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135 Years of Labor Day

The first “Labor Day” is thought to have been 135 years ago, on September 5, 1882 (United States Census Bureau). New Yorkers celebrated the day with a parade and since then, but of course has since passed into legislation as a national holiday. Originally called the “workingman’s holiday,” it is now an important part of the year by providing a transition between summer and fall, a much-needed break for hardworking Americans, and an opportunity to remember the history of the labor movement in America. Even today, the discussion of labor unions, raising the minimum wage, and lifting the quality of life standards for workers in service and food industries remains incredibly relevant.

Labor Day History

Labor Day emerged while the Industrial Revolution around the turn of the 20th century was in full effect, a period where the U.S. became the leading industrial nation ( Many of us remember reading Dickens at some point in our lives— the conditions for the working class and the poor he describes during the height of the Industrial Revolution are horrific. Issues during this period related to labor were widespread: child labor, extremely low wages (the minimum wage did not become law until 1938), exploitative employers, and a surge of workers into the urban landscape contributed to overcrowding, leading to highly unsanitary conditions, often resulting in illness. Though not as simple as cause and effect, the changing workers’ landscape and the drive of capitalism made the creation of labor unions necessary.

Child Labor: Breaker Boys, Pittston, PA, USA, 1911

Child Labor: Breaker Boys, Pittston, PA, USA, 1911. (Photo by Lewis W. Hine via Wikimedia)

The Federation of Organized Trade and Labor Unions first assembled in 1881, changing its name to the American Federation of Labor in 1888. Congress finally formed the Department of Labor in response to pressure put on by labor groups and the new demands of the industrial economy in 1913. Later, minimum wagechild labor laws, and the concept of overtime (40 hours a week defined as the maximum for a work week) were all part of the Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938. Labor unions became less powerful after World War II but it is still a relevant topic to today’s politics, especially to those earning a minimum wage of $7.25 in some states.

Recently, the governor of Illinois vetoed a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2022. Other states and cities have also considered raising the minimum wage, for example, Seattle has already enacted legislation and the $15 minimum wage is being phased in as of April 2015. Other areas that have passed legislation on raising the minimum wage include New York and Massachusetts. #Fightfor15 has become the rallying cry of those that feel the current minimum wage as it stands is not a living wage, or the amount necessary for a worker to meet his or her basic needs. On the other side, economists and policymakers argue that raising the wage would not be beneficial to employees in the long-run as employers would have to let workers go in order to balance the rise in costs for higher pay.

HEB & Labor

We will be able to see how the minimum wage debate plays out over time; economists are already producing studies and reports on the effects of the wage increase in Seattle. But this Labor Day weekend, we can celebrate even having a minimum wage as a result of the labor movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. Here at Humanities E-Book, we consider the humanities a crucial tool in informing both laborers and employers. HEB hosts quite a few titles on the history of labor, the labor movement and labor unions, as well as many other topical titles across the humanities. Learning from the history of labor in America and looking ahead to its future, celebrate the achievements of the labor movement and enjoy the much deserved time off.  Have a happy and safe Labor Day!

Below are a few examples of titles on Labor in the HEB collection, please email HEB if you would like an expanded title list.





HEB Spotlight on the Holocaust

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, December 10, 1986

Elie Wiesel

Humanities E-Book hosts varying titles covering the Holocaust. Besides the assortment of interdisciplinary and seminal titles in Judaic Studies, specifically Holocaust-related titles, HEB is proud to have a Special Series dedicated to titles from the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. The series is broken down into two subsets: Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry and Jewish Cultural Studies. If you are interested in learning more about the Littman Library, visit their page on the Liverpool University Press website for more information.

The titles in the Littman Library Special Series and on our Holocaust subject list are just a subset of our titles on Judaic Studies. Please email HEB if you are interested in a more expansive Judaic Studies list and make sure to check out other titles in the more general area of Religion, such as our ATLA Special Series—a list of titles curated for HEB by members of the American Theological Library Association.

View a list of Holocaust-related titles here or visit our Pinterest board for these titles.

