Exploring the importance of people and place — and historical accuracy.

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A HALF-DOZEN years ago, Daniel Wildcat, a professor at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, stepped to a lectern at an Omaha historical conference and uttered the most-concise summation of the value of studying history and culture that I’ve ever heard:

“People and place matter.”

It stuck in my head, and often inspires me to delve into historical subjects that seem of increasing value in a society that continues to careen into a historical ditch.

That was the driving force inspiring the reflection, 100 years later, on the famed Seattle General Strike of 1919. It remains an important, oft-overlooked element of the local zeitgeist, and a primary source of the city’s lingering reputation as a past hotbed for “radicalism.”

It’s impossible to recount such an event in a single magazine story; a plethora of solid historical accounts already exists. A good starting point is the University of Washington’s excellent online “Seattle General Strike” project, which includes links to primary archival materials and secondary writings and analysis.

Given that, and Pacific NW’s 2019 theme of “Truth,” we chose to re-examine the strike through more recent history, with an eye toward dispelling certain myths that have grown around the event in the past 100 years.

People and place indeed matter. These were our people. This is our place. The hope, as with all pieces leaning hard into history, is that this brief look back at this defining event will provide new light to illuminate the road ahead.