a biographical novel by Eugene Nelson

"Break Their Haughty Power: Joe Murphy in the Heyday of the Wobblies," by Eugene Nelson. Original oil painting by Liz Penniman.

Joe Murphy, chased out of his Missouri hometown by anti-Catholic bigots, hopped aboard a freight train and headed west for the wheat harvest. Within weeks, the 13-year-old Joe became a labor activist and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or "Wobblies"). Eugene Nelson, a longtime friend of Joe Murphy, describes many labor and free-speech struggles through the eyes of "Kid Murphy." The Wobblies built a dynamic mass movement, and this novel relates Murphy's adventures in the wheat fields, lumber camps, and on the high seas. In contrast to the standard dreary recounting of labor history, Break Their Haughty Power brings you inside labor history as it is being made by passionate human beings with complex personalities.

While portraying Joe Murphy's adventures, Nelson presents a series of dramatic historical events — including the lynch-mob assault on IWW workers by American Legionnaires in Centralia, Washington in 1919; the nationwide railroad strike of 1922; the Colorado coal miners' strike of 1927, in which IWW activists marched and rallied in the face of company gun thugs; and the 1931 strike by workers building Boulder Dam. Nelson also relates the young Murphy's reflections on meeting Helen Keller, Eugene Debs, and Bill Haywood. 367 pages, with 16 photos. Glossary, index.

EUGENE NELSON (1929-1999) was born in Modesto, California, and wandered the West as worker and poet. In the 1960's he worked with Cesar Chavez' farm workers' union in Texas. He has written several novels and nonfiction works on the experiences of Mexican migrant workers. "We must have been the same kind of travelers," Jack Kerouac once wrote to Nelson. "You're a natural born writer, a pure storyteller."

"Break Their Haughty Power is a classic coming-of-age tale of an American social activist. For every bright but rebellious, bored, or hostile teenager with an itch to get moving and an anger that's undefined or misplaced, this is one of the first books I'd recommend... The entire novel...reads like a non-stop adventure story reminiscent of Mark Twain's fiction." —Sara Peyton, The Paper (Santa Rosa, Cal.)

"Fellow Worker Nelson has done [a] beautiful job of bringing Joe Murphy's reminiscences into a most readable tome and your reviewer enthusiastically recommends adding this book to any working stiff's book shelf." —Industrial Worker (IWW, Chicago)

"I loved reading this book because despite the depressing similarities of human nature then and now, it gave me the sense of roots for those of us who continue the many faceted struggle for justice today." —Mary Moore, Sonoma County Free Press (California)

Paperback • ISBN: 978-0-910383-31-8 • Price: $16.

ism press books • ISBN prefix: 978-0-910383-

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