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In August 1938, a member of the interracial Louisiana Farmers' Union (LFU) wrote in a letter to the union office, "My crop is coming along fine. With the aid of God and the F.S.A. I hope to establish a better home for myself and family and to help my fellow brothers." [1] This simple statement reflected some profound changes in the southern political economy that threatened to weaken plantation owners' control over their workers and encouraged greater militancy among black people in the 1930s. Widespread poverty accentuated by the Great Depression precipitated a decade of experimentation by the federal government in an attempt to find solutions to social problems. The limits of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal reforms were soon exposed in the South, where local elites' control over the administration of federal programs allowed for discrimination against African Americans and the displacement of thousands of sharecroppers and tenants from the land. In response to these developments, rural poor people joined together in organizations like the LFU to fight planter abuses of the New Deal and demand a fair share of federal aid. [2]

This article examines African Americans' participation in the LFU, showing how they used the union to attack inequalities and injustices that were the foundations of the white supremacist social order. Although studies of similar groups like the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union and the Alabama Share Croppers' Union exist, little attention has been given to the Louisiana Farmers' Union. [3] Viewed in isolation, or in comparison with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the union's brief appearance and the activities of its members might not seem to be particularly important. Placing the events of the 1930s in a broader historical context helps to illuminate their significance. Prior to the emergence of the LFU, black people in rural Louisiana were actively engaged in attempts to gain economic, political, and social justice, although their efforts were usually confined to clandestine or unorganized forms. The New Deal and the arrival of union organizers in their communities provided a chance to take the freed om struggle to another level. Many African Americans embraced the union as an ally in their ongoing fight to gain fair compensation for their labor, adequate education for their children, a chance to participate politically, and protection from violence. Black Louisianians' involvement in the LFU showed an awareness of the power of collective action and an appreciation of the causes of their problems that resurfaced in the decades after World War II, when the disintegration of the plantation system enabled a more powerful protest movement to emerge. Examining African American activism in rural Louisiana over time reveals some continuity in the goals of rural black people, even though the methods of achieving them did not remain static.

The Plantation Economy and African American Strategies of Resistance in the Early Twentieth Century

The sugar and cotton plantation regions where the LFU focused its organizing efforts were among the most repressive areas in the nation. Situated along the Y-shape formed by the Mississippi and Red Rivers, parishes such as Pointe Coupee, Iberville, St. Landry, West Feliciana, Rapides, Natchitoches, and Concordia had reputations for the brutal treatment of African Americans dating back to the antebellum period. [4] The post-Civil War plantation system only slightly mitigated the harshness of slavery. Faced with a chronic shortage of capital and the necessity of borrowing heavily themselves, planters concluded that the only way to make the production of the state's staple crops profitable was to keep labor costs as low as possible. In the decades after Reconstruction, many Louisiana plantations came to resemble the rationalized, efficiency-driven enterprises associated with northern capitalism and industry. Corporate owners and absentee landlords gave little thought to the welfare of their workers, with whom t hey rarely had any direct contact. Agricultural laborers increasingly came to be viewed as statistics in plantation record books, important only to the extent that they counted as profits or losses. [5]

Most African Americans in the cotton parishes worked as sharecroppers or tenants, closely supervised by plantation owners or managers. [6] Payment for their labor was withheld until after the harvest, when they received a share of the income from the crops they had raised. Lacking cash for most of the year, plantation workers relied on their employers for housing, food, clothing, and other necessities. These were purchased on credit and the costs, plus interest, deducted from their wages at "settlement time." Planters often charged usurious interest rates on credit extended to their laborers, arguing that these were necessary because of the high risks involved. Landlords had sole responsibility for keeping accounts and selling the crops, so that employees had to take the plantation owner's word for how much they had earned and how much they owed. At the end of the year, it was common for sharecroppers and tenants to be told that they had come out in debt. Most had no choice but to stay and work for another y ear for the same planter even if they suspected they had been cheated. The system provided plantation owners with an effective way to maintain the stable supply of cheap labor that they depended on. [7]

