This powerful folk song is brought to us by member and President Anna Stange.
This is Woody Guthrie singing The 1913 Massacre, a song he wrote after reading an account of the tragedy in Calumet, Michigan, at the Italian Miners Union Hall, on Christmas Eve 1913.
The miners were on strike at the time. According to eyewitness accounts, 73 children were smothered to death when someone yelled fire into the 2nd story hall where miners and their families were celebrating Christmas, and blocked the doors.
This song really struck a chord with me. I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and had read the newspaper accounts and saw photographs of this incident in one of the local museums.
When I first saw this song in a small volume of Woody’s songs, I was awestruck that he had written a song so close to my home place. A few years back, I recorded an album, When Will We Ever Learn: Songs for Peace and Justice. The 1913 Massacre was simply had to be included, and it is.
I like to think that Woody read the same newspaper accounts that I did, so many years later. It feels good to sing a song that keeps history and a sense of place alive.