrators

Vintage Washington Area Spark comes back to life: 1971-5

13 Oct

November 19, 1971 – Spark’s third issue.

Updated October 25, 2015 – 3rd and final year of Spark & complete On the Move now online:

This new online tool for researchers and those interested in the period of radical activity in the Washington, D.C. area from 1971-75 is now relatively complete.

The third year of Spark marked its complete transition from a student-oriented radical newspaper to one based among the Washington, D.C. area workforce while still retaining its campus distribution along with a few bookstores and other news outlets.

The tabloid’s circulation peaked in the third year at around 25,000–up from its first issue circulation of 500.

While the newspaper’s politics began aligning more closely with a Maoist group called the Revolutionary Union, it still retained its independence and published articles and covered events that were sponsored by other groups and broader coalitions.

However, internal and external pressures caused it to cease publication two issues into its third year. Printing prices skyrocketed while a number of key members of its volunteer staff left for personal reasons. The financing, writing, production and distribution took its toll and the tasks began wearing on the core volunteers that had been performing the various functions without compensation for nearly two years.

In addition, the newspaper’s turn toward the politics of the Revolutionary Union alienated some contributors and distributors.

The newspaper was reincarnated as On The Move six months after Spark ceased publication. On the Move looked much more like the several dozen local newspapers that sprung up across the country in this period that were closely aligned with and largely staffed by members of the Revolutionary Union. The focus was on worker militancy and actions sponsored by the RU or groups aligned with it. Articles were republished from Revolution (the RU’s national newspaper) as well as from other local RU-oriented newspapers.

On The Move’s circulation was primarily at worksites around the city and distribution never went higher than around 1,000 copies per issue. Each issue looked less like it’s previous incarnation as jargon increased and coverage of local news decreased.

On The Move ceased publication after one year largely due to the same reasons as Spark–overburdened staff and even weaker finances. The impact of the paper was lessened by increasingly sparse local content and poor circulation.

There were several unsuccessful attempts over the next several years to revive the newspaper, including the publication of one issue of an RU-oriented Baltimore-Washington Worker. 

Links to the third year of Spark and the first and only year of On The Move:

3rd year of Spark:

Vol. 3, No. 1, October 11, 1973
Vol. 3, No. 2, November 24, 1973

Complete On The Move:

Vol. 1, No. 1, April-May, 1974
Vol. 1, No. 2, August, 1974
Vol. 1, No. 3, November, 1974
Vol. 1, No. 4, December, 1974
Vol. 1, No. 5, January, 1975

Updated Oct. 18, 2015 – 2nd year of Spark now online

The second year of the Washington Area Spark monthly tabloid is now online. Vol. 2, No. 8 published in March/April 1973 is missing. If you have a copy, please contact us at A full twelve issues were published in the second year of the paper.

The second year of Spark was marked by clashes with the new student government, the administration and even the trustees of Montgomery College. The previous student government had allocated funds for publishing Spark, but it became a race to spend the money before it was cut off. The last student funds were spent in December 1972 and the newspaper declared its independence from the campus in January 1973.

The second year also marked an expansion from its Montgomery County roots to a Washington, DC area-wide newspaper. The paper struggled to find a replacement for the student funds and came to rely on a mix of limited advertisement, sustainer contributions and staff contributions.

The politics of the newspaper also changed. It declared itself to be guided by Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought. This turn to the left occurred at a time when the base of the newspaper–student activism began to fade with the end of the draft and the winding down of the Vietnam War.

The iconic Spark bomb shrunk in size and then disappeared. As the newspaper became more political, both advertising and distribution centers dropped as small business owners rejected the paper’s politics. This in turn changed the format of the newspaper–adding an extra fold–so that it was easier to hand out at workplaces.

Content also changed with an increasing focus on economic and work place issues. However, unlike many self-styled Maoist newspapers of the era, the Spark continued to carry different viewpoints, continue to give space to counter-cultural events and cover other groups, including demonstrations sponsored or strongly influenced by the Young Workers Liberation League /Communist Party USA and the Workers World/Youth Against War and Fascism group that had Trotskyist roots, black liberation groups and anarchists.