In the sugar plantation regions further south, tenant farming was less common. African Americans in these parishes were mostly wage laborers who worked in gangs watched over by white supervisors. [8] Plowmen and their families provided the core labor supply, and were hired on year-long contracts. During the harvest season, planters employed extra workers from the surrounding areas, including many cotton farmers from northern Louisiana and Mississippi who came south to cut cane after their crops had been laid by. [9] Payment arrangements varied, but whatever the method, wages were universally low. On average, sugar workers received about 85[cent] to $1.00 per day during the planting and cultivating seasons and slightly more during harvest times. [10] Though employers customarily provided houses, garden plots, firewood, and medical care, there was a growing tendency in the early twentieth century to eliminate these benefits. Plantation owners knew there was money to be made in furnishing employees with food an d other necessities. Like their counterparts in the cotton parishes, some sugar workers never saw any cash. Employers either paid them in scrip redeemable only at plantation stores or simply kept a record of their purchases and labor. [11]

Low incomes, the centrality of credit, and the "furnish system" held many black families in perpetual poverty or indebtedness. Limited educational opportunities ensured that most African Americans were confined to agricultural labor or other low paying jobs, and prevented them from meeting the requirements for literacy and property ownership necessary for voting or holding office. [12] Small cliques of wealthy white people dominated nearly all aspects of life in the rural parishes. Prominent names in local politics were likely to be the same as those that headed the sugar and cotton industries, or to be related to planters through business or family ties. Public policy reflected the interests of the rich white men who controlled police juries, school boards, and the courts, while law enforcement officers frequently acted as if they were the private employees of plantation owners rather than public servants who were supposed to protect the whole community. [13]

Within the boundaries of their own property and in the larger community, planters were the law. Their power was such that, if need be, they could monitor what African Americans did with their time outside of working hours in addition to supervising them during the day. Planters owned the houses black people lived in, the stores they shopped in, the land their churches and schools were built on. Landlords controlled the mail and telephones, enabling them to limit the amount of contact their employees had with the world outside the plantation. White people also bestowed money, gifts, and favors on African Americans who kept them informed of developments within the black community. The likelihood that planters would find out about any expression of dissatisfaction or any attempt to organize workers made challenging the plantation system extremely difficult. As former sharecropper Harrison Brown explained, "You couldn't be known resisting against the powers.... They always had a way to reach you and get you, you know. So ... you'd have to take it slow." [14]

The absence of organized protest did not mean that African Americans passively accepted their fate. Rural black people devised various strategies to resist plantation owners' efforts to deny them economic opportunity, education, legal protection, and political power. Although these activities did not directly confront white supremacy and affected the social order only slightly, they reflected participants' awareness of the sources of their oppression and provided the foundations of the twentieth-century freedom struggle.

In the rural South's low-wage economy, the central problem of most African Americans' lives was making a living. In search of better pay and working conditions, a high proportion of agricultural workers left their employers at the end of each year, often without paying their debts. [15] Although plantation owners attributed the constant movement of labor to black people's inherent "shiftlessness," such actions were not random or unpurposeful. The statement given by John Pickering to a notary public in Texas after he moved there from Louisiana in 1926 shows that his decision resulted from a carefully considered, accurate analysis of the plantation system and his chances of economic advancement if he had stayed with his previous employer. "I moved off of the place of the said William Wilson because he would not give me a fair settlement on what I had made and what I earned and would not account to me for my share of the cotton crop," Pickering said. "I being an ignorant negro he would not furnish me with a sta tement showing what the cotton sold for and what goods I had procured from him, but insisted that, notwithstanding his getting all the cotton, I still owed him three hundred dollars. When I found out he would not give me a fair settlement and was getting all of my earnings, I decided to move into the State of Texas because I knew that in the State of Louisiana the big planters buy and sell negroes and never let one get out of debt." [16]

In addition to seeking escape from economic exploitation, black Louisianians circumvented plantation owners' efforts to deny them education. By following their teachers as they moved from one regional classroom to the next, some students extended the length of time they attended school beyond the three or four month terms normally set by parish school boards. Families living in communities that lacked high schools commonly sent older children to stay with friends or relatives in neighboring parishes to complete their secondary education. [17] When state and local governments refused to build schools for black communities, African Americans constructed their own or held classes in churches and fraternal society halls. [18] In a typical case, a study of schools in St. Helena Parish found that the school board owned only two of the buildings used for educating African Americans. The remaining twenty-eight, attended by over 80 percent of the black children, were "housed in churches and in buildings erected mainl y at the expense and efforts of the Negroes themselves." [19]

