This lesson, designed by Shawneen Morrison, centers on the events surrounding the tragic deaths of 11 children caught in the storm of a deadly battle between industrialist John D. Rockefeller and coal miners organized under the United Mine Workers of America. When the gold rush struck in Colorado, many thousands of immigrants came to the state so quickly that there was no time to develop law enforcement institutions. So, the “take matters into your own hands” system of vigilante justice became a central part of Colorado social and political culture. When mining technology advanced to the point of large industrial mines, wealthy industrialist mine owners’ associations co-opted that system and hired whole armies of mine police to control the state. Given the abuses of the industrialists and their hired thugs, labor unions in Colorado were often shockingly militant and radical. The dramatic (if tragic) conflicts arising from extremism on both sides captivated the nation, especially as innocents died in the Ludlow Massacre and President Wilson had to send in the U.S. Army to recapture southern Colorado from the miner rebels who took control of mining towns for revenge. As a result, the Colorado Labor Wars played a critical role in the history of organized labor, the political advancement of labor laws and other Progressive Era reforms, and the development of modern corporate structures like public relations departments which originated with Rockefeller’s attempt to improve the national image of his company (Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, CF&I) after perpetrating the Ludlow Massacre.
Included in this Lesson:
⇒Complete Lesson Instructions
⇒Complete Instructor Background Notes
⇒Link to an Excellent 30 Minute Documentary on the Massacre
⇒10 Primary Source Documents Demonstrating the Deplorable
Conditions, Violent Policing, and Child Labor in the Coal Mines.
⇒Common Core Alignment
⇒Student Question Sheet/Discussion Guide
⇒Complete Answer Key
For another engaging lesson from this era, consider my Women’s Suffrage Simulation to help students understand the forces and ideologies that colluded to work against populist rights.
WOMEN'S SUFFRAGE SIMULATION
For a lesson focused on the issue of racism and hostility against immigrant populations in the U.S. (both themes are strong in the story of the Ludlow Massacre), consider previewing:
CULTURE, DIVERSITY, EQUALITY, PREJUDICE, AND TOLERANCE
CULTURE, DIVERSITY, PREJUDICE, AND TOLERANCE ESSAY ASSIGNMENT
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