Teaching Activities (Free)

Labor Songs

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. 7 pages.
Students explore the power of songs to build solidarity and increase understanding. This is the final activity from Bigelow and Diamond’s labor history book, The Power in Our Hands, and draws on the other lessons.

Themes: Art & Music, Labor, Organizing, Social Class

This classic song was written for a march led by Lucy Parsons.Culture, and music in particular, can play a large role in sustaining a common sense of interests, goals, and expectations. When labor culture has declined, so has people’s ability to work together. Labor songs are therefore much more than simply work songs. They help create solidarity and understanding.

Lawrence, 1912, was known as the “singing strike.” Students may have already heard the song “Bread and Roses” and discussed the role of singing in that strike. In this lesson, they’re introduced to some further labor classics; they analyze and evaluate songs that have played a role in U.S. labor history. They’re also given the opportunity to reflect on what they’ve learned of labor history by creating their own songs and poems.

The Power In Our Hands — Available for Download

This is one of the 16 lessons available from The Power In Our Hands. Other lessons available for individual download are:


Unit I: Basic Understandings

Unit II: Changes in the Workplace/”Scientific Management”

Unit III: Defeats, Victories, Challenges

Unit IV: Our Own Recent Past

Unit V: Continuing Struggle

Order the book online from Monthly Review.