The Southern Tenant Farmers' Union was founded in eastern Arkansas
in 1934 to protest the New Deal's enrichment of Southern cotton
barons at the expense of suffering sharecroppers, both black and
white. Their courageous struggle, in the face of determined and
often violent resistance from their landlords, is the subject of
this thorough study from Donald H. Grubbs, which was published to
critical acclaim in 1971.
Cry from the Cotton was the first full-scale look at the STFU
and its leaders. It discloses that, although the union operated
under noticeable socialist party sponsorship in its infancy, it
drew much more upon the native Southern evangelical and populist
traditions, much as the civil rights movement would do twenty-five
years later. Grubbs convincingly demonstrates that while the STFU
failed to gain immediate social justice for its members, it
resulted in the formation of the Farm Security Administration,
which even today continues to aid the rural poor, and it played a
large part in forcing the formation of the La Follette Civil
Liberties Committee, whose spotlight on management terrorism helped
the CIO toward success. The volume stands as a classic on labor
issues and class struggle and still echoes with the haunting plea
of the dispossessed for equity.
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