Wednesday, March 20, 2024

“Working Class Heroes”: From Stephen Blackpool in Charles Dickens’s “Hard Times” (1854) to John Lennon and then to Angelo Herndon

When Kailana Durnan referred to Stephen Blackpool from Charles Dickens's "Hard Times" (1854) as a "working-class hero" in her 2018 article "Getting Bored with 'Hard Times,'" I immediately began singing John Lennon's 1970 song "Working Class Hero" (from "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band": "A working class hero is something to be." After I wondered whether the expression preceded Lennon's song, I was able to find multiple uses of the phrase going back to the 1930s, with the first reference being to Angelo Herndon, an African-American labor organizer whose conviction for violating Georgia's insurrection law was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in the 5-4 decision in Hernon v. Lowry in 1937. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 20 March 2024)

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