No sooner had the gun barrels cooled from the Civil War than the nation’s burgeoning industrial workforce began to seek redress for a growing list of economic and political grievances. Illinois played a central role in that development as its coal mines, railroads, and iron mills paced the nation’s economy in the post-bellum years and throughout the Gilded Age. Workers from throughout the state marched to the forefront in the reborn labor movement for economic reform and justice in America. As they did so, labor poetry and song poured from their ranks. Thousands of songs emanated from coal miners, textile operatives, iron molders, carpenters, bricklayers, and printers, calling for better wages, labor reform, shorter hours, improved work conditions, and greater democracy in the workplace, while celebrating the contributions of workers and labor to the state and nation. That labor’s anthem, “Solidarity Forever,” was composed in Illinois should hardly be a surprise. Until the deindustrialization of the 1970s, the state’s workers continued to sing for social change.
Musician-historian Bucky Halker offers a musical presentation that features labor songs and poems from the end of the Civil War to 1970 and includes commentary on the history of industry and labor with each song.
Bucky Halker is director of Company of Folk, which documents, conserves, and presents folk culture of the Midwest. An accomplished guitarist, singer, and songwriter, he has produced many recordings of his own music, as well as a five-volume series entitled Folksongs of Illinois, which surveys musical traditions found throughout the state. He is also a labor historian and the author of For Democracy, Workers, & God: Labor Song-Poems and Labor Protest (University of Illinois Press, 1991). As a program officer with Illinois Humanities in the 1990s, he was involved in founding the Road Scholars Speakers Bureau.
Bucky will be appearing May 9, 2018, 7:00 PM at the Douglas County Museum, 700 S. Main Street, Tuscola, IL, and bringing his brand of Illinois Folksongs and commentary for your listening pleasure. This program is part of the Illinois Bicentennial celebration. So, grab your hat, black those boots and come on out for some great folk tunes.
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