Item no. 28060
Occupation: Manufacturing: garment
Collection: Wagner Labor Archives

Labor Songs is a 1939 compilation of union and folk songs edited by Zilphia Horton for the recently established United Textile Workers of America, a CIO union. Horton was a mine owner’s daughter from a coal-mining town in Arkansas, and became musical director of the Highlander Folk School in Appalachia. She helped pioneer the application of folk music to labor organizing at Highlander, and reworked hymns like “We Will Overcome” and “We Shall Not Be Moved” into anthems for the Civil Rights movement. 

The vibrant cartoonish cover shows a coed chorus of workers led in song in front of a factory by a woman (perhaps Horton herself). The workers appear almost as big as the factory itself.  Note how the colored musical notes ascend upward, in competition and in concert with the industrial smoke, joining work and song.

This image accompanies the audio recording of "Join the Union," one of twenty songs you can listen to in the exhibit Labor Sings! Songs from the 1930s and 1940s, featuring highlights from the extraordinary compact disc collection by Ron Cohen and Dave Samualson, Songs for Political Action.

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View other items in the thematic set 1930s