Produced by Ken Verdoia and Nancy Green
Western America, Twentieth Century
A Swedish immigrant to the United States, Joe Hill would eventually become a powerful voice in the labor movements of the early twentieth century, an era of social, economic, and political uncertainty in the United States and the world. An important organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Hill was perhaps best known for his many union protest songs. Drawing on a lifelong love of music and self-taught abilities on the piano, guitar, and violin, Hill composed a stream of songs aimed at firing up the poorest workers in America.
Though much of the modern interest in Hill now centers on his 1915 execution by the State of Utah following a controversial murder trial, this film instead focuses on Hills life and work in the context of a nation wrestling with issues of justice and fairness, in labor and in society at large. The unification and community action that Hill inspired continue to rouse people today, as they remember the message of his final telegram before his execution: "Don't waste time mourning. Organize!"
Distributed for KUED, public broadcaster of the University of Utah