Links to the second year of Spark:

Vol. 2 No. 1 – September 6, 1972
Vol. 2 No. 2 – October 4, 1972
Vol. 2 No. 3 – October 31, 1972
Vol. 2 No. 4 – November 19, 1972
Vol. 2 No. 5 – December 20, 1972
Vol. 2 No. 6 – January 20, 1973
Vol. 2 No. 7 – February 21, 1973
Vol. 2 No. 8 – unavailable
Vol. 2 No. 9 – May 11, 1973
Vol. 2 No. 10 – June 12, 1973
Vol. 2 No. 11 – July 11, 1973
Vol. 2 No. 12 – August 17, 1973

Original post:

We are finally getting around to scanning and posting the original Spark and its successor On The Move. Five of the first six issues are posted (one is missing) and represent the first year of publication. More will be posted in the coming weeks. They have been posted unedited meaning the discoloration of the aging newsprint is captured as well.

We hope this resource will add to the rich alternative publication history in the greater Washington, D.C. area and provide researchers with additional information on left-leaning activities in the early 1970s in this region.

Spark began as a Montgomery College student publication after a group of radicals calling themselves the Montgomery County Freedom Party won several seats in the student government and obtained funding for the publication. The other official student newspaper, The Spur, continued to publish during this period as well.

The volunteer staff used a typewriter and press type to lay out the tabloid. Photos that required half-tones had to be done by the printer for the offset press process.

The eclectic tabloid published six issues in its first year (the publication year mirrored the student year) and included inflammatory language about police and revolution, but focused on student and county issues with a smattering of articles about local and national issues related to left-leaning causes. The politics of the contributors included feminists, anarchists, liberals, pacifists and revolutionaries.

The publication dates are a little confusing. At times they represented publication date and at times they represented the end of the period prior to what was expected to be the next issue’s publication.

By the last issue of the year (Vol. 1 No. 6), the newspaper began to include expanded coverage of county-wide issues and was distributed at a few locations other than the college.

Vol. 1 No. 1 – unavailable
Vol. 1 No. 2 – October 25, 1971
Vol. 1 No. 3 – November 19, 1971
Vol. 1 No. 4 – December 10, 1971
Vol. 1 No. 5 – February 29, 1972
Vol. 1 No. 6 – April 15, 1972

Do you have a copy of the first issue of Spark? If so, please e-mail us at


Spark 1st Quarter in Review

3 Apr

Missed Our Earlier Posts? Catch Up Here!

The historic events we’ve highlighted over the last three months have striking relevance to some questions of today:

  • Can there be ongoing social change without an organized movement?
  • How can a small group spark social change?
  • How much has male-dominated culture changed in 40 years?
  • Is abortion right or wrong?
  • Confront the right-wing or ignore them?
  • Civil disobedience or reliance on the courts?
  • What relationship should the U.S. have with Native Peoples?

Find some of the answers in the 1st quarter 2013 posts.

Standing Against the Maryland Klan in 1971

Klansman Slapped, Robe Torn: 1966By Bob Simpson
Posted January 2

Bob writes a personal memory about his fears on the day he joined others to picket the Ku Klux Klan in Rising Sun, Maryland in 1971.

While not as strong as in the Deep South, the Klan has had a long, violent presence in Maryland. Should organizations that are similar to the Klan be ignored today in the hope that they’ll go away or should they be confronted? Read it here.

The 1969 Counter-Inaugural

Antiwar Protestor With Nixon Mask: Counter-Inaugural 1969By Craig Simpson
Posted January 9

The anti-Vietnam-War movement was on its heels. Its leaders were trying to regroup while thousands of youth, ready to toss the American system out, were on their way to Washington, D.C. to confront the newly elected President.

It was three days of confusion, confrontation and exhilaration involving peace, a pig, horse manure and rocks thrown at the Presidential limousine during his Inaugural parade. Read it here.

A Personal Abortion Experience in 1972

Demonstration for Women’s Rights: 1970By Anonymous
Posted January 15

PreTerm, the District of Columbia’s first abortion clinic, opened for business in the city in 1971. Anonymous writes in detail about her own decision to have an abortion and her personal experience at the clinic, then reflects on her decisions 40 years later.

The article was originally printed in the February 1972 Montgomery Spark. Read it here.

