Great Evenings in the Great Hall

November 02, 2009

New York City Labor Chorus

New York City Labor Chorus

On the pleasant fall evening of September 17, acclaimed journalist Pete Hamill led a notable cast of performers celebrating America’s labor movement at a special event in The Cooper Union’s Great Hall. This was the third in an eight-part series celebrating the Great Hall’s 150th year as an historic site for major political and cultural events. Since 1859, the Great Hall has been a preeminent stage for pioneering individuals whose views reshaped society, from Frederick Douglass and Victoria Woodhull to W.E.B. DuBois. Each of the eight programs in the “Great Evenings in the Great Hall” series focuses on one area of civic responsibility, reform or education. For the September 17 event, Worker’s Rights were at issue. The program explored America’s labor movement as seen through the eyes of its most ardent advocates, all of whom spoke in the Great Hall: Clara Lemlich, Samuel Gompers, Eugene V. Debs and Mother Jones. Historic photographs and documents complemented the powerful words that advanced a movement and the stirring voices of the New York City Labor Chorus recreated the songs that signaled the changing times.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.