Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits — Music for Labor Day Weekend

Today we are play­ing music for Labor Day Week­end  in the Unit­ed States, and it’s inter­est­ing to look at the ori­gins of this hol­i­day: much of the rest of the world recog­nis­es May Day (May 1st) instead as the day to cel­e­brate labour.

Accord­ing to Wikipedia, “The first Labor Day in the Unit­ed States was cel­e­brat­ed on Sep­tem­ber 5, 1882 in New York City. It became a fed­er­al hol­i­day in 1894, when, fol­low­ing the deaths of a num­ber of work­ers at the hands of the U.S. mil­i­tary and U.S. Mar­shals dur­ing the Pull­man Strike, Pres­i­dent Grover Cleve­land put rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with the labour move­ment as a top polit­i­cal pri­or­i­ty. The Sep­tem­ber date was cho­sen as Cleve­land was con­cerned that align­ing an Amer­i­can labour hol­i­day with exist­ing inter­na­tion­al May Day cel­e­bra­tions would stir up neg­a­tive emo­tions linked to the Hay­mar­ket mas­sacre. All 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state hol­i­day.

The form for the cel­e­bra­tion of Labor Day was out­lined in the first pro­pos­al of the hol­i­day: A street parade to exhib­it to the pub­lic ‘the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor orga­ni­za­tions,’ fol­lowed by a fes­ti­val for the work­ers and their fam­i­lies. This became the pat­tern for Labor Day cel­e­bra­tions. Speech­es by promi­nent men and women were intro­duced lat­er, as more empha­sis was placed upon the eco­nom­ic and civ­il sig­nif­i­cance of the hol­i­day.”

Today we’ll be play­ing a col­lec­tion of work­ers’ songs going back a hun­dred years, pri­mar­i­ly sourced from Britain and the Unit­ed States, includ­ing a sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion of archive record­ings, such as The Land Song, a Geor­gist and lat­er Lib­er­al Par­ty song from the 19th cen­tu­ry, and record­ings issued by Lans­bury’s Labour Week­ly in 1927 (British Labour Par­ty MP George Lans­bury is seen here, address­ing a meet­ing). In addi­tion you’ll hear a num­ber of protest songs includ­ing some unique mate­r­i­al from the Wom­en’s Suf­frage move­ment in the US.


Today’s pro­gramme is pre­sent­ed by Elrik Mer­lin. If you are in the Unit­ed States or Cana­da, please click here to launch the Stream Licens­ing play­er. To lis­ten from out­side North Amer­i­ca, click here to start your play­er .

This pro­gramme is also avail­able in enhanced-qual­i­ty AAC. Tune in here: http://64.237.34.50:9000/stream.m3u

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