In Times of Crisis: Essays on European Culture, Germans, and Jews

By Steven Ascheim, University of Wisconsin Press


See Title

The Bonhoeffer Legacy: Post-Holocaust Perspectives

By Stephen Haynes, Augsburg Fortress Press

See Title

Jews and Ukrainians

By Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern (ed.), The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

See Title

The Darkness We Carry: The Drama of the Holocaust

By Robert Skloot, University of Wisconsin Press

See Title

Hidden: A Sister and Brother in Nazi Poland

By Fay Walker, University of Wisconsin Press

See Title

HEB New Titles 2017

They’re here! Ready to use and easily accessible through Humanities E-Book (HEB), there are 154 new titles that have been added to our collection of over 5,000 works. These new titles are accessible through our newly curated Pinterest Board: “HEB New Titles 2017.” Covering a wide range of fields of study, these titles include timely topics of race, environment, religion, feminism, and history. Not only do these titles cover a wide range of fields but they also examine the interplay of such topics.

HEB acquires these titles through a careful selection process based on the recommendations of scholars that are current and active in their respective fields. With the help of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), HEB continues to provide relevant, award-winning titles to encourage the interdisciplinary examination of complex topics to advance knowledge through the humanities!

Examples of some of the intriguing new titles just released include:


You can easily browse through all 154 new titles on our Pinterest Board: “HEB New Titles 2017.” Additionally, check out our other many Pinterest boards, many of which center on themes such as “Word War Two,” “Race in America,” “Women and Religion,” and even “Hip Hop Studies.” If you have suggestions on other themes for our boards, reach out to us!




HEB Spotlight on Race

It is difficult to keep up with the news coming out of Washington D.C. regarding race relations. The silver lining on the dark cloud of division hanging over the country is that hard conversations on racism are beginning to penetrate civic discourse.  It is crucial for not only these conversations to take place, but that informed conversations take place.  Colleges and universities are at the center of these discussions—in the classroom, through public service, and activism on campus.  The events in Charlottesville the past week reinforce the role of higher education at the crux of these discussions.

HEB Titles on White Supremacy

Humanities E-Book is proud to work with learned societies of the ACLS such as the African Studies Association, Society for Cinema and Media Studies, and American Historical Association (among others) that promote scholarship and inquiry inside and out of the academe.  Members of these societies help curate our list of titles on race and play a vital role in our overall collection development strategies.  HEB hosts interdisciplinary titles in Black Studies, American History, Gender Studies, and Film & Media Studies as well.

Select Titles on Race

For a more intensive title list on Race, or an interdisciplinary list of titles, please contact
Bell, DerrickFaces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of RacismBasic Books (1993)View
Bell, Derrick And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice Basic Books (1989)View
Brooks, Roy L.Rethinking the American Race ProblemUniversity of California Press (1992)View
Carle, Susan D. Defining the Struggle: National Organizing for Racial Justice, 1880-1915 Oxford University Press (2015)View
Edwards, Brent Hayes The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black InternationalismHarvard University Press (2003)View
Herskovits, Melville J. The interdisciplinary aspects of negro studiesAmerican Council of Learned Societies (1941)View
Hobbs, Allyson A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American LifeHarvard University Press (2014)View
Hughes, Matthew W. White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists, and the Shared Meanings of RaceStanford University Press (2012)View
Lacy, Karyn R. Blue-Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle ClassUniversity of California Press (2007)View
Pulido, Laura Black, Brown, Yellow, and Left: Radical Activism in Los Angeles University of California Press (2006)View
Singh, Nikhil Pal Black is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for DemocracyHarvard University Press (2005)View

What Librarians are Saying

Highlighting the importance of access to scholarship in topics related to race, HEB’s annual collection development survey to librarians reveals that 3 of the top 5 subject areas that respondents feel there is a deficit in their institution’s library are closely related to current issues on race: Islamic Studies, African History, and Caribbean History.  Areas of study including Native Peoples, Asian History, and Latin American History appear when you expand the list to the top ten.

*Survey results are from over 240 respondents—the respondents hold jobs in electronic resources, humanities collections, or other related subjects in an academic library.  

Top Ten Underserved Subject Areas, Collection Development Survey 2017