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A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
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Identity

Formerly enslaved man's response to his 'master' wanting him back is a literary masterpiece

"I would rather stay here and starve — and die, if it come to that — than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters."

slavery, historical letters, black Americans, history

A photo of Jordan Anderson.

In 1825, at the approximate age of 8, Jordan Anderson (sometimes spelled "Jordon") was sold into slavery and would live as a servant of the Anderson family for 39 years. In 1864, the Union Army camped out on the Anderson plantation and he and his wife, Amanda, were liberated. The couple eventually made it safely to Dayton, Ohio, where, in July 1865, Jordan received a letter from his former owner, Colonel P.H. Anderson. The letter kindly asked Jordan to return to work on the plantation because it had fallen into disarray during the war.

On Aug. 7, 1865, Jordan dictated his response through his new boss, Valentine Winters, and it was published in the Cincinnati Commercial. The letter, entitled "Letter from a Freedman to His Old Master," was not only hilarious, but it showed compassion, defiance, and dignity. That year, the letter would be republished in theNew York Daily Tribune and Lydia Marie Child's "The Freedman's Book."

The letter mentions a "Miss Mary" (Col. Anderson's Wife), "Martha" (Col. Anderson's daughter), Henry (most likely Col. Anderson's son), and George Carter (a local carpenter).

Dayton, Ohio,
August 7, 1865
To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee



Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jordon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy, — the folks call her Mrs. Anderson, — and the children — Milly, Jane, and Grundy — go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve — and die, if it come to that — than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,
Jordon Anderson

Learn more about Jordan Anderson here.


This article originally appeared on 11.03.17.


Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Health

Trying to guess which twin smokes is the perfect way to help you quit

Nobody would call smoking “glamorous” after seeing these comparisons.

Image via Wolters Kluwer Health.

Which twin smoked?


It's not revolutionary news that smoking wreaks havoc on your body in different ways. More often than not, however, the focus of anti-smoking campaigns is on your internal health, citing emphysema, heart disease, and lung cancer, to name just a few consequences.

While the superficial effects may not be as lethal, appealing to people's sense of vanity can have a powerful effect as this clever gallery below shows. Twins, only one of whom smokes, sit side by side, showing the profound damage smoking can cause to your face, hair, and teeth.

The twins' circumstances vary in each set of pictures, but the differences and effects are undeniable. In some instances, one of the twins never smoked. In others, the "smoking" twin had smoked for at least five years longer than the other "non-smoking" twin.

Though they're not common knowledge, the effects of smoking on your appearance are predictable and consistent. You can identify a smoker with ease if you know what you're looking for. Harmful smoke, dehydration, and even the heat from a burning cigarette can damage your complexion, hair, and eyes. The photos below helpfully point out the symptoms and effects on the smoking twin.


The photos here were taken from those of 79 pairs of identical twins at the Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. Though they weren't taken with this use in mind, that allows them to serve as an even more powerful testament to the effects as perceived by casual observers.

1. The eyes are a strong "tell" if someone's a smoker or not. In this photo, the smoker is the man on the right. He has smaller, more sunken eyes and carries more wrinkles throughout his face than his twin on the left. You'll also notice his hairline has receded further than his brother's. That's a little-known though hardly surprising effect of smoking habitually.

health, danger of smoking, studies on smoking, mental health

Can you tell the smoker?

Image via Wolters Kluwer Health.

2. Here, the difference is profound. Though they're the same age, they look almost like they represent different generations. The smoking twin on the right has done so for 16 years, and it's manifested in a number of ways. Most noticeable is the pervasive discoloration of her skin compared to her twin on the left. Less noticeable, but still apparent, is the damage done to her lips, eyes, and even her hair. It's difficult to believe they're even related, let alone twins.

aging, health benefits, clean living, cancer

Did I get this one wrong?

Image via Wolters Kluwer Health.

3. This comparison is less glaring but still apparent. The twin on the left is the smoker. You can see many more pronounced wrinkles on her forehead, under her eyes, and around her nose. There are also pronounced bags under her eyes.

skin aging, medicine, medical insurance, damaged hair

Some differences are more subtle than others.

Image via Wolters Kluwer Health.

4. In this comparison, the smoking twin only smokes about two cigarettes per day, so the difference will be less profound. The twin on the right is the smoker. The differences are on the subtle side, mostly the more damaged hair and the squintier eyes.

twins, research, studies

Smoking can cause a receding hair line.

Image via Wolters Kluwer Health.


5. Based on what you've read in the earlier side by side pics, you might be able to ID the right twin as the smoker due to the discolored and receding hair as well as the aged skin.

wrinkles, aging, smoking

Smoking appears to cause more gray.

