More than one hundred years ago, on April 20, 1914, a violent labor struggle erupted at the Ludlow, Colorado, coal mine. Earlier, after Greek immigrant miners struck Colorado Fuel & Iron Company for better working conditions and higher wages, they and their families were evicted from company housing. Now, on Easter Sunday, the Colorado National Guard militia is “itching for a fight,” as are some of the miners. It’s almost dark when shots ring out over the tent city. With panic running rampant and children screaming everywhere, chaos reigns. Some wives and children head to perceived safety, while others hunker down in dirt cellars. Events of the day move along in fairly short snippets, following particular individuals or families. It’s almost as if readers are watching movie shorts yet are conscious of all the action. This fictional account of an actual event is written in a gripping narrative style and accompanied by archival black-and-white photographs. The epilogue and author’s note give facts, figures, and sources for this intriguing title in the Horrors of History series.
Anderson, author of several titles in the “Horrors of History” series, brings another tragedy to light. The author novelizes the true massacre at Ludlow, a camp of striking coal miners in Colorado. It is Easter season, 1914, and the miners, the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, and the Colorado National Guard, are at a standstill. The strikers find they prefer their tent life to the difficulties of living in the company town, and the company and the National Guard have grown weary of the confrontation. A company wife sends a letter to the Guard, suggesting that the miners have kidnapped her husband because he refused to strike with them. The Guard takes this as an excuse to raid the camp, and after days of fruitless conversation, gunfire rains down. Families flee and hide. Men try to stand and fight. Lives are lost, and justice seems far away. The massacre is a true tragedy that may interest those who read historical fiction, but middle school students will need more context about what it meant to be a “company man” and a miner in order to understand the strike and to even begin to comprehend the shoot-out. VERDICT The plethora of back matter and other nonfiction elements make the novel a good fit for classroom literature circles or as part of a library booklist or display about mining life.
-School Library Journal
In this latest novel in his Horrors of History series, Anderson writes about a little-known incident from U.S. labor history, the Ludlow Massacre that took place in southern Colorado in April, 1914. It was the culmination of a strike that forced miners and their families to spend months living in a cluster of tents, sometimes in cellars dug to shelter mothers and children from gunfire. The final clash between coal miners and Colorado national guardsmen claimed nineteen lives, including strike leader Louis Tikas, militiaman Pvt. Alfred Martin, twelve-year-old Frank Snyder who was shot in the back of the head, and two women and eleven of their children who suffocated in the cellar beneath a burned-out tent. All are characters included in the novel.
Anderson switches between the strikers’ and guardsmen’s points of view, building suspense and elucidating some of the causes behind this gruesome event, though his decision to leave the story in Ludlow limits readers’ understanding of more complex political and economic forces. Anderson draws characters quickly, and while it may be a little too easy to cheer for the strikers and hiss at the guardsmen, readers will respond to them. As an added bonus, Anderson includes twenty-one historical photographs, including the haunting cover photo of a boy the right age to be Frank Snyder. An author’s note explains Anderson’s research and the challenges he faced in balancing fact and fiction. The book is a worthy complement to the many books about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, especially for male readers.