This past semester, art students in Brett Colley’s class on printmaking, invited me to come talk about the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. The intent of the class was to have students investigate their own part of a People’s History of Grand Rapids and then make a print based upon an individual, social movement or a particular moment in history.
What we will be sharing from here on out over the next several weeks, are the result of what these students created, based on their own investigation or based on previous posting from the Grand Rapids People’s History Project. We are excited to have these newly created visuals to compliment the rich history of social movements from the resistance to white settler colonialism all the way up to the present.
The fourth print we feature is from Kenzie Cargill. This print brings attention to the fact that for part of his life, the founder of Meijer stores, Hendrik Meijer, embraced Anarchism. The print by Cargill, was inspired by a zine created by Grand Rapids Anarchists distributed through Sprout Distro. Here is an excerpt from that zine on Hendrik Meijer:
After immigrating to the United States, Hendrik Meijer moved to Holland, Michigan. Holland had been settled by conservative Dutch immigrants who had seceded from the Dutch Reformed Church, outraged over what they perceived as a more liberal direction being taken by the Church. It was a conservative community with businesses closed on Sundays, regular church attendance expected, and pride in both Old Dutch traditions and the United States. A Holland
newspaper from around the time of Meijer’s arrival wrote, “We will not accept socialism, with its unworkable demands! Still less anarchism, with its wild dreams and demonic tools!”
Despite an environment hostile to radical views, Meijer involved himself in the socialist community that existed. He joined a socialist group within a few weeks of immigrating. Through that group, he met three anarchists like himself who formed their own group and set to work producing anarchist pamphlets. Despite its conservative nature, their group regularly had as many as 12-15 people in attendance and socialist speakers often passed through Holland. The group held its meetings on Sundays—a perhaps deliberate affront to the majority of Hollanders who believed in attending church and doing no work on Sundays. The group may have been called the “Modern Sons of Marx” although his biographer is unsure. During this period he also organized a memorial in Holland on the Haymarket anniversary and tried to get involved with a socialist newspaper. Letters from him describing the Dutch immigrant experience in West Michigan were also published in Recht door Zee, a Dutch anarchist newspaper. When Hendrik Meijer’s partner Gezina Mantel finally came to the U.S., the couple specifically chose to get married on November 11, 1912—the anniversary of the executions of the Haymarket anarchists.
This narrative of Meijer is not widely known and for good reason. The Meijer family, who are some of the wealthiest in the state, would not want the fact that their grandfather embraced for a time, both socialism and anarchism. To read the entire zine from Sprout Distro, click here.