Actor Alana Arenas here reads an excerpt from an interview of Sylvia Woods, conducted by labor historians and activists Helen and Staughton Lynd for their 1973 book, Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-Class Organizers (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973). Sylvia recounts an incident from her childhood in Louisiana, which would've taken place in about 1919.

Alana performed this piece as part of "The People Speak, Live!" at the Metro Chicago on January 31, 2012, produced by Voices of a People's History ( in collaboration with Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival (

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Here's what Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove had to say about Sylvia Woods in their introduction to this reading in their book Voices of a People's History of the United States (Seven Stories Press 2004; see:

//Another of the rank-and-file leaders interviewed by the Lynds was Sylvia Woods, a pioneer in the struggle of African-American and women trade unionists. Here she describes how she and others confronted racism and sexism and organized under the difficult conditions of the depression.//

Idris Goodwin, narrator for the Metro Chicago show, said this in his introduction:

//Many of the names you’ve heard tonight, you’ve heard before...but there are countless to whom we owe a great debt. The name Sylvia Woods is absent from school textbooks. You'll find no street named after her. She was a pioneer in the civil rights and women’s movements, especially among trade unions. Though she lived much of her life in Chicago, she hailed from Louisiana. Here, Alana Arenas reads one of Sylvia’s childhood memories.//

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