Walling, William English

Walling, William English

(1877–1936) labor reformer, socialist; born in Louisville, Ky. A man of independent means, educated at the University of Chicago and Harvard Law School, he rejected his privileged, liberal heritage and deliberately chose to become a factory inspector in Illinois (1900–01). He then moved to New York City and lived in the tenement district (1901–05) and cofounded the National Women's Trade Union League (1903). He spent much of the years 1905–08 in Russia where he got to know leading revolutionary figures; on his return he published Russia's Message (1908). After witnessing a race riot (1908), he helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and joined the Socialist Party (1910–17), but resigned because of its antiwar stance. He worked full-time for the American Federation of Labor, wrote for the American Federationist, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Connecticut (1924), and was executive director of the Labor Chest (1935). Although he moved back and forth on the left-wing spectrum, he mainly supported reform as opposed to revolution.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.