Such practices reflected and reinforced strong community ties that African Americans developed in their families, schools, churches, benevolent societies, and fraternal orders. These institutions offered valuable support networks that black Louisianians relied on for survival. Sugar workers in Pointe Coupee Parish recalled that when people became ill and were unable to work, friends and relatives "took up orders" for them at plantation stores, charging food and other necessities to their own accounts so that families who had fallen on difficult times would not starve. [20] For a small fee, black Louisianians could join any number of organizations that offered similar safeguards. [21] As well as providing opportunities for socializing and enhancing members' economic security, black community institutions played other, more subversive roles. Churches and society halls provided some of the few spaces where rural black people were relatively free from white supervision, and within their walls African Americans e ngaged in decision-making and other political processes that were denied them in the world outside. [22]

Disfranchisement and lack of access to the law forced black people to find other ways to counter the violence and injustice that pervaded their lives. Given white Louisianians' frequent use of beatings, whippings, and lynchings, it should not be surprising that African Americans also resorted to aggressive tactics. In 1926, for instance, black sharecropper Joe Hardy raised what he thought was a good crop on the plantation of John S. Glover in Caddo Parish. Expecting to clear several hundred dollars, he was surprised when the time came to settle his account and Glover claimed that he owed sixty dollars instead. Hardy did not want to risk any trouble so he said nothing at the time. Later, he approached a neighboring planter who agreed to hire him for the next year and to pay his debt to Glover. When Hardy took his new employer's check to Glover, the planter attacked him and in the fight that followed, Hardy shot and killed his former landlord. [23]

African Americans who chose to defend themselves against harassment or violence took enormous risks, especially if a white person was killed or injured in the process. Joe Hardy narrowly escaped being lynched, but most were not so lucky. A black man in Tallulah and another from Caddo Parish both paid with their lives after shooting their white employers. [24] In a tragic incident that occurred near Alexandria in 1928, an angry mob retaliated against William Blackman's entire family after he shot a deputy in self-defense and was shot and killed himself. The mob lynched Blackman's two brothers, burned seven homes, and drove all his remaining relatives out of the parish. [25] Such stories suggest that African Americans were far from acquiescent in the first half of the twentieth century, but they also reveal the limits of protest in a setting where white people's political, economic, and fire power always overwhelmed any resources that black people had access to.

The New Deal and the Louisiana Farmers' Union

That setting began to be altered in the 1930s, when President Roosevelt's New Deal policies extended federal influence into the South on a scale not seen since Reconstruction. In the course of the decade, the Roosevelt administration enacted a string of measures aimed at alleviating poverty and restoring economic stability. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and later the Works Progress Administration (WPA) allocated approximately fourteen billion dollars to the states to be used either as direct payments to unemployed people or wages for work on public projects. [26] The National Recovery Administration (NRA) attempted to standardize business operations and improve conditions for workers by establishing industry-wide codes for maximum hours and minimum wages. To rescue the nation's farmers, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) paid subsidies to those who voluntarily reduced their crop acreages in an effort to eliminate overproduction, increase prices, and raise rural people's liv ing standards. The Resettlement Administration and its successor agency, the Farm Security Administration (FSA), provided low-interest loans and other assistance to marginal farmers to help them achieve self-sufficiency. [27]

The New Deal raised black people's expectations and encouraged them to believe they might finally be recognized as citizens. Federal policy disallowed racial discrimination by the newly established relief agencies, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt achieved notoriety among white southerners for speaking out against racism. Franklin Roosevelt's record in this respect was more ambiguous, but many black people nevertheless viewed his presidency as a positive development. For the first time since the Civil War and Reconstruction, African Americans believed the government was on their side. [28] A black sharecropper whose crops had been stolen by his landlord in Red River Parish reflected this new mood when he appealed to the Department of Justice for help. "I am told that President Roosevelt is a true friend to the negro people," he wrote. "I want you and him to aid me, please." [29]

The actual results of the New Deal were disappointing. Despite the administration's assurances that black people would receive the same treatment as white people from government agencies, it failed to enforce this policy at the local level. Discrimination was widespread, and white southerners were able to use their control over relief programs to reinforce existing power relationships. Throughout the region, administrators were selected by the same planters and business owners who dominated everything else. As had always been the case, the authority to decide who would or would not receive aid lay with the most powerful people in Louisiana's towns and parishes. Access to federal dollars in addition to their own wealth only increased their influence. [30]

