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 Eugene V. Debs

 Norman Thomas

 Michael Harrington

 Eugene V. Debs

 Norman Thomas

 Michael Harrington

 A Brief History of the
Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner

The Dinner began as the Debs Day Dinner in 1958 under the auspices of the old Socialist Party of America (then known as the SP-SDF). For the first 13 years, the event was not an awards dinner, but generally featured one or more speakers. Norman Thomas, Bayard Rustin, James Farmer, Charles Chiakulas were among those who addressed the Dinners.

The Debs Day Dinner was a part of an older tradition of celebrating Eugene V. Debs' birthday (rather like the Democratic Party once widely celebrated the birthday of Andrew Jackson). Even as the Socialist Party of America lost its hegemony on the left, Debs Day dinners typically drew a broad cross-section of the left. As a birthday celebration of Debs, the Dinner was held in November rather than May as is done today.

In 1969, the Dinner became the Thomas -- Debs Dinner in honor of Norman Thomas. It became an awards dinner in 1971. In 1973, the newly formed Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) took over the Dinner's sponsorship. In 1983, DSOC and the New American Movement merged to form the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). DSA has sponsored the Dinner since then. In 1990, the Dinner became the Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner in memory of Michael Harrington.

As you can probably guess, our records for 1958 through 1972 are very fragmentary. It has long been our hope that we could reconstruct at least the main outlines of the Dinners in this period. Can you help us? Copies of old programs, flyers, photographs, etc., would be greatly appreciated. Contact the Chicago DSA office at 773.384.0327 or email chiildsa@chicagodsa.org.



 Featured Speaker(s)

2017 Larry Cohen,
Adriana Alvarez
A Way Forward
Carlos Ramirez Rosa
Friday, May 19
Crowne Plaza Chicago West Loop
2016 Jorge M˙jica,
Michael Lighty
Rauner's Road to Perdition
Susan Sadlowski Garza
Friday, May 20
Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro
2015 Gerry Hudson,
Amisha Patel
Building New Movements for Change
Thomas Geoghegan
Friday, May 8
Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro
2014 Robin Potter,
Larry Spivack
The War on Poverty: Fifty Years After
Leone Jose Bicchieri
Friday, May 16
Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza
2013 William McNary,
Keith Kelleher,
Chicago Teachers Union
Fighting Forward
Amy Dean
Friday, May 3
Holiday Inn Mart Plaza
2012 John Bouman,
Chicago Jobs with Justice
Today's Other America
Ruth Conniff
Friday, April 27
Holiday Inn Mart Plaza
2011 John Cameron
Jeremy Schroeder
In Praise of Public Service
Ralph Martire
Friday, May 13
Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro
2010 Carl Rosen,
People's Law Office
Bring America Home!
William Greider
Friday, May 7
Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro
2009 Timuel Black,
Jane Ramsey

"Working Together for Justice"
Kim Bobo

(Bobo was unable to speak due to a family emergency and Rev. C.J. Hawking spoke instead.)

Friday, May 1
Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro
2008 Laurie Burgess,
Mardge Cohen,
Les Orear

Yes, We Can:
Universal Health Care Now!
Rose Ann DeMoro

(DeMoro was unable to speak and Dr. Mardge Cohen spoke instead.)

Friday, April 25

Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro


Leo Gerard,

Josh Hoyt

"Where Do We Go From Here?"

Leo Gerard; Josh Hoyt; Saul Escobar Toledo

Friday, May 4

Holiday Inn Mart Plaza


Henry Tamarin,

Rev. Dr. Calvin Morris,

U.S. Labor Against the War

"Going Beyond Taking Back Our Country"

John Nichols

Friday, April 28

Holiday Inn Mart Plaza


Linda Rae Murray,

Hal Gullett

"A Perfect Storm Rising:

The Crisis in Health Care

Defending Social Security"

William McNary

Friday, May 6

Holiday Inn Mart Plaza


Lynn Talbott

Eliseo Medina

"Defeating the Most Dangerous President Ever:
Building the Dump Bush Movement"

Jan Schakowsky

Friday, May 7

Holiday Inn Mart Plaza


Bernice Bild

Sydney Bild

Mitch Vogel

"The War Really Worth Fighting:

Organizing the Low Wage Economy"

Henry Tamarin

Friday, May 2

Congress Hotel


Barbara Hillman

Thomas Balanoff

"Defending Labor Rights, Human Rights and Civil Liberties"

Douglass Cassel

Friday, May 10

Holiday Inn Mart Plaza


Kim Bobo

Henry Bayer

"Building Coalitions for Social Justice"

Miguel del Valle

Friday, May 4

Holiday Inn Mart Plaza

 2000  Jan Schakowsky

"Fighting Back: Building the New Movement Against Corporate Greed and Globalization"

Harold Meyerson

Friday, May 5

Congress Hotel


Jackie Kendall

James K. Tribble

"Setting the Terms for Globalization from Below"

