Music, Radio and the Southern Union Movement Seventy years ago, mill workers went on strike in the South and some northern U.S. states. They kept solidarity through folk music and the power of radio. The strike would change unions, music and media forever. NPR's Tony Cox reports.
NPR logo

Music, Radio and the Southern Union Movement

Only Available in Archive Formats.
Music, Radio and the Southern Union Movement

Music, Radio and the Southern Union Movement

Music, Radio and the Southern Union Movement

Only Available in Archive Formats.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is entertained by a group of musicians on Virginia's White Top Mountain in 1933. Bettmann/Corbis hide caption

toggle caption
Bettmann/Corbis

Franklin D. Roosevelt prepares to give the first of his famed "fireside chats" on March 12, 1933. Bettmann/Corbis hide caption

toggle caption
Bettmann/Corbis

In 1934, a remarkable set of circumstances changed the nature of labor-management relations in the U.S. South and the rest of America forever.

That year, nearly 500,000 textile workers across the South and in parts of the North went on strike. It was the largest worker revolt in U.S. history at that time.

Music and radio — the emerging technology of the time — played an important role in bringing those huge numbers of people together for their common cause. Folk songs and the famous "fireside chats" of President Franklin D. Roosevelt were key to mobilizing workers.

Vincent Roscigno, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University, and William Danaher, associate professor at the College of Charleston, chronicle the role radio and music played in the textile strike in their new book The Voice of Southern Labor: Radio, Music and Textile Strikes, 1929-1934.

The book tracks the rise in popularity of radio, and also the enduring bond between music and union movements in the United States. The authors also talk with NPR's Tony Cox about the role race played in midst of a huge strike across the segregated Jim Crow South.