Featuring Dr. David Zonderman, professor of history at NCSU and special guest Katie Hayes, artist and musician
Moderated by Christie Norris, Director of Carolina K-12
Ella May (also known by her married name, Ella May-Wiggins) was part of a generation of hopeful Appalachians who left the mountains for the North Carolina mills in search of a better life. Yet, despite her persistence, fortitude and strong work ethic, she struggled to provide for herself and her family due to low wages, long hours, and excruciating working conditions. By 1929, twenty-eight-year-old Ella was a single mother who had lost four of her nine children to poverty. After settling in a predominately African American community called Stumptown in Gaston County, and working seventy-two hours a week on the night shift at American Mill No. 2 in Bessemer City, Ella turned to the National Textile Workers’ Union, who were organizing a strike at the nearby Loray Mill, as her last hope for survival.
Join Carolina K-12 in our next installment of the William Friday Virtual Education Initiative, Carolina Voices, in which we talk to Dr. David Zonderman about the tenacious life of Ella May, the conditions she fought against, and her subsequent murder at only age 29 for organizing Black and white millworkers in fighting for a 40-hour week and living wages. We will also discuss the role Ella’s music played in the resistance, as well as North Carolina’s long history of complicated labor laws and anti-unionization. An accompanying lesson plan will be provided for implementation in the classroom, and teachers are eligible for CEUs post-attendance.
Attendees will have a chance to win a "Life of the Mind," hand pulled limited edition block print from artist Katie Hayes.
This program is generously funded by the North Caroliniana Society, as part of the William Friday Virtual Education Imitative in partnership with Carolina K-12.