Buried Unsung — Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre, Zeese Papanikolas’s meditation on the event 100 years ago, in 1914, that set off the Colorado Coalfields War. The book takes as its focus this Greek immigrant miner who lost his life and whose memory would be lost to us but for the efforts of historian Papanikolas. Notes historian James C. Foster in the American Historical Review, as Papanikolas “follows the peculiar Greek coffeehouse network across the West searching for a man identified by only a few lines and a fading photograph… (h)is search becomes as much a part of the story as Tikas himself… When the book ends on a lonely back road in Crete, one can only mutter “This is why I became a historian.”
A short video and a few poems will complement Papanikolas’s presentation. This is the first of two Laborfest events at Bird & Beckett, to be followed Monday evening, July 7 with a reading by Nellie Wong and Alice Rogoff. Visit the Laborfest site for the full schedule.
From Wallace Stegner’s forward to Buried Unsung:
Central to [this] story of Louis Tikas and his friends is the 1913 strike in the Colorado coal mines whose bloody climax has come to be known as the Ludlow Massacre. It was the event in which Louis Tikas died, and it was a watershed event. One of the bleakest and blackest episodes of American labor history, it killed many people, including many women and children burned to death in the firing of the strikers’ camp; and in annihilating the strikers it also all but killed the union in Colorado and set back the cause of unionism there for a generation. It may or may not have touched the conscience of John D. Rockefeller II, dominant director of Colorado Fuel and Iron – he seems to have been more misled and confused than personally guilty. But it did touch the conscience of the nation, and if it did not make raw corporate gun-law impossible, it gave it a bad name. At the very least, it made corporations more careful.
That was Louis Tikas’ contribution: his life, lost in the effort to find a degree of justice, a portion of security, a moiety of self-respect, for himself and the Greeks, Italians, Austrians, and South Slavs who were his companions in America. The story is a little Iliad from the losers’ side – a confrontation, a catalog of leaders and champions, shifting tactics, reinforcements, hopes lifted and hopes dashed, preparations, desperations, a siege, a battle, catastrophe, choral comment.