Charles Kernaghan

Friday, May 7

Holiday Inn City Centre


William Adelman

Marilyn Sneiderman

"A Better World to Win: Labor's Fight for Social Justice, Past and Future"

William Adelman and Marilyn Sneiderman

Friday, May 8

Holiday Inn Mart Plaza


James Weinstein

George Becker

"Winning Economic Justice"

George Becker

Friday, April 11

Holiday Inn City Centre


Maxie Hill

Deborah Meier

"The Power of Public Education"

Deborah Meier

Friday, May 3

Congress Hotel


Rosetta Daylie

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Saturday, May 13

Bismarck Hotel


Louis "Lou" Pardo

Carole Travis

Barbara Ehrenreich

Saturday, May 14

Congress Hotel


Mollie West

Julian Bond

"Universal Health Care: A Long Time Overdue"

Dr. Linda Rae Murray

Friday, May 7

McCormick Inn


Sue Purrington

Dr. Quentin Young

"Beyond Protectionism: Building Labor Solidarity in the Americas"

Jose LaLuz

Friday, May 1

Congress Hotel


Steve Culen

Kathy Devine

"Victory in Ontario: Building a Social Democratic Government"

Dennis Drainville

Saturday, May 11

Congress Hotel

 1990 Arthur Loevy

"Victory Over Pittston: Lessons for the Progressive and Labor Movements in the 1990s"

Cecil Roberts

Friday, May 4

Midland Hotel


Milt and Sue Cohen

William Winpisinger

Dr. Quentin Young

Saturday, May 6

Midland Hotel


Joe Jacobs

Saul Mendelson

"Education Reform: Is It Possible?"

Deborah Meier

Saturday, May 7

Congress Hotel


Jacquelyne Grimshaw

Heather Booth

Lynn Williams

Saturday, May 9

Americana Congress Hotel


Michael Harrington

Jacqueline Vaughn

"On the Haymarket Affair Centennial"

Michael Harrington

Saturday, May 10

Ascot Hotel


Edward Asner

Vicky Starr

Lane Evans

Saturday, May 4

McCormick Inn

 1984 William Lucy Barbara Ehrenreich

Saturday, May 12

McCormick Inn

 1983 Joyce Miller

Harold Washington 

Ron Dellums

Saturday, May 7

McCormick Inn

 1982 Carl Shier William Winpisinger

Saturday, May 1

McCormick Inn

 1981 Egidio Clemente

"Needed: a Bold Imaginative Program for Survival and Progress"

Ed Broadbent and Mildred Jeffrey

Sunday, May 3

Midland Hotel

 1980 Rosemary Ruether

Michael Harrington

(with special guests Crystal Lee Sutton and Eleanor Smeal)

Saturday, May 10

Pick Congress Hotel

 1979 Addie Wyatt

"The Politics of the 1980s"

Irving Howe

Sunday, May 6

Midland Hotel

 1978 Robert E. Mann William Winpisinger

Sunday, May 7

Midland Hotel

 1977 Charles Hayes

"Challenging the New Conservatives: the Crisis of Liberalism"

Robert Lekachman

Sunday, May 1

Midland Hotel

 1976 Dolores Huerta

"Challenging the New Tories: a Politics of Hope or a Politics of Fear"

Michael Harrington

Sunday, May 16

Midland Hotel

 1975 Leon Despres

"Prospects for Survival: Is There Hope in Congress?"

Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.

Sunday, May 4

Midland Hotel

 1974 Ralph Helstein

"After Impeachment... What Lies Ahead?"

Victor Reuther

Saturday, May 4

Midland Hotel

 1973 Murray Finley

"What Is Ahead for the Seventies?"

Stephen Lewis

Saturday, May 5

Midland Hotel

 1972 Brendan Sexton Michael Harrington  
 1971 Patrick Gorman Frederick O'Neal and Bruce Miller  

"Labor, Liberals and the Democratic Left"

Michael Harrington and David Selden

(David Selden did not attend this dinner as he was in jail because he "aided and abetted a teachers strike" in Newark, New Jersey.)

Sunday, April 12

Midland Hotel

 1969   Memorial for Norman Thomas and Eugene Debs

Saturday, May 17

Midland Hotel


"The Crisis of Cities"

Michael Harrington and Leon Keyserling


 "Labor as a Social Movement; Labor as Organizer of the Oppressed"

Norman Thomas and Charles Chiakulas

Friday, November 11

Midland Hotel


"After the Watts Explosion"

Tom Kahn and Norman Hill

Saturday, November 20

Midland Hotel

 1964   An 80th Birthday Tribute to Norman Thomas Saturday, November 28

"America's Unfinished Revolution"

Bayard Rustin and James Farmer

Saturday, November 23
 1962   Harry Golden and Leon Despres  
 1961   Norman Thomas and Sidney Lens November

"A New Foreign Policy for Labor"

Emil Mazey

Saturday, November 12

Midland Hotel


A 75th Birthday Tribute to Norman Thomas

Norman Thomas and A. Philip Randolph


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