Image via Wolters Kluwer Health.

6. These two twins are both elderly, so the differences are slightly less pronounced. Though the left twin has more graying hair, it's the right twin that's the smoker. She's got a droopier face, especially on the outside of the eyes. The wrinkles are also more pronounced in the brow and upper lip.

wrinkles, skin, health

The hallmarks of smoking apparent on the skin.

Image via Wolters Kluwer Health.

7. Though the two sisters here are also older, it's easier to distinguish the smoker. The left sister bears the hallmarks all over her skin. Her cheek, outer eye, and neck all look weathered from her habit. Not only is she more wrinkled, but the skin has begun to discolor from the fair tone her sister has.

discoloration of skin, dermatology, identifying factors

Wrinkles around the lips distinguish the smoker.

Image via Wolters Kluwer Health.

8. Here it's pretty difficult to tell. The woman on the left is the smoker. She sports slightly discolored lips that are upon inspection, more wrinkled than her sister's. Since the lips are the most proximate to the smoke, they are a pretty telling feature when it comes to identifying smokers.

The pics above show a lot of singular traits that can call out a smoker, but it can be a lot more simple than that. Speaking to the NY Daily News, dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi from George Washington Medical Center dispenses with the jargon, stating, "Smoking makes you look old. That's all there is to it."


This article originally appeared on 11.01.16

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

True

Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

A mother makes cookies with her 2 children.

One of the most important parental goals is raising a child who can achieve their dreams. But no matter how smart or talented someone may be, a big part of achieving our goals is knowing how to put them into action.

Far too many people have lofty dreams but fall short because they get discouraged or don’t know how to create a map to achieving them. As the famously prolific author Stephen King once said, "Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work."

So, how do parents prepare their children for success? According to research, it’s essential to paint a realistic picture and to prepare them for setbacks.

A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says, “Rather than acting as cheerleaders giving facile encouragement, leaders ... might serve (others) better by providing a more sobering description of the challenges."


If your child’s goal is to make $100 with a lemonade stand, you should cheer them on and be as supportive as possible. But you should also let them know there may be some pitfalls along the way. There may be days when business is slow because no one is driving up the block. Some people who stop by the stand may not buy anything because they don’t have cash. Others may visit the stand and say they will come back but never do.

lemonade stand, kids goals, achievement

Some kids selling lemonade.

via Canon_Shooter/Flickr

That way, when the child runs into difficulty, they don’t feel like giving up. Instead, they know that it is all part of the process of earning $100.

Simply put, when you think something will be easy and then discover it's not, it's normal to feel like giving up. But if you anticipate challenges from the start, it's much easier to find the determination to work through them.

The Boys and Girls Club of America has similar advice for parents. Children know that adults often set goals and achieve them. However, because they are removed from the process, they may not know that achieving those goals often involves setbacks and unforeseen challenges.

So, when you set a goal for yourself, bring your child along on the journey so they can experience it first-hand. It will give them more confidence to pursue their own goals.

“Be open with them throughout the process, share what steps you’re taking to achieve your goal and be candid about setbacks and changes,” the Boys and Girls Club writes on its blog. “These conversations can be casual, but they show how much work you’re putting in that your teen may not realize you’re doing, helping your teen understand how something is earned with time and effort.

Ultimately, one of the biggest parts of achieving goals is managing expectations. It’s much better to know that there will be hardship along the way than to be surprised by it.

The emotional ups and downs in achieving a goal are perfectly explained in a viral meme called “The Emotional Journey of Creating Anything Great.” It shows how all great ideas sound exciting at first but can begin to feel impossible when the hard work kicks in. But once we make it through the “Swamp of Dispair,” things magically get easier.

The key is knowing that there is a swamp and pushing through it.

Courtesy of Kisha Rose Woodhouse

Man surprises partner by performing haka alone at her graduation


Graduations can be emotional no matter if it's preschool, high school or college. Something about watching a loved one close one chapter to open a new one just does something to you. But sometimes people have a few more challenges getting across the stage that make it feel even sweeter.

One new mom, Kisha Rose Woodhouse, who goes by @kiisha.rose on TikTok, became pregnant and gave birth while finishing up her college degree. Clearly, determined to finish, Woodhouse walked across the stage at graduation with her baby on her hip. But that wasn't what got people all choked up while seeing her video, it was Woodhouse's partner who stood alone in the auditorium.

The man was visibly filled with pride from Woodhouse's accomplishments when he began doing the Tautoko, also known as the haka. Immediately the auditorium fell silent as the man's words and sharp movements filled the air. Seeing him perform such an emotional dance alone to honor his partner is enough to get just about anyone's eyes to water.


