Why Was the Strike an Important Turning Point in American History?

The Strike of 1877: An Important Turning Point in American History

The Strike of 1877, also known as the Great Railroad Strike, was a significant event in American history. It began on July 14, 1877, when railroad workers in Martinsburg, West Virginia, refused to work after their wages were cut for the third time that year.

This strike quickly spread across the country and became the largest strike in American history up to that point. In this article, we will explore why this strike was an important turning point in American history.

The Rise of Industrialization

The Strike of 1877 occurred during a period of rapid industrialization in America. The railroad industry was critical to this process as it allowed goods and people to move quickly across the country.

However, the working conditions for many railroad workers were harsh. They often worked long hours for low pay, and injuries on the job were common. The Strike of 1877 brought attention to these issues and highlighted the need for better working conditions.

The Role of Workers’ Unions

One significant outcome of the Strike of 1877 was the rise of workers’ unions. During the strike, railroad workers formed a union known as The Knights of Labor.

This union grew rapidly and included members from various industries beyond just railroads. The Knights advocated for better working conditions and higher wages for workers across America.

Violent Clashes

While many strikes before had been peaceful demonstrations or just refusing to work until demands were met – this one quickly turned violent with deaths on both sides – civilians and law enforcement vs strikers.

Government Intervention

The Strike of 1877 also brought attention to the role of government during labor disputes. President Rutherford B. Hayes eventually sent federal troops to quell the strike, marking one of the first times that the federal government had used military force against workers. This action showed that the government was willing to side with business owners over workers, which further fueled the labor movement.

The Legacy of the Strike of 1877

The Strike of 1877 paved the way for future labor movements and helped establish workers’ rights in America. The Knights of Labor continued to grow and advocate for workers’ rights until its decline in the 1890s. However, their work inspired other labor unions, such as the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

  • The AFL was founded in 1886 and focused on organizing skilled workers.
  • The CIO was founded in 1935 and aimed to organize industrial workers across various industries.

Without the Strike of 1877, it is possible that these unions would not have formed or been successful in advocating for better working conditions and wages for American workers.


In conclusion, The Strike of 1877 was an important turning point in American history because it brought attention to issues facing American workers during a period of rapid industrialization. It led to the rise of workers’ unions and established a legacy that continues to shape labor relations today.