Subversive Historian – 11/19/08

Wobbly Bard Joe Hill Executed

Ninety-three years ago on this day in people’s history, the Wobbly Bard Joe Hill was executed in Utah. On November 19th, 1915, Hill, who was best known for his folk songs including, “The Preacher and the Slave,” “Rebel Girl,” and “There’s Power in a Union,” was put before a firing squad after having been convicted of murder following a controversial trial. As a member of the influential Industrial Workers of the World union, the ‘troubadour of discontent,’ had gone to Utah to work in a mine outside of Salt Lake City. Following a murder of a grocery store owner John G. Morrison and his son on the night of January 10th, 1914, Hill came to be arrested in connection to the crime. However, as historian Philip S. Foner notes, the trial was dubious at best and an international campaign quickly organized calling for the labor singer’s conviction to be over turned. After efforts to save Hill from being executed failed, his body was transported to Chicago where thousands gathered in his memory.

Agitating until his last days, Hill told prominent labor leader Big Bill Haywood in a letter written just before his death, “Don’t waste any time mourning, organize!”

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One response to “Subversive Historian – 11/19/08

  1. The sad part about it is that few have ever heard of this great American labor activist. Good post. Thanx

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