In 1939, the Oklahoma Federal Writers Project (funded by the Works Progress Administration) published Labor History of Oklahoma. The text provides a meticulous accounting of organized unionism among Oklahoma’s industrial workers spanning from the 1880’s through 1938.

It provides significant detail of the historical and political context in which the state formed, and the strong influence of labor upon the state constitution. Chief among the unions influencing the Oklahoma Constitution were the farmers’ and the miners’ unions.

The farmers’ unions in particular were marked by racial diversity among the rank and file membership, and united farm workers across race and ethnic lines in their own interests. These unions formed in the effort to obtain safe working conditions, reasonable hours, and just wages.

Labor History of Oklahoma was compiled and written under Oklahoma F.W.P. Director Jim Thompson. Born in Anadarko, Oklahoma, Thompson would later become the widely read and prolific pulp fiction writer of the Cold War era, and the author of many books including The Getaway, The Grifters, and Killer Inside Me. Labor Editor for the book was Clyde Hamm.

In addition to being well-indexed, the text includes a chronological list of the officers of the Oklahoma State Federation of Labor as well as a detailed chronology of the organization of union locals, strikes, and significant events to Oklahoma labor across the state. This chronology is available for download below in .pdf form.

Mongrel Empire Press, in honor of the inaugural Oklahoma Laborfest, plans in early 2011 to republish Labor History of Oklahoma. The republication will include an interpretive foreward and full annotations by Oklahoman historian Nigel Sellars. All profits from the sale of the book will be donated to Oklahoma Laborfest.

R.C. Jackson
July 2010

Selected excerpts from Labor History of Oklahoma. Ed. Jim Thompson. Federal Writers Project of Oklahoma. Oklahoma City: A.M. Van Horn, 1939. Print. (PDF download)