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Covington Hall (b. 1871) was an IWW writer and organizer.


"[Covington] Hall was born in 1871 to a Presbyterian minister who seems also to have been an ardent member of the Ku Klux Klan, and when he arrived in New Orleans [at the turn of the century], a friend of his later remembered, he was 'the handsomest young man in all New Orleans...the best dressed man, who set the fashion for the male population...the perfect Southern gentleman.' At around that time, he worked full-time in an administrative post called adjutant general for the United Confederate Veterans, an organization that had a hard time extracting from the Civil War anything worthy of nostalgia. It groped toward finding a usable past by erecting monuments to dead Confederate Army generals. Covington Hall's name was on the marching orders of the United Confederate Veterans as late as 1904; but by the next year, he was an organizer and propagandist for the United Brewery Workers Union. He wrote for the Labor World and promoted strikes and cooperation between black and white brewery workers, who like most southern workers had separate labor unions at the time. He began to write poetry glorifying the struggles of the working man. Clearly, something had happened to him. Perhaps he had just rejected his past. Oscar Ameringer, editor of the Labor World, later wrote that Hall got 'tired of advertising the fact that his father had made an ass of himself fighting for slaves he might have sold to the Yanks and still kept as sharecroppers.' Ira Finley, another friend, wrote of Hall that 'trained and educated to be a respectable citizen, he rather chose to be a companion of the Toilers.' Perhaps, but I think not, for Covington Hall was neither a cynic about nor a rejecter of the Old South. He was fascinated by the Ku Klux Klan, an odd fascination because the Klan's political philosophy was based on the crudest sort of racial hatred and Hall himself was for his day an extreme integrationist. He read other things into the Klan, though, none of them things the Klan particularly had—rebellion, pride, struggle against oppression,…. the Klan's noble, fighting spirit in the war against capitalism—with never a mention of the Klan's primary driving purpose. Hall's remaking of the Klan reached its peak in 1915 when he founded a secret left-terrorist organization called the Clan of Toil, clearly modeled in its air of mystery and vigilante spirit on the Klan but dedicated to 'bettering immediately the economic condition of the Southern Worker' and 'making USE and OCCUPANCY the only title to land.' Hall saw in the ills of the South in 1915—tenant farming, poverty, exploitative land and factory owners—a great many similarities to Reconstruction, when his father's generation had complained of the same things, but Hall blamed them on the North. The feeling of being exploited ran deep through the South from the Civil War on; Populists, exhorting farmers, drew on it, and Hall in turn drew much of his rhetoric from the Populists and their uses of the Reconstruction sentiment. Rebellion [a magazine published by Hall], in any event, folded, and Hall moved on, virtually disappearing from 1915 to 1931, when he turned up at Llano [western Louisiana near the Texas border]. He published books of poetry, returned to New Orleans in the 40s to write a book called Early Labor Struggles in the Deep South, and disappeared again. The New Orleans City Directory lists him sporadically during those years, when he was in his seventies. In 1942, he was listed as assistant librarian at a place called The Nursing Home; in 1949, he was listed as a writer, at a different address. Someone interviewed him in 1950 for a scholarly article. The Orleans Parish Bureau of Vital Statistics has no record of his death."—Nick Lemann, "In Search of Covington Hall," The Harvard Crimson (23 October 1975)


The Battle Hymn of Toil
Might Is Right

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