Ludlow Massacre, The
DESCRIPTION: Faced with a strike, the mine owners drive the workers from their (company-owned) homes. The National Guard moves in and kills thirteen children by fires and guns. Since President and Governor cannot not stop the guard, fighting continues
AUTHOR: Woody Guthrie
EARLIEST DATE: 1945 (recording, Woody Guthrie)
KEYWORDS: mining strike violence death labor-movement
Sept 1913 - Beginning of the strike by coal workers against John D. Rockefeller's Colorado Iron and Fuel Co.
April 1914 - A state militia company (actually composed of company thugs) attacks the Ludlow colony of strikers using machine guns and coal oil. 21 people die, including two women and thirteen children; three strikers are taken and murdered. Eventually federal troops are called in
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Scott-BoA, pp. 279-281, "The Ludlow Massacre" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greenway-AFP, pp. 152-154, "Ludlow Massacre" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 134, "The Ludlow Massacre" (1 text)
Woody Guthrie, "Ludlow Massacre" (Asch 360, 1945; on on AmHist2, Struggle2)
NOTES [429 words]: There is a recent book on the Ludlow Massacre, Scott Martelle, Blood Passion: The Ludlow Masscre and Class War in the American West, Rutgers University Press, 2007. It notes on the very first page that although there is a freeway exit for Ludlow, the town itself doesn't really exist any more; the mines have mostly failed and all that is left is a sort of memorial park.
The book does not even mention Woody Guthrie in its index -- rather surprising, given that Guthrie wrote at a time when the massacre was still part of living memory, which it obviously was not at the time Martelle was writing.
The numbers Guthrie gives in this song are perhaps a little dubious. Martelle, p. 2, gives this report:
T"he nadir came on a sunny Monday morning in April 1914, when a detachment from the Colorado National Guard engaged in a ten-hour gun battle with union men at Ludlow, where a tent colony housing some eleven hundred strikers and their families had been erected. Seven men and a boy were killed in the shooting, at least three of the men -- all striking coal miners, one a leader -- apparently executed in cold blood by Colorado National Guardsmen who had taken them captive. As the sun set, the militia moved into the camp itself and an infern lut up the darkening sky, reducing most of the makeshift village to ashes. It wasn't until the next morning that the bodies of two mothers and eeven children were discovered where they had taken shelter in a dirt bunker beneath one of the tents. The raging fire had sucked the oxygen from the air below, suffocating the families as they hid from the gun battle.
T"he deaths of the women and children quickly became known as the Ludlow Massacre, and the backlash was vicious and bloody."
Martelle's Appendix B, pp. 222-224, lists all the victims known to have died in the 1913-1914 labor war. Martelle says that at least 75 people were killed in the course of the labor war. He lists five uninvolved bystanders, 37 strikebreakers and guards (some of them killed from hiding), and 33 strikers and family. This means that more than half those killed on the miners' side died in the Massacre of April 20. The adult women killed were 37-year-old Patricia Valdez, along with four of her children, and 27-year-old Fedelina Costa, along with two of her children; one of the men killed outside was Charles Costa, although I don't know if they were husband and wife. Five other children were also killed in the bunker. The oldest of the suffocated children was nine years old; six of them had not yet reached their fifth birthday. - RBW
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