Crazy Dion Diamond: A Rights Warrior in 1960

Bravery at Arlington Virginia Lunch Counter: 1960Posted January 20

A small group of Howard University students, joined by white students from other schools in the Washington, D.C. area, tired of picketing the Capitol for civil rights legislation and being ignored.

Instead, they began using direct action in the suburbs where Jim Crow was still widespread. They gained quick success in Arlington, Va. and Montgomery County, Md. desegregating restaurants, a movie theater and the Glen Echo Amusement Park. The group, including Dion Diamond, showed exemplary bravery in the face of arrests and physical confrontation with Nazis.

Many of the group drew on this experience when they went south to join the Freedom Rides in 1961. Read about it here.

The 1922 Silent March on Washington

Silent Anti-Lynching March on Washington: 1922By Craig Simpson
Posted February 6

As the privileged classes of the South sought to re-subjugate African Americans in the last part of the 19th Century and the first part of the 20th Century, lynching became the principal weapon of intimidation.

Long before the seminal 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, African Americans organized their first march on Washington on June 14, 1922 to demand basic civil rights. First and foremost they demanded the passage of a federal anti-lynching law.

The campaign ultimately failed when Southern Democrats staged a filibuster in the Senate. The failure caused an abandonment of the use of mass action for civil rights for ten years before the communists revived it in the case of the “Scottsboro Boys.”  This post is the first of a series on marches on Washington and rallies at the Lincoln Memorial that laid the basis for the landmark 1963 demonstration. Read it here.

Cock Rock: The Rape of Our Culture

Cock Rock Illustration edited reversedBy Bob Simpson
Posted February 12

An encounter with rocker Mike Quatro before a Montgomery College concert causes the writer to reflect on rock music and the subjugation of women. The article was first published in the October 1972 issue of the Montgomery Spark.

The post reflects a man’s early attempt at consciousness-raising about the role of culture in the oppression of women. One of the 1972 editors finds that the premise of the article is equally applicable today. Read it here.

Scottsboro: New Tactics & Strategy for Civil Rights

4,000 March in Washington to Free ‘Scottsboro Boys’ – 1933By Craig Simpson
Posted February 19

The labor and women’s suffrage movements had used direct action prior to its adoption by the Communist Party in the case of the nine youths condemned to death in Alabama dubbed “The Scottsboro Boys.”

But the 1932-34 campaign led by the communists marked the revival of the mass march and the first use of high-profile civil disobedience in the civil rights movement. It was not without controversy and the debate continued over strategy and tactics all the way up to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This is the second of a series on marches on Washington and rallies at the Lincoln memorial that laid the basis for the 1963 march. Read it here.

1930 Protest by Unemployed at the White House

Unemployment Rally in DC: 1930Posted February 26

The worldwide March 6, 1930 protests against unemployment marked the first organized response to the Great Depression. In Washington, D.C., police attacked and dispersed a relatively small picket line in front of the White House.

There are striking photos and film footage of the Washington demonstration starting with a rally at the Communist Party headquarters and ending with police clubs and tear gas at the picket line. Read and watch it here.

Police Raid Progressive Party Event in 1948

Demonstration Protests DC Police Raid on Veterans Dance: 1948By Craig Simpson
Posted March 6

As the post-World War II “red scare” began in earnest, Washington, D.C. police broke up interracial gatherings and began compiling lists of names of suspected progressives, socialists and communists.

In this event, over 30 police officers broke up a fundraising dance for third party presidential candidate Henry Wallace over a raffle for 2 fifths of liquor. They took hundreds of names and arrested more than a dozen people.  Leaders were prosecuted for minor alcohol violations.  It was indicative of what was to come as many left-leaning activists were fired from their jobs, blacklisted, and often jailed for their political beliefs.  Read it here.

1939 Concert is a Blow to Jim Crow

Marian Anderson Sings at Lincoln Memorial: 1939 # 3By Craig Simpson
Posted March 14

The 1939 Marian Anderson concert marked the first mass civil rights rally using the backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial to symbolize freedom.

The fight to get Anderson a venue in the city, after both the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Washington, D.C. school board rejected her, was part of a long struggle to desegregate performing arts theaters in the city.

Anderson’s concert marked a turning point in the battle against Jim Crow, both locally and nationally.  This is the third of a series on marches on Washington and rallies at the Lincoln Memorial that laid the basis for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Read it here.