Woodhouse was visibly overcome with emotion when she heard her partner start the traditional Maori dance. While originally the haka was performed as a war dance, it has become a dance performed for major occasions, celebrations and funerals.

"Honestly that moment felt so surreal, it was completely unexpected and the way he expressed himself through his haka really summed up the respect and love we had for each other throughout all the challenges we faced to finally get me up on the stage and earn my diploma. And on that note, our son came with me as he deserved the diploma just as much as I did (he did attend every class while being in my tummy!)," Woodhouse tells Upworthy.

With everything the couple has been through up until that moment, it's no wonder they were both emotional. Their emotions and love can be felt through the video and it seems like just about everyone has something in their eye.

"I will never not cry when I see the haka. I think it's inside us as humans to know that outward display of passion, emotion and strength moves our souls. Imagine releasing that energy in celebration, in mourning or in the face of fear. You would never know what it meant to not face your emotions," one person writes.

"Performing haka alone, for her and their son, ALONE, in front of thousands. This is an existential form of love," another says.

@kiisha.rose One of the greatest moments 👩‍🎓 being able to walk across the stage with son and a surprise tautoko from my love ❤️ #maori #graduation ♬ original sound - kiisha.rose

"Whoa, that haka gave me goose bumps. You could hear a pin drop. Definitely felt the wairua [soul] in that one. Well done mama bear ka pai [good]. Good on you, someone writes, complete with heart emojis.

One commenter had a front row seat, "I was there graduating that day too and this made my eyes water! So beautiful."

It's nearly impossible to watch someone perform the haka without something getting into both of your eyes as you feel their passion move through you. If you've never seen the haka performed, you may want to grab a tissue because this is one of the most beautiful acts of love people get to witness.


This article originally appeared on 3.22.24

via Steve Hostetter

A comedian defends himself against a heckler police officer.

Some people just haven't gotten the memo: You really don't want to heckle comedian Steve Hofstetter. He's become one of my favorite stand-up acts both because he's just funny but also because of his brilliant ways of shutting down hecklers and other rude patrons who show up for his live act.

In this case, Hofstetter was in the middle of a bit where he quipped, "I don't like people." It was part of a larger joke recalling how he'd had a bad interaction with a police officer but that he was "still alive" because he was a white male.


Hofstetter was talking about how most cops like the joke but others get offended. His point was that if you get offended by a joke about cops killing innocent people, you're probably not a good cop. Just as he was finishing up the joke, a person in the front of the audience got up. When Hofstetter politely asked the guy to stop talking so loudly, the man said, "I'm going."

He then followed up, telling Hofstetter, "You disrespected me, so I'll disrespect you."

The man then went on a tirade, stealing a drink from another customer and getting into an argument with the club's bouncers. He also got into a shouting match with another patron before finally stepping outside.

Hofstetter tried to lighten the mood, joking, "I think he's mad that the Meghan Trainor concert was canceled last night. Maybe he's all about the bass, I don't know."

He then disclosed to the audience that the heckler had actually approached him before the show, asking Hofstetter to roast some of the friends the man had shown up with, which he refused to do.

That's when one of the heckler's companions told the comedian that the heckler was actually himself a cop. And that the man the heckler was shouting down was actually another cop who was embarrassed by his bad behavior.

"I know to drive slowly when I leave," Hofstetter joked.

But just to make it clear that he wasn't out to give all cops a hard time, the comedian noted that he actually thinks most cops are good people; he just wants them to speak up more when a bad cop does something wrong, comparing it to how comedians call out each other all the time when one of them crosses the line. And that's something we should all be able to get behind without the need for a hilarious punchline.


This article originally appeared on 12.12.16

Strikers, Ludlow Tent Colony, 1914.


The early 1900s were a time of great social upheaval in our country. During the years leading up to the Ludlow Massacre, miners all around the country looking to make a better life for themselves and their families set up picket lines, organized massive parades and rallies, and even took up arms. Some died.

It's always worth considering why history like this was never taught in school before. Could it be that the powers that be would rather keep this kind of thing under wraps?


Here is Woody Guthrie's tribute to the good people who fought in the battles of Ludlow to help make a better tomorrow for everyone — you can just start the video and then start reading, if you wish:

Coal Country, Colorado

100 years ago, the Rocky Mountains were the source of a vast supply of coal. At its peak, it employed 16,000 people and accounted for 10% of all employed workers in the state of Colorado. It was dangerous work; in just 1913 alone, the mines claimed the lives of over 100 people. There were laws in place that were supposed to protect workers, but largely, management ignored those, which led to Colorado having double the on-the-job fatality rate of any other mining state.

