April 18 IWW’s Little Red Songbook

April 18, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1908.

That was the day the song “We Have Fed You All A Thousand Years,” first appeared.

Originally titled “The Cry of Toil,” it was printed in the Industrial Workers of the World publication, the Industrial Union Bulletin.

It was initially attributed to British colonialist writer, Rudyard Kipling.

The song is now understood as an anonymous reworking of Kipling’s 1893 poem, “The Song of the Dead.”

The song was wildly popular and reprinted in many union journals.

‘We Have Fed You All’ was an early example of how the IWW used music and songs in its work. IWW songs projected labor history, struggles and politics.

From union organizing, to strike activity to defense cases, Wobblies sought to create a working class culture and community.

The IWW is well known for its ‘Little Red Song Book,’ which contains some of the most popular anthems of the labor movement.

The first verse of ‘We Have Fed You All a Thousand Years’ reads:

We have fed you all for a thousand years, 
And you hail us still unfed, 
Though there's never a dollar of all your wealth. 
But marks the workers' dead. 
We have yielded our best to give you rest 
And you lie on crimson wool. 
And if blood be the price of all your wealth, 
Good God! We have paid in full! 

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