Mary Morello: The 96-Year-Old Activist Who Raised Tom Morello

Politics and the arts have always been closely intertwined. Rock music itself is closely tied to racial struggle which is why it emerged in a time of great racial and political unrest. Today many artists have been open about their politics, speaking on issues that are close to them and their communities. There may be no better example of this than Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello. Not only is Morello outspoken about his progressive politics, but the influences of his ideologies also spill over into his music.


Even with his music, Morello goes against the grain and makes music that is considered to be outside of the norm at the time. Tom’s experimental tones for instance are partly achieved by using delay pedals to create layered rhythms, utilizing both analog and digital delay effects to create unique atmospheric sounds. Lyrically, Morello and Rage Against The Machine have written modern political anthems that take aim at institutional racism and police brutality. But how did Morello end up the way he did?

Tom Morello

Well, an Instagram post by the artist reveals that the apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree as Morello’s mother Mary Morello has been active in the political scene since Tom was little.

A Life-Long Battle

So where do we even begin when talking about Mary Morello? Well, in the 1930s Mary helped feed those who were struck by the economic effects of the Great Depression. To add to this, Mary even helped and got behind coal miners as they struggled to organize their protests during those difficult times. When the country went to war, Mary helped raise war bonds to help fend off the Nazis and prevent their spread of fascism across the globe.

She also went on nine peace missions to the Soviet Union and Cuba and was an active voice against the Apartheid in South Africa and the death squads in Central America. Whenever there was injustice in the world, Mary seemed to have a natural inclination to rage against it.

An Ally Against Racism

However, the area where Mary was most active was the work she did for the civil rights movement. She opposed the racist Jim Crow laws that aimed to segregate black people, effectively turning them into second class citizens.
Mary Morello


Credit: Tom Morello

She was also a member of the Illinois Urban League and actively campaigned to uphold the civil rights of African Americans. Her feelings towards battling racism haven’t waivered even at the age of 96, as she’s thrown her support behind the Black Lives Matter movement. A movement that has had a resurgence due to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police, proving that the systemic racism that she fought against during her time persists to this day.

Given all of this, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that Tom Morello turned out the way he did. The central theme and aesthetics of Rage Against The Machine can be traced back to one woman. This means that all of those people that the band has inspired through the years, by extension have also been inspired by Mary Morello’s beliefs and teachings.

If you’re looking for more articles like this, be sure to check out the rest of our pieces on fighting the good fight!


1 comment

  1. Hey Tom, had your Mom for homeroom and 3 high school classes, she was instrumental to opening up a larger vista of the world.

    Of course I am from “ lily-white” Libertyville, but contrary to your oft stated indictment, some of us from Libertyville have made large social contributions to the world, mine in opposition to nuclear weapons.

    You’re not the only social contributor from Libertyville,
    the very best to your Mom. Geoffrey Griffith (LHS ‘76)

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