The Ludlow Massacre, April 20th 1914.
To commemorate the centenary of the Ludlow Massacre Professor Jim Green of Massachusetts University will discuss the implications of this watershed event in American history at the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival which takes place at the Firkin Crane on Thursday evening 31st July.
Professor Green is the author of “Crime against Memory at Ludlow”, Labor: Studies of Working Class History in the Americas Vol 1 No 1 (Spring 2004).
During the infamous and bitter Colorado mining strikes of 1913/14, Mother Jones had been imprisoned several times on the orders of General John Chase and Governor Elias Ammons. She had repeatedly entered the State to support the striking miners and had been imprisoned without trial or charge for almost three months. Mother Jones had become a lightning rod of agitation in Southern Colorado and following the threat of an order of habeas corpus order being made to Colorado’s Supreme Court, she was finally released in mid-April 1914. So weakened was this 76 year old woman after languishing in the rat infested Walsenburg Courthouse Jail that she left the State to recover.
The strike which was about union recognition, safety issues and wages continued and the miners’ camp at Ludlow, some 20km north west of Trinidad, which had been surrounded for several weeks by the Colorado National Guard and a private army of mine company hired thugs, began to fear the worst. With Mother Jones gone for the moment and with her the media presence, the mine owners felt they had a licence to sort out the miners.
As the miners had been evicted from their company houses at the beginning of the strike and lived in union tent camps many of them had dug caves underneath the tents to try and protect their families from the incoming bullets fired by these thugs who operated with impunity.
On Sunday April 19th the miners and their families gathered to celebrate Easter and the festivities continued all day. The following morning bullets began to pour into the camp and while the miners fought back they soon ran out of ammunition due to the prolonged nature of the attack. Many families fled to the pits to escape. Later that evening the guards and hired thugs invaded the camp itself and set fire to many tents and wrecked the community facilities. The courageous miners’ leader Louis Tikas was murdered by a Lieutenant Karl Linderfelt, whose later punishment was a mild reprimand.
The following morning, the full extent of the massacre unfolded, in one pit, the bodies of two woman and eleven children were uncovered, in all a total of 19 miners and their families lay dead.
The miners across southern Colorado revolted and as guerrilla warfare erupted, dozens died in what was the largest civil insurrection in the United States since the Civil War. President Woodrow Wilson ordered in the US Army to restore an uneasy peace.
Easter Sunday 2014 is the centenary of the infamous Ludlow Massacre, whose very name and slogan “Remember Ludlow” still resonates across the history of labour and union struggles. The original Ludlow monument erected in 1916 which included a man, a woman and a child representing a mining family was badly damaged in 2003 by anti-union vandals, it has since been repaired. The site of the original Tent Colony is now a US National Historic Landmark.
“I thank God for the Mine Workers Union and then I hung my head and cried”
Woody Guthrie from his 1941 ballad, “Ludlow Massacre”.