The WWII Women Streetcar Operators

100 Women Operators Needed: 1943By Craig Simpson
Posted March 20

The labor shortage that developed during World War II opened up many previous white-male-only jobs to African Americans and women. But the Capital Transit Company bitterly resisted hiring black people as streetcar operators.

Instead they embarked on an ambitious effort to recruit white women to a “Women’s Auxiliary Transit Service” (WATS) that would fill in for white male streetcar and bus operators who had gone to war.

As the by-product of another struggle, the women’s groundbreaking role was quickly eroded after the war. By 1948 only ten remained and all were gone with the end of streetcar operations in the city in 1962. It wasn’t until five years later, during the social upheaval of the 1960s, that women broke through the barriers in large numbers as transit bus and rail operators. Read it here.

Native Americans Seize BIA in 1972

BIA Spokesperson at Trail of Broken Treaties Protest: 1972By Bob Simpson
Posted March 26

Native Americans fed up with corruption involving tribal leaders, Congress and large corporations launched a “Trail of Broken Treaties” caravan that crisscrossed the country before arriving in Washington, D.C. with a twenty-point program demanding a new relationship with the federal government.

Interior Department officials gave permission to the demonstrators to stay in the Bureau of Indian Affairs building past the normal closing time. But government security forces instead attacked the protestors in another betrayal of U.S. promises.

The result was a week-long armed occupation of the building by Native Americans They studied and removed and thousands of documents that proved the corruption they alleged, then publicized them. The article was originally published in the November 1972 Montgomery Spark. Read it here.

Looking for More? Check out 2012 Spark 4th Quarter in Review

Spark 4th Quarter in Review

26 Dec

Miss our earlier posts? Catch up here!

Fighting Capital Transit’s Jim Crow Hiring

March for Capital Transit Jobs: 1943 (Photo 16)by  Craig Simpson
Posted October 14

A struggle initiated by a group of young African American union leaders against the most visible symbol of Jim Crow hiring in the District of Columbia reaches a peak with a 1943 wartime march against racism.

It is derailed by the duplicity of a President in 1945 and the post World War II anti-communist crusade that destroys many of the campaigns’ leaders and weakens their unions. The fight is not won until schools, parks, theaters and restaurants fall in the battle to desegregate Washington and a brash new union leader confronts the future. Read it here.

Beltsville Strikers Block Truck & Win Strike

Confrontation at Mineral Pigment 230Posted October 19

A strike wave swept the country in the early 1970s as workers resisted attempts by management to increase profits by squeezing more work out of fewer workers. At a small plant in Beltsville, Maryland that manufactured the pigment that colors steel, workers waged a fierce battle against a management determined to win.

For a moment in time, the workers won a decisive victory. Watch the slide show as management attempts to move a truckload of pigment out of the plant and past the strikers. The workers stopped the truck and won their strike. Watch it here.

Meat Cutters Strike Betrayed

Meat Cutters Strike Betrayed 1973 photo 3Posted October 26

The meat cutters union was one of four unions important to winning wage and benefit gains in the retail grocery industry in the 1970s. The others were the retail clerks and separate teamster locals that represented warehouse workers and truck drivers. Normally if one union struck, the others would honor their picket lines

In 1973, the meat cutters struck Giant Food and the other grocery chains locked them out. The teamster locals and the retail clerks union all voted to support the butchers, but national teamster president Frank Fitzsimmons overruled the local unions and refused to authorize a work stoppage. The meat cutters were forced to accept an offer that few would have voted for before the strike.

The solidarity broken at that time has never been fully repaired. Read it here

Washington Free Press Battles Suppression

Free Press Response to Obscenity Convictionby Craig Simpson
Posted November 7

Before blogs there was the alternative press and the local Washington Free Press hit authorities where it hurt. They published articles on revolution and how to grow marijuana, they posted undercover policemen’s photos and addresses, and broke barriers to free expression wherever they could.

Maryland authorities hit back with a grand jury investigation into “subversion” conducted by the paper. An epic back and forth battle ensued between the paper and authorities in Maryland, Virginia and the District that featured charges of pornography, multiple arrests of vendors, evictions, police break-ins, picketing a judge’s home and  outbursts in court. In the end, neither the Free Press nor laws on subversion, pornography or restrictions on news distribution survived this battle in the greater Washington, DC area. Read it here.

