Little Red Songbooks: Songs for the Labor Force of America
AbstractSince the early part of the twentieth century, there have been selected colleges in the United States dedicated to the training of future leaders for labor unions. Four of the most prominent are Work Peoples' College, Duluth, Minnesota; Brookwood College, Katonah, New York; Commonwealth College, Mena, Arkansas; and Highlander College, Monteagle, Tennessee. Education at these colleges, including music education, ran counter to the educational establishment of their time. Issues of labor versus management, traditional versus nontraditional education, and structured (formal) curricula versus practical (informal) curricula are all in evidence. All four institutions had songbooks. An examination of archival copies of these songbooks, within the context of the curricula of the schools and the labor movement in the United States, shows that nearly all the songs were parodies set to the folk and popular tunes of the day. These songs provided a means through which to teach union solidarity and labor concepts. Music education at these colleges was generally done on an informal basis. Students developed their skills as lyricists, song leaders, and performers through sing-alongs and the use of music in drama. Nontraditional though this was, the practical music training the students experienced in these labor colleges produced powerful results in their unions.