March of the Unemployed
Historical Re-enactment with EE
Chicago, IL, March 6, 2011

Pocket Guide to Hell Presents the Great Hull House Hunger Procession of 1915

In honor of the 150th anniversary of Jane Addams' birth and recognizing Hull House's continued commitment to social and public policies that impact the lives of the communities it serves, I propose to stage a reenactment of the 1915 Hunger Procession to recognize the 1500 men, women, and children who marched from Hull House to petition City Hall to address Chicago's high unemployment rate. With the city's current unemployment rate hovering around 10.5%, which is higher than it was in 1915, this is an opportune moment to remember the efforts of past Chicagoans to respond to this challenge. Whereas the original procession was a protest, the reenactment will be more like a parade, commemorating the courage of activists like Lucy Parsons, Irwin St. John Tucker, and Jane Addams while drawing attention to current Hull House programs like CTC, HELP, and Re-Thinking Soup, all of which continue the work of these individuals in the present.

On January 17, 1915 the Hull House-sponsored League of the Unemployed convened in Bowen Hall to discuss the unemployment crisis that was bringing many Chicagoans to the brink of starvation. While some 900 people—immigrants and native-born, laborers and hobos, progressives and radicals—filled the Hall, an equal number crowded the street, straining to hear speeches by everyone from nationally-known activists like Lucy Parsons to a neighborhood baker. After a quick vote, those gathered decided to march north on Halsted in the direction of City Hall. Despite meeting with fierce resistance by the police, the marchers managed to make it as far as Madison before the procession was forced to end. While the marchers lost that day—twenty-one people were arrested for "rioting" and "parading without a license"—they later, with the support of Jane Addams, won in court. The 1915 Hunger Procession remains a strong affirmation of the constitutional right to free assembly and to petition the government with grievances.

Pocket Guide to Hell's Great Hull House Hunger Procession of 1915 will follow the original route along Halsted from Polk to Madison. At each intersection my collaborators and I will restage a key moment from the event in order to bring the past into the present. At the beginning of the Procession, I will encourage spectators to join in as the hunger marchers themselves, making the experience an interactive one. Afterward we will gather at the Dining Hall for conversation, refreshments, and the opportunity to share experiences with unemployment either in person or as messages posted to the bulletin board, similar to what I saw at Re-Thinking Soup. These messages as well as documentation of the Procession will be given to the Hull House Museum for its archives. The event will last approximately two hours. It will be free and open to all, just like the original procession.




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