It was a time of company towns, when all real estate, housing, doctors, and grocery stores were owned by the coal companies themselves, which led to the suppression of dissent as well as overinflated prices and an extreme dependence on the coal companies for everything that made life livable. In some of these, workers couldn't even leave town, and armed guards made sure they didn't. Also, if any miner or his family began to air grievances, they might find themselves evicted and run out of town.

strike, economy, money works, Union parade

Strikers, Ludlow Tent Colony, 1914.

Union Parade, Trinidad, Colorado, 1913. Images via Colorado Coal Field War Project/University of Denver Library.

The Union

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had been organizing for many years in the area, and this particular company, Colorado Fuel and Iron, was one of the biggest in the West — and was owned by the Rockefeller family, notoriously anti-union.

Put all this together, and it was a powder keg.

The Ludlow colony, 1914 massacre, Colorado Coal Field War

The Ludlow Colony before the massacre, 1914.

Photo from Youtube video.

tent colony, mining, miners

Strikers, Ludlow Tent Colony, 1914.

Photo from Youtube video.

families, National Guard, unions

Strikers, Ludlow Tent Colony, 1914.

Photo from Youtube video.

Strike!

When a strike was called in 1913, the coal company evicted all the miners from their company homes, and they moved to tent villages on leased land set up by the UMWA. Company-hired guards (aka “goons") and members of the Colorado National Guard would drive by the tent villages and randomly shoot into the tents, leading the strikers to dig holes under their tents and the wooden beams that supported them.

Why did the union call for a strike? The workers wanted:

  1. (equivalent to a 10% wage increase),
  2. Enforcement of the eight-hour work day,
  3. Payment for "dead work" that usually wasn't compensated, such as laying coal car tracks,
  4. The job known as “Weight-checkmen" to be elected by workers. This was to keep company weightmen honest so the workers got paid for their true work,
  5. The right to use any store rather than just the company store, and choose their own houses and doctors,
  6. Strict enforcement of Colorado's laws, especially mine safety laws.
calvary, Trinidad, striking women

Cavalry charge on striker women in nearby Trinidad.

Photo from Youtube video.

UMWA, Rocky Mountains, President Woodrow Wilson

Militia and private detectives or mine guards, Ludlow.

Photo from Youtube video.

The Powder Keg Explodes

The attacks from the goons continued, as did the battles between scabs (strikebreakers) and the miners. It culminated in an attack on April 20, 1914, by company goons and Colorado National Guard soldiers who kidnapped and later killed the main camp leader and some of his fellow miners, and then set the tents in the main camp ablaze with kerosene. As they were engulfed, people inside the tents tried to flee the inferno; many were shot down as they tried to escape. Some also died in the dugouts below the burning tents. In the first photograph below, two women and 11 children died in the fire directly above them. A day that started off with Orthodox Easter celebrations for the families became known as the Ludlow Massacre.

Woody Guthrie, child labor laws, worker rights

The "Death Pit."

Photo from Youtube video.

colony, coal country, University of Denver

Rear view of ruins of tent colony.

Photo from Youtube video.

funeral procession, Louis Tikas, Greek strikers

Funeral procession for Louis Tikas, leader of Greek strikers.

Photo from Youtube video.

The 10-Day War

The miners, fresh off the murders of their friends and family members, tried to get President Woodrow Wilson to put a stop to the madness, but he deferred to the governor, who was pretty much in the pocket of the mine companies.

So the miners and those at other tent colonies quickly armed themselves, knowing that many other confrontations were coming. And they went to the mines that were being operated by scabs and forced many of them to close, sometimes setting fire to the buildings. After 10 days of pitched battle and at least 50 dead, the president finally sent in the National Guard, which promptly disarmed both sides.

Union Victory

While close to 200 people died over the course of about 18 months before and after the battles at Ludlow and the union ultimately lost the election, the Ludlow Massacre brought a congressional investigation that led to the beginnings of child-labor laws and an eight-hour workday, among other things.

But it also brought national attention to the plight of these miners and their families, and it showed the resilience and strength that union people could display when they remained united, even in the face of extreme corporate and government violence. Historian Howard Zinn called it "the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history." And the primary mine owner, John D. Rockefeller Jr., received a lot of negative attention and blame for what happened here.

monuments, April 20, 1914, coal miners, revolution

The UMWA is still a solid union today, and there is a monument in Colorado to those who died in the Ludlow Massacre.

Image by Mark Walker/Wikimedia Commons.

This article was written by Brandon Weber and originally appeared on 08.14.14