Double podcast episode about Ben Fletcher, a very important but little-known dock worker and labour organiser in the US with the Industrial Workers of the World union.
In these episodes, we speak with historian Peter Cole, author and editor of Ben Fletcher: The Life And Times Of A Black Wobbly. We also hear words written by Fletcher, voiced by fellow Wobbly, Alki. We learn about his life, as well as his union branch, Local 8, which in the early 20th-century organised thousands of workers on the Philadelphia docks and was the most powerful multiracial union in the country at the time.
Our podcast is brought to you by our patreon supporters. Our supporters fund our work, and in return get exclusive early access to podcast episodes, ad-free episodes, bonus episodes, free and discounted merchandise and other content. Join us or find out more at patreon.com/workingclasshistory
You can listen to our podcast on the below links, or on any major podcast app. Links to a few below.
- Part 1: Fletcher’s life, and Local 8 organising the docks. Available for early listening for our patreon supporters.
- Part 2: Fletcher’s imprisonment, later life, and the demise of Local 8. Available for early listening for our patreon supporters.
- Bonus episode: Fletcher’s views on the struggle against racism, his relationship with the Communist Party, and more on his personal life. Coming soon exclusively for our patreon supporters.
- Peter Cole, Ben Fletcher: The Life And Times Of A Black Wobbly (PM Press, 2020)
- Timeline of people’s history stories about Ben Fletcher
Sources used by WCH over the course of these episodes.
- “Debs and the poets,” New York Socialist, June 20, 1908, accessed March 22, 2023, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/59110/59110-h/59110-h.htm.
- Debs E. “A Glimpse into the Future.” Appeal to Reason 536 (March 10, 1906), 2, https://www.marxists.org/archive/debs/works/1906/060310-debs-glimpseintothefuture.pdf.
- Milestones: 1914–1920 – Office of the Historian. State.gov. Published 2023. Accessed March 23, 2023. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/wwi.
- Black. Black Boys Viewed as Older, Less Innocent Than Whites, Research Finds. https://www.apa.org. Published March 6, 2014. Accessed March 27, 2023. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/03/black-boys-older
- Tamir Rice. Say Their Names – Spotlight at Stanford. Published August 6, 2020. Accessed March 27, 2023. https://exhibits.stanford.edu/saytheirnames/feature/tamir-rice
- Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I A Woman? (U.S. National Park Service). Nps.gov. Published 2017. Accessed March 23, 2023. https://www.nps.gov/articles/sojourner-truth.htm.
- Sojourner H. The Sojourner Truth Project. The Sojourner Truth Project. Published 2014. Accessed March 23, 2023. https://www.thesojournertruthproject.com/the-readings.
- $30,000 in 1918 → 2023 | Inflation Calculator. In2013dollars.com. Published 2023. Accessed March 23, 2023. https://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/1918?amount=30000.
- Dec. 11, 1917: Black Soldiers Executed for Houston Riot – Zinn Education Project. Zinn Education Project. Published February 14, 2023. Accessed March 24, 2023. https://www.zinnedproject.org/news/tdih/black-soldiers-executed/.
- Mexican Workers in the IWW and the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM). Washington.edu. Published 2016. Accessed March 24, 2023. https://depts.washington.edu/iww/mexicaniwws.shtml.
- Kelly Lytle Hernández, Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands (WW Norton, 2022).
- Ben Fletcher, Local 8, and Me – Peter Cole. libcom.org. Published 2014. Accessed March 24, 2023. https://libcom.org/article/ben-fletcher-local-8-and-me-peter-cole.
- Tourek M. President Roosevelt Pardons WW I Espionage Act Victims. Today in Civil Liberties History. Published February 4, 2014. Accessed March 24, 2023. http://todayinclh.com/?event=president-roosevelt-grants-amnesty-to-last-of-ww-i-political-prisoners
- Fragments: a memoir – Sam Dolgoff. libcom.org. Published 2015. Accessed March 27, 2023. https://libcom.org/article/fragments-memoir-sam-dolgoff.
- Thanks to our patreon supporters for making this podcast possible. Special thanks to Jazz Hands and Jamison D. Saltsman.
- Words of Ben Fletcher voiced by Alki. Check out his YouTube channel here, or follow him on Twitter here.
- Episode graphic: Ben Fletcher in 1918, enhanced by WCH. Courtesy US National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons.
- Theme music: “Solidarity (Forever)”, written by Ralph Chaplin, performed by The Nightwatchman, Tom Morello. Buy or stream it here.
- Edited by Louise Barry
Listen and subscribe to WCH in the following ways: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Amazon Music | Anchor | Castbox | Google Podcasts | Overcast | Pocket Casts | Podbean | Radio Public | RSS | Stitcher | TuneIn