A course by Murphy on Urban History is irreplaceable

Dear current Swarthmore students, historians, activists, and organizers,

We, the graduated, would like to plug one of the most important courses offered at Swarthmore that is in danger of being canceled. The Labor and Urban History seminar taught by Marj Murphy next spring only has two students enrolled in it. This is likely Marj Murphy’s last time teaching the course before retiring. It is a tremendous seminar taught by a brave professor who has consistently sided with every student movement, helped found the Swarthmore Labor Action Project and War News Radio, and stood up for the rights of workers on campus when no other faculty would.

Marj Murphy has spent over 50 years participating in radical political movements and keeping them alive on the otherwise politically-vanilla Swarthmore campus. Her Labor and Urban History seminar has so much to offer any student, but in particular those interested in social justice. As the movements for climate justice, racial justice, economic justice, gender equality, and voting rights openly recognize their common interests, a class that discusses all of those movements and their interwoven histories and economic impacts should be at the top of the list for politically-aware students.

As presidential candidates use arguments about America’s economy and industrial power to justify potential future policy, it is important to learn about the economic and social political history they are speaking of. We must understand the flaws and tragedies of our past in order to argue against them. As unions are demonized and undermined, we must understand why they have existed and their role in the history of social movements.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis supporting striking black sanitation workers. Two weeks ago, black football players went on strike at Mizzou, and now black students are being threatened by white terrorists. These are not unrelated. Understanding systemic oppression is fundamental to participation in systemic change. Please feel free to contact any of us with questions. We are happy to explain further why we believe it is so important that this class be offered at Swarthmore College.


Sarah Diamond ‘13

Thomas Powers ‘13

Treasure Tinsley ‘14

Alis Anasal ‘15

Victor Brady ‘13


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