Exonerate Joe Hill one hundred years after his death
Hill arrived to the United States in 1902 as an indigent, unknown Swedish immigrant. By the time of Hill’s death in 1915 — a penalty for a murder that historians, including Billy, say that he did not commit — Hill had become the leader of the labor union Industrial Workers of the World, commonly known as the “Wobblies.”
The Wobblies were known for their use of song as a form of protest, the lyrics of which — penned by Hill — they circulated through the “Little Red Songbook.” Though before recording technology existed, Hill’s legacy lived on through his songs made famous through the likes of Joan Baez and Pete Seeger.
I. W. W. song tradition —
- Archie Green’s Wobblies, Pile Butts, and Other Heroes (U of Illinois Press, 1993), Part Two, chapter 3: “The Name ‘Wobbly’ Holds Steady.” It is a thoughtful, readable discussion of the IWW’s history, nickname and songs and a preface to the centennial edition of _The Big Red Songbook_ forthcoming from Charles Kerr Publishing Co.
The Western Federation of Miners building is the predecessor of the IWW, Industrial Workers of the World, with whom Joe Hill was best known. By the way, my father, Wayne Walden, was one of the Wobblies sent to pick up Joe Hill’s body from Utah when he was murdered. I remember hearing the story from him that there were more bullet holes in Joe Hill than the supposed 6 from the official firing squad. I’ve never seen that verified by any other source. ~Eleanor Walden