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Among the dozens of activities listed on the Haymarket Centennial poster were the two major events noted here. Both show the centennial's emphasis on labor history.

The first is a conference on "Labor and the Haymarket Affair," sponsored by the Chicago Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, and the Illinois Labor History Society, in cooperation with the Chicago Labor Education Program of the University of Illinois. The conference took place on May 3, 1886. The program, which combined panels, exhibits, songs, and dramatic performances, devoted the morning to looking back on the events of 1886, and the afternoon to the conditions of the present, featuring remarks by several union leaders.

United States Senator Paul Simon, who was a member of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, delivered the final address. The program ended with the entire audience standing and holding hands as they sang the labor song "Solidarity Forever." Just as the "Workers' Marseillaise," so popular among the Haymarket martyrs, was set to the tune of the French national anthem, "Solidarity Forever" is sung to the melody of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

The second major event was an exhibition that opened in late April at the Chicago Historical Society, "Haymarket 1886!" Its subtitle was "The Origins and Impact of Chicago's Great Labor Upheaval." The three main goals of the exhibition were to tell the story of Haymarket in the context of the eight-hour movement and anarchism, to use the latest historical research, and to explain the relevance of Haymarket to the century of labor history that followed. The exhibit featured many of the artifacts, texts, and objects included in "The Dramas of Haymarket."