November 19th, 2007 Headsman
On this date in 1915, songwriter, poet and labor activist Joe Hill was shot in Utah for the murder of a local butcher.
Though state authorities had little use for the worldwide clemency bid whose backers included U.S. President Woodrow Wilson — powerless to intervene officially, since the execution was a state matter — Hill walked spryly into his martyrdom. The strange post-mortem career of his totemic ashes is the least of the ways Hill lives on.
His dauntless last message to fellow Wobbly Bill Haywood — “Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize.” — is a permanent fixture on pins and placards among every stripe of left activist. The songs he wrote remain in print — and in performance.
And the Depression-era tribute ballad “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night” can seamlessly serenade ripped-from-the-headlines footage, as a Paul Robeson rendition does in these clips of 1998 protests against then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Also on this date
- 1784: Richard Barrick, Massachusetts highwayman
- 1895: Jesus Vialpando and Feliciano Chavez, desperados
- 1720: Edward Hunt, the first counterfeiter executed in colonial Pennsylvania
- 1929: Myles Fukunaga
- c. 865: Ragnar Lodbrok, Viking raider
- Themed Set: Vikings
- 1945: Three German war criminals
- 2002: Craig Neil Ogan, drug war informant
Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Artists,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Famous Last Words,History,Language,Martyrs,Murder,Popular Culture,Shot,USA,Utah,Wrongful Executions