Bea Lumpkin, still going strong at 104, leads Chicago Labor Day parade
Bea Lumpkin, Grand Marshall of the 2022 Chicago Labor Day Parade, shown here with Chicago Federation of Labor Secretary Treasurer Don Villar.

Longtime People’s World contributor and supporter Bea Lumpkin served as Grand Marshall for the Chicago Labor Day Parade. She got her start as an activist with the Young Communist League in the 1930s, fighting against rising tuition fees, fascism, and militarism. She organized hunger strikes for unemployment relief during the Great Depression and protested the racist frame-up of the Scottsboro Nine. Her exploits first appeared in the pages of this publication in June 1935, when Hunter College student Beatrice Shapiro was fired from her job after protesting against the visiting ambassador of Nazi Germany. Further details of her life are shared in the statement below, issued by the Chicago Labor Day Parade Committee.

The Chicago Labor Day Parade Committee is proud to announce our 2022 Grand Marshall, Beatrice Lumpkin! At 104 years young, Bea is a union organizer, activist, professor, and writer. We thank and honor Bea’s activism today and every day! Solidarity forever!

Beatrice Lumpkin was born on August 3, 1918, in New York City, to Morris Abraham and Dora (Chernin) Shapiro. In 1939, Lumpkin received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College (now of the City University of New York). In 1967, she received a Master of Studies degree from Northeastern Illinois State College (now Northeastern Illinois University), and a Master of Science from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1974.

After many years of blue-collar work in laundries, machine shops, and assembly lines, Lumpkin became an accredited math teacher, first in the Chicago public schools and then as an associate professor of mathematics at Chicago City College.

When Chicago’s Wisconsin Steel closed suddenly without paying its workers, Lumpkin led a 17-year fight for justice. During that time, Beatrice chaired the Wisconsin Steel Workers Women’s Committee. She also became a founder of both the Coalition of Labor Union Women and the Alliance for Retired Americans.

Despite her joyful approach, Lumpkin’s life has been laced with struggle and pain, especially in the 1950s and ’60s, when she and her husband endured blacklists and red-baiting, union busting, unemployment, and the vicious racism they faced in Chicago—a series of battles she chronicles in her biography of Frank, Always Bring a Crowd (available from International Publishers).

Lumpkin continues her activism on a daily basis. Current projects include the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, an organization whose mission is, “to mobilize retired union members and other senior and community activists into a nationwide grassroots movement advocating a progressive political and social agenda.”

A part of their work that Lumpkin particularly enjoys is the building of intergenerational dialogue and projects, working with such groups as the Chicago Young Workers, SEIU Future Fighters, and others.

We thank and honor Bea’s activism today and every day! Solidarity forever!


> 102-year-old Bea Lumpkin calls her mail-in ballot a ‘vote against fascism’

> Labor Day celebration of struggle: Bea Lumpkin’s 100th Birthday!

> WOMENS HISTORY MONTH: I helped organize the CIO

> …and more.


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.