Shot for Communications for Change's "Documenting Social History: Chicago's Elderly Speak" oral history series. This is the second part of an interview with Boris Ross, a Russian immigrant to Chicago who was heavily involved in the labor movement.
0:01Copy video clip URL Ross describes the effects of the Depression on him and his family. In 1930, Ross was married, but his wife lost her job soon after, as well as many of his relatives. Ross was earning a good salary, but he was frequently robbed.
3:50Copy video clip URL Ross could not continue his education and became a full-time salesman, but continued his radical activities. While he was still a student at DePaul, Ross and other protesters participated in a demonstration on the Japanese consulate in response to Japan’s invasion of China. Ross says that he was arrested by the Red Squad, which was a section of the Chicago police department which dealt with radicals.
7:15Copy video clip URL While Ross was being held in jail with another 500 protesters, a fellow student appealed to the police sergeant for his release. Ross refused to leave unless all of the other protesters were freed as well. The sergeant eventually relented and released the protesters. Ross is critical of the United States for not seeing the threat posed by Japan.
10:30Copy video clip URL Ross talks about his participation in a demonstration against a streetcar company for its refusal to hire black workers. Claude Lightfoot and Bill Patterson, both members of the Communist Party, were also involved in the protest.
12:48Copy video clip URL Ross describes his involvement in the steel workers’ strike in 1937. Ross says that the company management paid $10,000 to Mayor Ed Kelly to call the police against the workers, and they opened fire on the workers. Ross and his two children were there during the event, remembered as the Memorial Day Massacre. Afterwards, Ross participated in a strike by the International Harvest Workers.
16:51Copy video clip URL Ross discusses the various groups who began protesting against the United States in 1940 for providing assistance to Great Britain during World War II, including the Nazi party and the America First movement. Around this time, the lawyer for his union was suspected of being a Nazi sympathizer.
22:48Copy video clip URL Ross and his first wife were often in conflict because of his political activities and the length of his work hours, so he agreed to retire and move to Florida. However, he soon started a restaurant supply company, where his partners were pushing him to the point of bankruptcy. While he was working in Florida, he discovered that one of his customers had killed his wife and framed a black porter for the murder. Because Ross and his lawyer would not let the case go, they were threatened by the Ku Klux Klan and Ross was forced out of Florida.
26:55Copy video clip URL Ross returned to Chicago and tried to find work at a wholesale liquor store. He was initially barred from joining the union because he was “exposed as a red,” but Ross used his connections to his advantage. He describes his divorce from his wife, which left him penniless.
30:36Copy video clip URL Ross says that he met his current wife in 1961, who encouraged him to stop fighting his first wife over finances and to move on. His wife, Sylvia, talks to the interviewer about Ross and his political activities.
32:29Copy video clip URL End of tape.