HOW MUCH U.S. HISTORY DO YOU KNOW?

A Labor Day Quiz

By Peter Kellman

Circulated by: Program On Corporations, Law & Democracy

The Questions:
  1. In the U.S. it is easy for citizens to form a corporation but difficult to form a union. Name three countries where workers can form a union as easily as investors can form a corporation in the U.S.
  2. In 1770 what percentage of the colonial population lived in slavery?
  3. At the time of the War of Independence, what percentage of the people in the colonies of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia were or had been indentured servants?
  4. Who was the richest man in America in 1776?
  5. What percent of "We the People" could vote in 1776?
  6. Who said, "The people who own the country ought to govern it."?
  7. What great American document was written behind closed doors in a meeting in 1787, the minutes of which were made public 53 years later?
  8. What were the demands of the Labor Movement in 1830?
  9. The 14th amendment was passed in 1868 to extend due process and equal protection to African Americans. In the first 50 years after its adoption, what percentage of cases brought under it were on behalf of African Americans, and what percentage on behalf of corporations?
  10. How can five people amend the constitution?
  11. Whose election to the Presidency of the United States was determined by a special commission, controlled by the CEO of the Pennsylvania Railroad, that was made up of Supreme Court justices and members of Congress? When did that President pull the last Federal troops from the south ending Reconstruction and use those troops to put down the first national labor strike in the United States in which over 100 strikers were killed?
  12. In 1886 the largest labor organization in the United States was the Knights of Labor. What issues did it advocate?
  13. When was the labor movement politically powerful enough to prevent a Governor and the President from sending troops to break up a strike in which workers occupied corporate property?
  14. In many countries, benefits like paid maternity leave, maximum hours of work, health care, and vacations are defined by law. What do workers in these countries have that they don't have in the United States?
Answers:
  1. Sweden, Germany, Italy, Japan, Ireland and more.
  2. 20%
  3. 75%
  4. George Washington
  5. 10%
  6. John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
  7. The Constitution
  8. The 10-hour day and public education
  9. African Americans: .5%, corporations: 50%.
  10. By becoming U.S. Supreme Court Justices
  11. Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877
  12. Producer, consumer and distributive cooperatives, prohibition of child labor, equal pay for equal work between the sexes and races, universal suffrage and the eight-hour day. They believed that when a few people controlled most of the wealth they would use their economic power to prevent the creation of a real democracy.
  13. 1936-37
  14. Strong working-class political parties

Peter Kellman is a labor activist and scholar based in Maine. He compiled this quiz while researching "Building Unions: Past, Present and Future," a handbook he wrote for the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD). For information, email: people@poclad.org


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This story was published on August 28, 2003.