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The Death of Harry Simms

Aunt Molly Jackson
Language: English


Related Songs

Dreadful Memories
(Aunt Molly Jackson)
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(Sarah Ogan Gunning)
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(Jim Garland)


[1932]
Album “The Songs and Stories of Aunt Molly Jackson”, Folkways Records, 1961.
Lyrics and music by Aunt Molly Jackson and his brother Jim Garland.
Songs sung by John Greenway




Harry Simms, nato Hersh, era un giovane ebreo appartenente alla Young Communist League, attivista sindacale e buon amico del fratello di Aunt Molly Jackson, Jim Garland, anch’egli impegnato nel sindacato dei minatori del Kentucky.
Aveva solo 19 anni, Harry Simms, quando la United Mine Workers lo inviò nelle contee di Bell ed Harlan (chiamata ormai “Bloody Harlan”) dove più cruento era il confronto tra i minatori, in lotta per il miglioramento delle condizioni di lavoro, e le compagnie, che usavano polizia, squadracce e crumiri per intimidire i minatori e piegarne la determinazione. Al suo arrivo il giovane sindacalista fu ospitato proprio a casa di Jim Garland… L’11 febbraio 1932, di buon mattino, Harry si avviò verso la miniera, pur sapendo che la compagnia aveva messo sulla su testa una taglia di 100 dollari. E fu un uomo dello sceriffo di Knox County a sparagli nello stomaco. A Simms, gravemente ferito, non fu prestato soccorso e fu lasciato morire dissanguato proprio davanti all’ospedale, dove non vollero ricoverarlo perché non c’era garanzia che qualcuno pagasse il conto dell’assistenza…
L’assassino, ben noto ai lavoratori, scappò e se stette nascosto per diverso tempo ma, appena mise il naso fuori, fu immediatamente freddato a colpi di pistola e quindi decapitato…

"My brother Jim was the district organizer in 19 and 31 when Harry Simms was sent to Bell County to help him with the miners’ union. Harry Simms was staying at Jirn's house, and when he left the house at 5:00 the morning he was killed, he told Jim, 'It's my job to lead the miners to Pineyille, and gun thugs or no gun thugs, I'm going. If they pop me off, don't waste time grieving after me, keep right on going. We'll win.’ You see, Jim told him that the Brush Creek coal operators had offered any gun thug one thousand dollars to kill Jim or Harry Simms. So he met this gun thug on the railroad track, and the thug shot him in the stomach. They took him and another union man who was with him to town, and put the other fellow into jail. They left Harry Simms sitting on a rock in front of the town hospital with a bullet in his stomach. He sat there on the rock an hour or more with his hands on his stomach, bleeding to death. He was sitting there because the hospital wouldn‘t take him in till somebody guaranteed to pay his bill. After awhile a man said he would pay the bill, so they took Harry in, but it was too late."

"The gun thug got away and hid in the caves for six months, and one night he started to cross the road and someone shot him six times with a Colt 45 pistol all around his heart, then whoever it was shot him, cut off his head and throwed it on the other side of the road."
(Dal libretto che accompagna il disco)


A proposito dell’ “Harlan County War” del 1931/32 si veda anche Which Side Are You On?.
Come and listen to my story,
Come and listen to my song;
I'll tell you of a hero
That now is dead and gone;
I'll tell you of a young boy.
His age it was nineteen;
He was the bravest union man
That ever I have seen.

Harry Simms was a pal of mine,
We labored side by side,
Expecting to be shot on sight
Or taken for a ride
By some life-stealing gun thug
That roams from town to town
To shoot and kill our union men
Where e'er they may be found.

Harry Simms and I was parted
At five o’clock that day.
"Be careful, my dear brother."
To Harry I did say.
"Now I must do my duty,"
Was his reply to me;
"lf I get killed by gun thugs
Don't grieve after me."

Harry Simms was walking up the track
That bright sunshiny day;
He was a youth of courage,
His steps was light and gay;
He did not know the gun thugs
Was hiding on the way
To kill our brave young hero
That bright sunshiny day.

Harry Simms was killed on Brush Creek
In nineteen thirty-two;
He organized the miners
Into the N. M. U.;
He gave his life in struggle,
'Twas all that he could do;
He died for the union,
He died for me and you.

The thugs can kill our leaders
And cause us to shed tears,
But they cannot kill our spirit
If they try a million years;
We have learned our lesson
Now we all realize
A union struggle must go on
Till we are organized.

Contributed by Alessandro - 2010/3/15 - 12:57



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