Saturday, February 26, 2011

Playwright & Labor Organizer Manny Fried dies at 97

There are countless people who could be counted in the ranks of secular humanism, but one must recognize that while most of them were or are simply unorganized, and among those many who have not explicitly taken on such an identity, there was, especially in the first half of the 20th century, a large contingent who functioned not within a secularist, humanist, or freethought movement, but within the labor movement. Radical labor organizer, actor, and playwright Emanuel ("Manny") Fried (March 1, 1913 - February 25, 2011) was the son of Jewish immigrants, but like so many, Manny abandoned religious belief. This is not his claim to fame, but it is a fact. To be Jewish in the old days was to be subject to discrimination, harassment, and violence. And to be Jewish means more to be a member of an ethnic group than it does necessarily to be religious. Manny recounted in one of our talks the horrible antisemitism that prevailed in American society and which was part of his experience, also documented here and there in his work. He told me that he grew up in an area of Buffalo populated by Jews and blacks. In addition to his devotion to the cause of labor, he also opposed an attempt to segregate Hutchinson high school in Buffalo, and there are other comparable anecdotes to be related which I don't think can be found in his autobiography.

As Manny died yesterday, just a few days short of his 98th birthday, I am still collecting my thoughts. When I volunteered to create a web presence for him in 2003, there was practically nothing to be found on the Internet. He was a local hero, but largely unknown outside of Western New York. You are invited to familiarize yourself with Manny's life and work:

The Emanuel Fried Center

. . . and on the links page, here are the obituaries.

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