“Stayed on freedom,” sung by slaves emancipating themselves during the U.S. Civil War and again in churches and during the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, reminds us that the struggle for African American freedom has been long and hard. “Solidarity Forever,” composed in 1915 by Industrial Workers of the World activist Ralph Chaplin during World War I, picks up another thread of American history: the struggle for worker rights. Chaplin’s song tells us of the exploitation of labor for the benefit of the wealthy, and that through organizing, workers can make their demands: “the union makes us strong.” These two songs are not usually sung together, but I like to sing them that way because they link the ongoing struggle in American history for freedom and for economic justice.1 As we rethink the historical legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., who died in Memphis, Tennessee, from an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968, over fifty years ago, these two struggles remain interconnected.
Nanzan Review of American Studies
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Honey, Michael K., "Revisiting Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign and Unfinished Agenda" (2018). SIAS Faculty Publications. 1049.