Friday, August 30, 2013

#LaborDay Weekend Remembrance: Martyred Labor Minstrel Ella May Wiggins

Martyred labor minstrel Ella May Wiggins celebrated in North Carolina

Ella May Wiggins
Martyred labor heroes like Wiggins are the great "disappeared" in most U.S. history books because they all too clearly demonstrate the dark underside of class in the American story. Many would rather that part of the story never be told.
Not every fallen hero hits the dirt of a battlefield when a bullet strikes them down. It's not only soldiers that have fought and died for the rights and freedoms we cherish. It's easy to remember to wave the flag and post pictures to your facebook wall glorifying soldiers on Memorial Day and Veterans' Day. However, unless we also celebrate the life and struggles of the largely forgotten heroes of battles against the enemies of freedom on the home front, the soft-focus pictures of wounded warriors and waving flags during the supposedly more patriotic holidays signify an incomplete understanding of the costs that have been paid for our freedom to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How we got to be free and to live dignified lives is every bit as much, or more!, the story of labor struggles at home as it is the story of wars abroad.

To forget that is to invite widening inequality, the erosion of our standard of living, and no less than the end of our Great American Experiment.

Remember Ella May Wiggins. Remember Eugene V. Debs. Remember the victims of the Triangle Fire. Remember Albert R. Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer, George Engel and Louis Lingg, the leaders of the Eight Hour Day National Strike of 1886, executed in Chicago on ginned-up charges of having organized the Haymarket bombing.  Remember the martyrs of Blair Mountain. Remember "Big Bill" Haywood, and Samuel Gompers, too.


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