A Great Double Feature

Back in 2014 I wrote about a film called Palikari — Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre. Directed by Nikos Ventouras and produced by Lamprini Thoma, the film tells the story of Greek and other immigrant miners during the Colorado Coal Strike of 1913-1914.

The other day, our friend Michael Kleff sent word that Palikari screened last month in Trinidad, Colorado, at an event commemorating the life and work of Louis Tikas. A statue of the Ludlow Tent Colony leader was unveiled.

This was a local event, but it occurs to me that Palikari and 1913 Massacre would make a great double feature anywhere, especially now, at a moment when there are powerful forces trying to demonize immigrants (we all know who’s leading that charge), undo the accomplishments of the labor movement (witness the recent Janus decision), and generally distort and whitewash American history.

Remember, also, that Woody Guthrie wrote and played “1913 Massacre” and “Ludlow Massacre” together, as “a group of two” songs. He read about both tragic incidents in the same chapter of the same book: Ella Reeve Bloor’s We are Many.

The chapter from which Woody wrote these songs, sometimes lifting whole phrases, is called “Massacre of the Innocents.” 11 children died at Ludlow; 59 in Calumet. In both places, immigrant children — innocents — found themselves on the frontlines of a violent struggle not just for better working conditions, but for basic human rights, and for an idea of what the country could be that we now abandon at our peril.

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