1877 Rail Strike Subject of YSU Prof’s Audio Walk

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Pittsburgh railroad strike that began in July 1877 is the subject of a self-guided audio walk created by Dana Sperry, associate professor of digital media in Youngstown State University’s Department of Art.

“The Why Here: 1877 Railroad Strike” explores and contrasts the historical events of the labor strike with swift technological and economic shifts. The audio piece begins with the physical and intellectual connections between the largely forgotten uprising of 1877 and technology advancements currently taking place just blocks away by Big Tech corporations such as Uber, according to the YSU Art Department.

The walk begins at the northwest corner of 28th Street and Liberty Avenue in the Strip District neighborhood of Pittsburgh at the historic marker acknowledging the 1877 Railroad Strike.

Divided into three chapters, the audio walk is approximately 50 minutes long. Chapter 1 recounts the violent events that occurred during Pittsburgh’s Railroad Strike from July 19-30, 1877. Chapter 2 explores the paradigm shifts in workers’ understanding of labor and corporate ownership through the lens of the 1937 Little Steel Strike. Finally, Chapter 3 ponders the lessons that these prior historic events may impart today. The listener ends the audio walk at Uber Advanced Technologies Group near 32nd Street.

“I’m not a historian, but I like to think of how history dovetails into technology and how it affects us at different intersections of life — in other words, what technology is doing to us,” Sperry said.

Sperry chose to name the project because there is nothing particularly interesting about the starting location, so the question of “Why here?” naturally arose.

Detailed information about how to access the audio walk is found at TheWhyHere.com.

No stranger to public projects, in 2011, Sperry organized the Dreaming Youngstown initiative, which aimed to create conversations about Youngstown’s possibilities.

Sperry earned a BFA in painting/sculpture and a BA in philosophy from Southern Methodist University and an MFA in sculpture/digital media from Indiana University.

MORE on the 1877 Railroad Strike in Pittsburgh: https://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/blog/western-pennsylvania-history/picturing-protest-great-railroad-strike-1877

Image: S. V. Albee, “No. 35. Rear of Union Depot, with ruins of Gen’l Sup’t. Gardiner’s Palace Car in the foreground,” 1877. Stereograph, The Railroad War series. This image appears in the current exhibition #Pixburgh, A Photograph Experience. General Photographic Collection, Heinz History Center.

SOURCE: Youngstown State University

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.