Joe Hill


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(1879–1915), balladeer, labor organizer. The folksong I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night/Alive as you or me celebrates this Swedish immigrant's martyrdom. As a member of the Industrial Workers of the World—the Wobblies— from 1910 until his death, he composed songs for the movement, including The Preacher and the Slave, with the jeering line You'll get pie in the sky when you die. He was, labor legend has it, framed for a grocery store robbery and murder, and was in fact executed by firing squad in Utah. His guilt or innocence, like the later case of Sacco and Vanzetti, has been a subject of debate. His final words to his colleague Big Bill Haywood, another labor martyr, “Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize!,” have enshrined him in the American labor movement.

From The Oxford Companion to American Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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