This Day in History

Nov. 19, 1915: Labor Organizer Joe Hill Executed

Time Periods: World War I: 1910 - 1919
Themes: Labor

Linocut by Carlos A. Cortéz. Source: SAAM

“Don’t mourn, organize!”

On Nov. 19, 1915, the state of Utah executed Joe Hill, labor organizer, songwriter, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Joe Hill became famous around the world after a Utah court convicted him of murder.

Even before the international campaign to have his conviction reversed, Joe Hill was well-known on picket lines and at workers’ rallies as the author of popular labor songs and as an IWW agitator.

Thanks in large part to his songs and to his stirring, well-publicized call to his fellow workers on the eve of his execution — “Don’t waste time mourning, organize!” — Hill became, and he has remained, the best-known IWW martyr and labor folk hero. [From AFL-CIO history.]

Here is a lesson that includes the role of the IWW: “The Singing Strike and the Rebel Students: Learning from the Industrial Workers of the World.” Read also the classic labor song, “Workers of the World, Awaken!” by Joe Hill about reaching out to workers to around the world.

Listen to Paul Robeson sing “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night.”