Public protests about perceived loss of freedoms and equal rights is nothing new.
In the century that came after the Civil War, Illinois businesses made great gains, and the state emerged as a central player in the nation’s economy.
However, those gains were not spread equally across the population. Many workers believed that their wages, hours and working conditions were unfair and repeatedly protested to improve their situation.
Political action, unionization, public education, strikes and rallies were their tools, but nowhere was their voice more clear and artistic than in song and poetry. Illinois became the center of American working-class protest music, as coal miners, laborers, printers, iron workers, clothing workers and their allies penned songs and poems for various causes.
Join musician, author and cultural historian Bucky Halker at 3 p.m. March 6 at the McHenry County Historical Society for “Ain’t Got a Dollar: Illinois Workers and Protest Songs, 1865-1965.”
Bucky Halker, well-known for his music-history programs on Woody Guthrie and the Great Depression, will use a blend of performance, audience participation, commentary and discussion as he reviews a century of songs from Illinois workers.
Halker has a doctorate in U.S. labor history from the University of Minnesota, is a published author and has released several CDs.