“I never died, he said…”

Born Joel Emmanuel Hillstrum on October 7th, 1879 in Gävle, Sweden, he emigrated to the United States at age 23 and became a migrant laborer, traveling the western USA in search of work, even surviving the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. None of which is the reason he “never died,” or why we celebrate


It was Joe Hill’s involvement in the Labor Movement that made him immortal.

Joe joined the Industrial Workers of The World in 1910, and swiftly rose through the ranks of this iconic union. He travelled the USA widely, promoting organized labor in the fight against rapacious and oppressive industrialists of the day, who considered the lives and labor of American workers to be cheap goods to be used up and discarded like so many worn out tools.

Sweatshops, poverty wages, company stores, dangerous working conditions and child labor were the norm during America’s booming entry into the Industrial Revolution. Joe Hill saw firsthand the obscene wealth being created for the few by the many, and the cruel suffering endured by the working class, and he acted.

His songs, satirical poems, organizing skills and passionate oratory (“Pie in the Sky” was his) made him a national figure, and the enemy of monied interests, who decided Joe Hill had to go.

He wound up being framed for murder and swiftly executed by firing squad in Utah in 1915, just 36 years old and, like many a martyr, grew larger in death than in life, an inspiration to millions who followed in his footsteps.

Like “The Ballad of Joe Hill” says, he never died.

•Suggested Activities: Joining a union.

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