Maryland Marriage Equality Retrospective

Washington, DC Gay Liberation Front: 1970

Posted November 14

The victory for marriage equality in a November referendum in Maryland owes its success to years of struggle and sacrifice by countless people.  This retrospective takes a few photos from the early days of Mattachine Society, the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance to show appreciation for those pioneering efforts.

The three chosen? A 1966 picket of the White House, the third conducted by the Mattachine Society.  An undated photo of early gay liberation activists at an anti-Vietnam war demonstration in late 1970 or early 1971.  A torchlit march against police repression at the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, VA in 1972. See them here.

Marie Richardson Remembered

Marie Lucinda Richardson (Harris)by Craig Simpson
Posted November 19

Marie Richardson organized a women’s auxiliary to Washington Red Caps union while a teen. According to the Washington Afro American, she was the first black woman to serve at a national level in a major trade union and helped to organize federal workers in the city. She headed up the Washington, DC branch of the National Negro Congress where she fought employment discrimination, against lynching and worked to aid predominently African American labor unions.

She received little recognition for her efforts after a federal prosecutor decided to make an example of her during the McCarthy era and charged her with failing to disclose her membership in subversive organizations.  She was sent to jail for four and a half years before being paroled and she died in obscurity.  Read about her here.

Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention

Big Man Speaks to the Press 1970Posted November 25

The Black Panther Party set an ambitious agenda to hold a Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention that would provide a unified platform for the disparate groups and struggles of the late 1960s.

In 1970 they held a successful rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC and drew 10,000 to Philadelphia for what was termed a plenary session. However, they were unable to find a venue for the Washington, DC convention as thousands streamed into town. Shortly afterwards internal divisions and FBI dirty tricks set in motion a downward spiral for the group.  See photos here.

600 Crab Pickers Hold Out Against Terror

A Face of the CIO Union in Crisfield, MD: 1938by Craig Simpson
Posted December 5

In a town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore beset by unemployment and surrounded by racial terror, 600 black women take on the packing houses in 1938 and win.

The five week strike saw a CIO organizer’s car overturned and burned. Strike leaders houses were broken into. Vigilantes ran a federal mediator and union organizers out of the county and town leaders blocked food shipments to the strikers.

But the women stood strong and the packers gave in. They won a restoration of their pay rates and their union.  Read it here.

Pressmen Take on The Washington Post

Post Busts Pressmen's Union 1975 # 1by Craig Simpson
Posted December 12

The influential and powerful Washington Post prepares for battle with its unions by training management to publish the newspaper without union workers. Some pressmen disable the presses before walking out on strike.

The battle ebbs and flows through the city for two and a half months in 1975 as the unions push a boycott and the newspaper has criminal charges brought against the pressmen.  The tide finally turns against the pressmen and the city’s labor movement suffers one of its biggest defeats.

Could the pressmen have won?  Read about it here.

Gay Teacher Fights to Stay in the Classroom

Joe Acanfora Winter 1972by Craig Simpson
Posted December

Attending Penn State on a Navy ROTC scholarship, Joe Acanfora quits the program and changes his major to education and joins with other early gay activists to form a rights group on campus.

He successfully fights to finish his student teaching assignment then prevails in a battle for a teaching certificate against those who question his moral fitness.

But Montgomery County Maryland transfers him out of the classroom and eliminates his job, setting off a firestorm of protest. The courts are determined to keep him out of the classroom and use every conceivable excuse to do so.

What happened to Acanfora?  Read it here.


Welcome to Washington Area Spark

13 Oct


This blog is a follow-up to a Flickr project that digitalized the photo archives of the Washington Area Spark and On The Move alternative newspapers that published from 1971-75.  The tabloid sized papers mainly covered progressive, labor, anti-intervention and civil rights issues.

The project also sought to give context to images with photo descriptions and set descriptions.

In 2012, the project expanded to converting photos and negatives to digital content of events that were not covered by Spark or On The Move.

The blog will examine historical struggles by working families in the greater Washington, DC area to understand and find lessons learned that might be applied today. It will continue to concentrate on the pre-internet era.

If you would like to contact the Flickr site or the blog, please e-mail