Sentences and Bills – 1917
poems by Joe Napora


Sentences and Bills is available from your local bookstore, or from on-line vendors such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



In Sentences and Bills:1917 Joe Napora uses incisive and startling poems to cast fresh light on an important, yet almost forgotten, era of our Nation’s history. 
“Your poems and prose not only bring back in a startling way that crucial moment of our history, World War I, the IWW, the liberal terror of Wilson, they inspire us with the little acts of protest, the ‘small sentences’ of obscure and heroic people. I hope this piece of writing gets circulated over the country, especially to school teachers and school children of the new generation.” 
                                   — Howard Zinn

By the dawn of the 20th century the United States had become one of the leading industrial powers in the world, with more than seventeen million factory workers, many of them working in what we would today characterize as deplorable conditions. Events and legislation of the late 1800s had virtually crushed U.S. labor organizers, leaving unions with only 500,000 members.
Of all the U.S. labor organizations of the early 1900s, the Industrial Workers of the World provoked the most controversy and hostility. Many of the leaders of the organization were Marxists or socialists. The IWW—the Wobblies—were at the peak of their activity in 1917 when the United States entered World War I. Under the pressures of patriotism and the war industry, the radical social and political beliefs of the IWW and their protests through work slowdowns and strikes were intolerable. The IWW came under vigilante attack and federal harassment, with prosecution and incarceration of its members.
What survives of the IWW today are a few protest songs, the legends of those such as Frank Little, Joe Hill, and Mother Jones, and the knowledge that some depressed and alienated workers once had the will to demand equality and justice and were for a time given a new sense of power and dignity, a spirit still alive in the working men and women of today.

From the book —

Drafts and Anti-drafts

Antonin Gualberti handed out
sentences with an anti-draft message.

Antonin Gualberti was handed out
a sentence: 3 years in the pen.

Joseph Selzer at Cedar Rapids , Iowa ,
had anti-war literature in
his suitcase.

His suitcase
was opened. He was
fined $1,000 and given a one-year sentence.

The judge, Milo P. Smith, said, “It
pleases me to impose this sentence.”

His case was closed.