T. Thomas Fortune: “The Present Relations of Labor and Capital”

(1886)

Audience

As a speech, “The Present Relations of Labor and Capital” was given on April 20, 1886, to the Brooklyn Literary Union in Brooklyn, New York. This organization was originally founded by abolitionists as a youth self-help organization for African Americans. Established to promote literacy and spread knowledge, the group sought to be informed about the important literary and social issues of the day. Fortune printed his speech in his newspaper, the New York Freeman, on May 1, 1886. As with the literary union, the audience of the Freeman would have been an almost exclusively black audience. In both cases, Fortune conveyed a fairly straightforward Socialist analysis of labor and capital to an audience that probably had little familiarity with the works of Karl Marx and other Socialist thinkers.

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Scenes of the 1877 railroad strike (Library of Congress)

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