This week in November marks 100 years since the execution of labor organizer, Joe Hill in 1915. Convicted of an unsolved murder, for which it has been widely acknowledged he was framed, he was executed by firing squad in the State of Utah. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the execution of Joe Hill, Philip S. Foner published a book, ‘The Case of Joe Hill’, about the trial and subsequent events, which concludes that the case was a miscarriage of justice.
Joel Emmanuel Hägglund was born 1879 in Gävle, a city in the province of Gästrikland, Sweden. He was the third child in a family of nine.
In 1902, he emigrated to the United States. Hill became a migrant laborer, moving from New York City to Cleveland, Ohio, and eventually to the west coast.
He joined the radical labor organization, ‘Industrial Workers of the World’ (IWW) and soon gained notoriety for his songs, satirical poems, and speeches which he wrote under the pseudonym, ‘Joe Hill’. Many of the folk songs remain in regular use today by labor activists. The song, ‘The Preacher and the Slave’ contained the now famous phrase, “there will be pie in the sky when you die, that’s a lie!”
The Hägglund family home still stands in Gävle, Sweden. It houses a museum and the Joe Hill-gården, cultural events are hosted there.
After his death, Hill was memorialized in many songs and poems. Bruch Springsteen performs one such song in the clip below…..