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  • 100th Anniversary of Solidarity Forever

    This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Solidarity Forever. This video courtesy of Peter Doob is of the closing of the 2013 Fall concert of the DC Labor Chorus. For a great article on the history of this grand and powerful song, check out this article from Labor Notes.


    Love Songs From The Liberation Wars by Steve Jones

    Lib-Wars-image-1“Love Songs” tells the story of the 1943 strike at RJ Reynolds Tobacco in North Carolina, when 10,000 workers walked out, led by Theodosia Simpson, a 23-year-old African American woman.  “In many ways, this is a labor story forgotten in history,” says Steve Jones. The strike produced a cadre of leaders that transformed the South, according to Roz Pelles, AFL-CIO Director of Human, Civil and Women’s Rights.

    The performance will take place on Saturday June 21, 2014 following the Joe Hill Awards.

    The Washington Ethical Society at 7750 16th St. N.W. Washington, D.C.

     Click here to get your tickets!

    Click below to hear “Shower of the Roses”

    50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer

    Charlie King and Karen Brandow will present a Historical Performance Piece entitled Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round with script, music and pictures at the Friday, June 20th evening opening session of the Great Labor Arts Exchange. Charlie says the presentation features “history that made songs, and songs that changed history.”

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, one of the defining moments in the Civil Rights Movement. SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) organizers went to Mississippi to register black voters amid beatings, bombings and KKK raids. Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner were murdered, and the Freedom Riders went for a bus ride.

    Ain’t Gonn Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round offers a history of the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans from 1955 to 1967, highlighting activists such as Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hammer and Ella Baker.
    Make your travel arrangements and plan to come early. The show starts at 7:00 and is only open to registered participants.

    Pete Seeger – A Time For Peace

    Pete Seeger, singer, song writer, activists, who understood that to be a citizen of this country, took more than waving a flag. While he was a gentle, deeply humanistic being, his values were worn like battle armour.  He gave no quarter while being victimized by McCarthyism in 1955 when he was summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee. When the committee tried to compel him to name names and tell of his associations and beliefs he never wilted or flinched.  Instead he stood strong against the swelling tide of McCarthy’s witch hunt and struck back.

    “I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them.”   (Pete Seeger – 1955)

    Countless numbers of us grew up singing songs written or co-written by Pete Seeger.  “If I Had A Hammer”, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”, “Turn, Turn, Turn” and so many others that he made popular such as “We Shall Overcome”.  He said he just changed one word – he changed ‘will’ to ‘shall’ and it became the anthem of generations fighting for their civil rights.

    When Pete Seeger sang we all sang. He preferred to join his voice with others as he did many times at the Great Labor Arts Exchange. He recieved the Joe Hill Award to honor his body of work in the field of labor culture. Maybe it was because his spirit inherently understood the power we have when we join together, rising up as one with a singular purpose.  Sadly the struggles are not over, but we can still join our voices. We can join them with the echoes of Pete’s banjo and his voice that enveloped us – compelling us to rise and stand strong against the surge of oppression and injustice.

    Pete was 94 when he died on Monday of natural causes. Toshi, his wife of 70 years died last year.

    Take a moment and rejuvenate your spirit while watching this video of Pete. Of course Pete’s voice is softer than the audience, but then this would not be Pete Seeger if he sang alone. If you want to hear more of Pete’s songs, you can find them here.
    Pete Seeger – Turn, Turn, Turn

    Friday’s Labor Folklore

    Preserve the Monument and Final Resting Place of Mother Jones at Union Miners Cemetery

    MotherJonesThere is a shrine that deserves a pilgrimage by all labor-minded persons.  It is the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois.  Each one who visits will be touched, for this is the resting place of that “grandmother of agitators,” Mary Harris “Mother” Jones; and this is a place filled with the spirit of good union men.  They are the coal miners she called “her boys,” among whom she asked to be buried at the time of her death in 1930.

    Beyond the wrought iron gate to the little burial ground rises a granite obelisk on which is a great medallion bearing the likeness of Mother Jones.  She is guarded on either side by a larger-than-life bronze statue of a coal miner with his sledge. At the base is a simple stone nestled in the grass, Mother Mary Jones.

    In 1936, fifty thousand people attended the dedication of the monument which was erected by the Progressive Miners of America.  Since that time the monument and the historic miners cemetery surrounding it have weathered many storms; both are in need of repair and restoration.

    The Illinois AFL-CIO is organizing the Mother Jones Monument Restoration Project  to enhance and maintain the Mother Jones monument and burial site in Mt. Olive.

    In partnership with the Union Miners Cemetery Perpetual Care Association, Illinois Senator Andy Manar, the Illinois Labor History Society, the United Mine Workers of America and the Mother Jones Foundation efforts are underway to raise funds to preserve this national landmark and leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.

    Funds will be used to preserve, restore and maintain this national landmark.  A pavilion will be erected with seating and historic information will be provided to enhance the visitor experience.

    You can honor Mother Jones by donating to the project.  With a gift of $500 or more, donors will be recognized on a permanent marker at the site.

    Donations may be sent to: Mother Jones Monument Fund c/o Illinois AFL-CIO, 534 S. Second St., Springfield, Ill.  62701.

    Contact Amy Rueff, 217-492-2633 or Email: amy.rueff@ilafl-cio.org; Facebook /Mother Jones Monument.  For brochure: Click here. With thanks to Illinois Labor History Society.

    Dec. 7, 1930 Mount Olive, Ill. (AP)

    Mine workers throughout Illinois and from the coal fields of many other states gathered here today to pay last tribute to Mary (Mother) Jones, who will be buried in the Miners’ Union Cemetery here tomorrow morning.

    The Odd Fellows’ Temple, where her body has been lying in state since the arrival here from Washington, proved far too small to house more than 4,000 persons who sought admission to hear the service.

    Loud speakers on the outside of the building carried the sermon of the Rev. J. W. R. McGuire of Kankakee, Ill. to those unable to gain entrance. The eulogy was broadcast over the American Federation of Labor radio station, WFCI of Chicago.

    “Wealthy coal operators and capitalists throughout the United States,” Mr. McGuire said, “are breathing sighs of relief while toil-worn men and are weeping tears of bitter grief. The reason for this contrast of relief and sorrow is apparent. Mother Jones is dead.”

    Our job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  
         —  Mother Jones

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