The World’s Largest Library: Powered by AFSCME Members


When in doubt, go to the library. That’s what Ron Weasley says in Harry Potter and
the Chamber of Secrets, so I did! To the world’s largest library in fact,
the Library of Congress, with a collection of 168 million items, all kinds of treasures from our nation’s past and the labor movement’s past. Many of the folks who
work there are AFSCME members including David Fernández-Barrial, who’s agreed to give me a tour of some of the library’s most
amazing artifacts. Come along with us for a behind-the-scenes look, and prepare to be inspired. Okay well, show me
some of these amazing artifacts, David. Absolutely, so here we have some
treasures from the Manuscript Division
of the Library of Congress. Over on the far right you have notes from 1787 that Alexander Hamilton drafted in preparation for the Constitutional Convention, and they basically outline
his vision of government — federal government for the United States. So this is Alexander Hamilton’s handwriting
that we have here? That is amazing.
– Yeah. So, tell us about this piece here. So, this is a letter from 1941 from Thurgood Marshall,
who was working for the NAACP discussing some of the
circumstances of a case in Texas that involved voter rights, that would lead into a case that
became Smith v Allwright which actually was argued
before the Supreme Court in 1943. Thurgood Marshall was the person
arguing it in front the Supreme Court. In many ways, he considered this
to be the seminal case that he was involved in
that started the movement towards civil rights in this country. So this was right around the time that
Thurgood Marshall really began the Legal Defense Fund of the
NAACP and led it, and argued many of these cases
before the Supreme Court successfully for many years before he joined the court so we got an example of his
mental process and thinking through this case, it’s really incredible. Are you ready for the next item?
– I am! Alright. So, here we have some seminal treasures from the library’s collections from the
National Child Labor Committee which was founded to
investigate the conditions of children across the country who were
engaging in labor and being forced to work
from an early age. So, these were
pictures with a purpose: to really try to make change,
and to end child labor. So this is a photograph of Addie Card, taken in Vermont by Lewis Hine, and it’s basically showing the conditions
in the textile industries in Vermont, and this image is iconic for a number of reasons, but even if you just look at — you know, the young girl sort of —
it’s every child. you’ve got an image of someone who is being forced to do work —
– And, should not be working! In 1959, then-senator John Kennedy
published this book, A Nation of Immigrants, which
talked about the contribution of all these
different national and ethnic groups
to our American society, and included as part of the original publication was this map of the United States
which breaks down each region by the dominant ethnic
or national group that settled there. And, it reminds us that we are
a nation of immigrants and Kennedy, when he was a senator, really understood and
helped educate us about that reality. And it’s a great visual representation. And one last little piece
that we want to show you is this item from 1937. It’s the Journal of the State and
Local Government Employees, which is the first publication of the AFSCME — National Union!
– National Union minutes — and you can see, well —
it’s the record of proceedings, but it’s also the publication
of the union, I think. And you can see our original logo here, so this is from the very early history
of our union, and it lives here in the rare books collection
at the Library of Congress. You know, I’m so grateful that you’ve taken the time to show us all of this and also that it’s AFSCME members who curate and care for all of these
artifacts and treasures that you’ve shown me today. That’s right, we represent
over 1400 bargaining unit employees here at the Library of Congress. In fact, we have some of our leadership
of the AFSCME locals right next door. Would you like to meet them? I would love to, let’s go! Alright! This is AFSCME at the Library of Congress! Alright! Thank you for
what you do! Thank you for
what you do every day to make this library happen, and thank you for
what you do for working folks who work at the
Library of Congress.

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