New 'Massacre' Book and PBS Film
Largely forgotten murder of ten labor activists by police in Chicago, 1937--and the film cover-up that followed.
“This nation owes so much to unions.” — Stephen Colbert, May 1, 2023
My latest PBS film and companion book, both titled Memorial Day Massacre: Workers Die, Film Buried, are now here. The acclaimed film premieres over KCET in L.A. on May 6, but will also emerge online and streaming that night for all to view for free at the station’s site and for several weeks over PBS.org and PBS apps (and later air at other public TV stations).
Companion book (my 13th) with same Memorial Day Massacre title just published as both an e-book and as a paperback at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s the first oral history and features everyone from wounded strikers to observers Studs Terkel, Gore Vidal, Howard Zinn, Dorothy Day, John Hope Franklin, even Ayn Rand, and more.
Then there’s this:
the site for the film with raves from various notables who have seen it, ranging from David Maraniss and Rick Perlstein to directors Rod Lurie, Oliver Stone and Sarah Kernochan and singer-songwriter Allison Russell.
2-minute trailer, narrated by actor and good guy Josh Charles. 30-second preview at PBS site where you can watch film Saturday night and then for weeks after. The film runs 27 minutes.
Amazing article this week (excerpted from my book) by chief advisor to the film, Carol Quirke—whose uncle was wounded by a police bullet in the Massacre. My own new article pulls it all together.
The book in a nutshell below.
It explores a largely forgotten episode in labor--and media--history, all the more vital today as union organizing catches fire after years of decline.
This is the first oral history devoted to the tragic and highly influential events in Chicago in 1937, when police opened fire on striking steel workers and their supporters in an open field, killing ten (nearly all shot in the back as they fled). Press accounts generally accepted false police accounts that the unionists attacked first and were "rioting." A cameraman for a leading newsreel, Paramount News, was at the scene, however, and captured the truth on film. But Paramount then suppressed its newsreel devoted to the incident.
When a famous reporter revealed the cover-up, a Congressional committee held hearings and screened the unprecedented footage for the first time, inspiring national outrage—with after-effects, both positive and negative, that endure to this day, as union activity surges, police violence draws new attention, and media “cover-ups” continue.
Featured in the very lively and often shocking oral history accounts are numerous eyewitnesses and injured activists, along with well-known writers Studs Terkel, Gore Vidal, Ayn Rand, Meyer Levin, Dorothy Day and Howard Fast, and historians Howard Zinn and John Hope Franklin.
Carol Quirke, a professor and author who grew up near the site of the massacre (and had an uncle wounded by a police bullet that day) provides a unique and compelling Foreword and Afterword that meld labor history and a close analysis of the once-buried Paramount News footage.
If anyone wishes to interview me about the film—which is produced, like my previous on PBS (on Upton Sinclair’s race for governor of California in 1934) by Lyn Goldfarb—let me know (email@example.com).
A few of the the early comments on film:
"So important. Another piece of forgotten history and lesson in the manipulation of truth." --David Maraniss, author of bestseller Path Lit by Lightning, biographies of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and other books
"Riveting, moving, infuriating and ultimately inspiring." -- Nina Bernstein, longtime investigative reporter, The New York Times
"Stunning." -- Rick Perlstein, bestselling author of Nixonland, Reaganland, and other books
"Excellent…this is Oscar-level stuff.” -- Rod Lurie, director of The Outpost, The Contender and other movies
"A fine piece of work on American history, film history. and human history. Powerful indeed, on a subject that's as timely as ever." -- David Sterritt, editor-in-chief, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, esteemed movie critic at The Christian Science Monitor for several decades.
"Excellent. You’re doing an outstanding job in reminding us of these incidents we forget."-- Oliver Stone
More later, but for now, here is a folk protest song about the tragedy by troubadour Joe Glazer.
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Congratulations on this accomplishment, and my love and respect for telling such an important story.