This article analyzes how the thirty-year journey of a mural illustrates changes in a community and the nature of its civil rights activism. Painted by Pablo O'Higgins in 1945 for the Seattle Ship Scalers union hall, The Struggle Against Racial Discrimination depicted aspirations of union coalitions that flourished in the Depression and wartime eras. Mexican and US labor-left collaboration shaped these interracial and international coalitions. Ties with Mexico also transformed the Pacific Rim city of Seattle, and by the 1970s a new generation mobilized for the fresco's restoration. Donated to the University of Washington in 1955, the mural had been “misplaced” in storage for some twenty years, its radical imagery lost to the public. In a new context of civil rights and workplace mobilization, local Chicano activists called for the fresco to be returned “to the people.” Facing various accusations of bias in the early 1970s, the UW administration responded to activists on this issue. The process of recobrando, or recovering, the mural revealed a “struggle against discrimination” both rooted in and different from the struggles of the past, and dramatically shaped by transnational ties.
Gigi Peterson; Recobrando Recovering The Struggle against Racial Discrimination: The Journey of the Pablo O'higgins Mural for the Seattle Ship Scalers Union. Labor 1 December 2011; 8 (4): 7–40. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-1375294
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