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The Last Ballad: Ella Mae Wiggins' Life in the Mill and Death on the Picket Line

Loray Mill workers,Gastonia, N.C. 11/7/1908
Lewis Hines/National Archives
Loray Mill workers,Gastonia, N.C. 11/7/1908

(Originally broadcast 10/12/18) - New York Times bestselling author Wiley Cash’s 2017 novel, The Last Ballad (2017, Willam Morrow) is set in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina in 1929 and inspired by actual events. It chronicles an ordinary woman’s struggle for dignity and her rights in a textile mill; The Last Ballad is a moving tale of courage in the face of oppression and injustice. It is based on true events and tells the story of Ella Mae Wiggins, whose ballads about the poverty of mill workers in the South, and their repression by mill owners, lived on after her death in a Gaston, NC, workers’ strike.

Dr. Edgar talks with author Wiley Cash about what drew him to the real-life story of Ella Mae Wiggins and about what it was like to be working in the mills of the Carolinas in the 1920s and 1930s.

All Stations: Fri, Jan 04, 2019, 12 pm | News & Talk Stations: Sun, Jan 06, 4 pm

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.