REMEMBERING JOE HILL: SONGS OF AGITATION

(L–R) Josh and Heidi Belka sit in front of their mural homage to musician and labor rights activist Joe Hill. Photo courtesy of Heidi Belka

Joe Hill—born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund—was a prominent Industrial Workers Of The World (IWW) musician and agitator who was controversially arrested, convicted and executed for the alleged double murders of John Morrison and his son Arling while working in Utah. The flurry surrounding Hill’s conviction and death sentence generated a great outcry from many of the well-known individuals of his day, including two letters to stay the execution by then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Despite this, Hill was executed by the state of Utah on Nov. 19, 1915. As a songwriter, Hill was, in many ways, the bard of the labor movement, and, ironically, the subsequent result of his death is a long-lasting legacy of martyrdom within the labor movement.

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