Woody Guthrie Centennial July 10, 2012

Born on July 14, 1912, activist folksinger Woody Guthrie’s centennial is in full swing across the country.

His family, historians, and fellow musicians have scheduled major public events and developed a website to make sure that his life and work are honored and can continue to inspire another generation.

Not to be missed is the two part Democracy Now! commemoration (July 4 and July 12). DN! noted, “Guthrie wrote hundreds of folk songs and became a major influence on countless musicians, including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, and Phil Ochs. While Guthrie is best remembered as a musician, he also had a deeply political side, speaking out for labor and civil rights at the height of McCarthyism.”

The July 12 Democracy Now! program featured Guthrie’s daughter, Nora Guthrie, author of the book My Name Is New York: Ramblin’ Around Woody Guthrie’s Town; his granddaughter Anna Canoni; and musician Steve Earle. They shared stories from Guthrie’s family life and his time in New York City, where he lived from 1940 until his death in 1967 after a long battle with Huntington’s disease.
Guthrie’s songs not only inspire but they also share lessons about history.For example, historian Howard Zinn credited Woody Guthrie for introducing him to a vital event in labor history through his song the “Ludlow Massacre.” As Zinn explained in this clip from You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, the Ludlow Massacre was a story “which nobody had ever mentioned in any of my history courses, which no textbook of mine had ever mentioned.”

Woody Guthrie by Robert Shetterly/Americans Who Tell the Truth.

The official Woody Guthrie website offers a treasure trove of lyrics, primary documents, and news that can be used in the classroom. They also provide a comprehensive list of the events planned across the country for the centennial.

You can find other resources about Woody Guthrie on the Zinn Education Project website here.

Given Woody Guthrie’s dedication to the rights of workers, it is fitting that 2012 is also the 100th anniversary of the historic Bread and Roses Strike.

Send us an email to let us know how you teach about Woody Guthrie’s life and songs in your classroom.



Ludlow Massacre
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

It was early springtime when the strike was on,
They drove us miners out of doors,
Out from the houses that the Company owned,
We moved into tents up at old Ludlow.

I was worried bad about my children,
Soldiers guarding the railroad bridge,
Every once in a while a bullet would fly,
Kick up gravel under my feet.

We were so afraid you would kill our children,
We dug us a cave that was seven foot deep,
Carried our young ones and pregnant women
Down inside the cave to sleep.

That very night your soldiers waited,
Until all us miners were asleep,
You snuck around our little tent town,
Soaked our tents with your kerosene.

You struck a match and in the blaze that started,
You pulled the triggers of your gatling guns,
I made a run for the children but the fire wall stopped me.
Thirteen children died from your guns.

I carried my blanket to a wire fence corner,
Watched the fire till the blaze died down,
I helped some people drag their belongings,
While your bullets killed us all around.

I never will forget the look on the faces
Of the men and women that awful day,
When we stood around to preach their funerals,
And lay the corpses of the dead away.

We told the Colorado Governor to call the President,
Tell him to call off his National Guard,
But the National Guard belonged to the Governor,
So he didn’t try so very hard.

Our women from Trinidad they hauled some potatoes,
Up to Walsenburg in a little cart,
They sold their potatoes and brought some guns back,
And they put a gun in every hand.

The state soldiers jumped us in a wire fence corners,
They did not know we had these guns,
And the Red-neck Miners mowed down these troopers,
You should have seen those poor boys run.

We took some cement and walled that cave up,
Where you killed these thirteen children inside,
I said, “God bless the Mine Workers’ Union,”
And then I hung my head and cried.


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