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Wiley Cash’s New Novel Reimagines Gastonia’s Historic Loray Mill Strike

An image of the book cover for 'The Last Ballad' by Wiley Cash
William Morrow
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In the spring of 1929 more than a thousand workers at the Loray Mill in Gastonia, North Carolina walked off their jobs and went on strike. At the time the mill was one of the largest producers of textiles in the South, but harsh labor conditions and unfair pay sparked unrest among the workers.

Protests went on for months and even led to violent clashes with the police. The events at the mill brought a textile worker named Ella May Wiggins into the spotlight. Wiggins served as a union organizer and also became an influential ballad singer.

In his new novel “The Last Ballad” (William Morrow/2017), Gastonia-native Wiley Cash tells the story of Ella May Wiggins and the historic mill strike.
 

Host Frank Stasio talks with Cash about growing up in Gaston County and why the 1929 strike shifted the labor movement. Cash speaks about his new book across North Carolina this fall.

 

Charlie Shelton-Ormond is a podcast producer for WUNC. His fascination for audio storytelling and radio journalism began as a broadcast major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He began his career as a reporter for Carolina Connection, UNC’s student-led radio news show, where Charlie’s work won multiple Hearst Journalism Awards.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.