Frank Little, IWW organiser, lynched, 1917

Submitted by dalcassian on 29 March, 2014 - 6:13

Frank Little was an American trade unionist who, at the time of his death, sat on the General Executive Board of the Industrial Workers of the World.

He was lynched in 1917 by six masked vigilantes; his “crime” was organising workers and denouncing the government in his speeches, calling US troops “Uncle Sam’s scabs in uniform”.

Little was born in 1879 and, before joining the IWW in 1906, organised the Western Federation of Miners. He became heavily involved in campaigning for free speech rights in several places, most notably in Missoula where Little was arrested for making a speech on a soapbox.

In solidarity, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, another IWW organiser, called for assistance. So many IWW members were voluntarily arrested that the jail became full, and officials had no choice but to drop all charges and the fight for free speech was won.

Little was known for organising miners, unskilled fruit workers, oil field workers and at one point was imprisoned for 30 days simply for reading the Declaration of Independence. In 1913, he was kidnapped and held at gunpoint during a strike against unsafe conditions on the Great Northern Railway.

In August 1917, Little travelled to Montana to organise a miners’ strike, where he was kidnapped from his hotel room, beaten, and then lynched from a railway trestle, with a note pinned to his chest containing the initials of other union leaders and the words “Others take notice. First and last warning.”.

Frank Little dedicated his entire life to organising workers and never once compromised his revolutionary principles.

Frank Little IWW

We'll remember you, Frank Little!
They couldn't still your voice,
So they strangled it;
They couldn't chill your heart,
So they stopped it;
They couldn't dam your life blood,
So they spilled it.

We'll remember you, Frank Little!
They didn't come in the broad of day
And warn you that in a world
Being made safe for democracy
There was no safety for you.
In the dead of night they came
And pounced on you,
Dragged you out as if you were an animal
Without daring to let you put your clothes on
Or bind up your broken leg.
They spared you no indignity,
They withheld from you no shame;
Afterward, no doubt, they washed their hands
With the air of men who've done their bit
In the cause of freedom.

We'll remember you, Frank Little!
The papers said: "So far as known.
He made no outcry."
No. not you! Half Indian, half white man,
All I. W. W.
You'd have died ten thousand deaths
Before you'd have cried aloud
Or whimpered once to let them
Enjoy your pain.

We'll remember you, Frank Little!
Long after the workers have made the world
Safe for Labor,
We'll repeat your name
And remember that you died for us.
The red flag that you dropped
A million hands will carry on;
The cause that you loved
A million tongues will voice.
Good bye, Frank Little!
Indian, white man. Wobbly true.
Valiant soldier of the great Red army,
We'll remember you!

Frank Little was lynched at Butte, Montana, on August 1st, 1917

From The International Socialist Review, Sept 1917

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