The Darrow Symposium: Undocumented Laborers and Immigration

On the seventy-eighth anniversary of famed attorney Clarence Darrow’s death, this year’s annual Darrow symposium on Friday, March 13 explored contemporary activism on the issues of undocumented laborers and immigration. Darrow’s attitude is summarized by a quote from a 1929 debate on “Is Immigration Beneficial?” in which he said, “I am a foreigner; my people didn’t get here until about 1710. They got here, and now I am asked to close the doors to the people who came over on a later ship.”

As always, the commemoration kicked off with a brief ceremony and flower-tossing near the Darrow Bridge in Jackson Park at 10 a.m., where Darrow’s ashes were scattered after his death and where, as a bet, he once agreed his spirit would return if it turned out communication was possible from the afterworld.

Darrow Bridge 2015 from Darrow Commemorative Committee on Vimeo.

We then moved into the Museum of Science and Industry’s Rosenwald Room for our symposium, which looked at immigration issues through the work of two passionate and outspoken advocates for the undocumented: Tania Unzueta Carrasco,  an immigrant queer community organizer and writer who is known nationally for using direct action and civil disobedience to fight against deportations and harsh immigration enforcement practices and policy.

Tania Unzueta Carrasco from Darrow Commemorative Committee on Vimeo.

We also heard from Catholic Sister JoAnn Persch, co-founder with Sister Patricia Murphy of the Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants, which works in detention centers, a deportation center, the immigration court and the Post-Detention Accompaniment program.

Sister Joanna Persch, co-founder, nterfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants from Darrow Commemorative Committee on Vimeo.

The program also included a brief talk by high school junior Marissa Howe, winner of the Clarence Darrow History Award (which is sponsored by the Clarence Darrow Commemorative Committee) at the 2014 Chicago Metro History Fair.

Clarence Darrow History Award from Darrow Commemorative Committee on Vimeo.

Darrow, who died March 13, 1938, is remembered for his crusading role as “attorney for the damned” in such controversial cases as the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Leopold and Loeb murder case, and the pardoning of the Haymarket anarchists.

One thought on “The Darrow Symposium: Undocumented Laborers and Immigration

  1. Very Nice work guys. I am a local historian and member of the Jackson Park Advisory Council. I also write a history blog for Chicago Now and will be publishing an article on the Ceremony and Symposium tomorrow. I unfortunately will be out of town tomorrow but will try to make the next one. Thanks for all you do to keep the history of this amazing man alive. I will post the link to the article here when it is finished.

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