One of the biggest disasters of the New Deal for rural black people was the displacement of thousands of sharecroppers and tenants as a result of the federal government's farm policies. With the reduction in crop acreages brought about by the AAA, plantation owners' need for labor decreased. Many growers invested their subsidy checks in tractors and other machinery that further reduced their need for workers. Employers were supposed to retain workers on their plantations and share AAA payments with them, but loopholes in the legislation allowed the less scrupulous among them to avoid these obligations. [31] Welfare officials in Louisiana noticed the prevalence of "old plantation negroes who are no longer able to work for a living" on their rolls, and concluded that many landlords were taking advantage of the New Deal to rid themselves of unproductive laborers. [32]

Workers who remained on the plantations were easily cheated out of their share of AAA payments. Officials within the Department of Agriculture decided that federal policy should not interfere with traditional labor contract arrangements in the South, allowing planters to continue manipulating accounts and limiting their employees' incomes. In its first two years of operation the AAA distributed subsidy checks to landlords and entrusted them with the task of disbursing the appropriate portions of these funds to sharecroppers and tenants. Many agricultural workers failed to receive their share, so in 1936 the administration began mailing plantation owners multiple checks made out in the names of individual employees. It remained an easy matter for landlords to coerce workers into signing the checks over to themselves. Illiterate sharecroppers were forced to mark these mysterious slips of paper with an "X" without fully understanding what that meant. [33] Another ploy was to make sure the money could only be sp ent at plantation stores. Harrison Brown remembered "when the government had ordered you'd get a check or something after you settled they took that check.... And the way they took it you couldn't cash it in town nowhere, you had to go by your merchant and let him sign it to cash it in--that was so he could get his hands on it, but you'd have to go by them." [34]

Planter abuses of New Deal programs did not go unchallenged. The massive social upheavals caused by the Depression gave rise to radical workers' and farmers' movements that struggled to influence national policy and enhance equality, opportunity, and security for all Americans. In 1931, members of the Communist Party began working among rural black people in Alabama, encouraging them to form the Share Croppers' Union (SCU) in an effort to increase the bargaining power of agricultural workers and help them gain fair treatment from landlords.

Socialists in Arkansas organized the interracial Southern Tenant Farmers' Union (STFU) in 1934 to fight the mass evictions of sharecroppers caused by the AAA. The STFU spread into Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and parts of Mississippi, attracting more than twenty thousand members. At the same time, liberals in the Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union of America (more commonly called the National Farmers' Union or NFU) began to increase their influence over that union's leadership, advocating federal legislation more responsive to the needs of small farmers. The activities of these rural unions and the publicity generated by plantation owners' violent opposition were instrumental in drawing nationwide attention to the plight of southern sharecroppers. The modification of some AAA policies in the latter half of the 1930s and the expansion of programs to help displaced and low-income farmers buy land of their own resulted in part from union agitation. [35]

The Louisiana Farmers' Union was formed in the mid-1930s, originating as an offshoot of the Share Croppers' Union. In Alabama, lynchings, beatings, and evictions had driven the SCU underground, forcing its members to meet secretly and placing limits on its effectiveness. After a strike by cotton pickers in Lowndes County was violently crushed in 1935, union leaders began searching for ways to strengthen the organization. Strong interest shown by black farmers in Louisiana encouraged the SCU to focus some of its attention on that state, and initially it seemed that the union would meet less resistance there than in Alabama. [36] In January 1936, SCU secretary Clyde Johnson reported from Louisiana, "We have locals of 20 to 175 members that meet in churches and school houses and when some little terror did start against one member one of our leaders went to see the Sheriff in the name of the Union and the Sheriff didn't say a word about him being a Union member." [37] Communist organizers worked with local peop le to make contact with black farmers and encourage them to attend meetings to discuss the union. Those who were interested in forming a local then elected officers, and recruited more members by approaching family, friends, and neighbors. [38] The social networks that existed within churches and other community institutions provided useful structures for disseminating information about the union. [39] By May 1936, the SCU had approximately one thousand members in Louisiana, and the union had moved its headquarters to New Orleans. [40]

The SCU's New Orleans office was staffed by a small group of activists that included (at various times) Clyde Johnson, Gordon McIntire, Peggy Dallet, Reuben Cole, and Clinton Clark. Most were white southerners in their early twenties who shared a commitment to progressive causes and viewed their work as part of the fight for social justice. Clyde Johnson was the only northerner in the group and Clinton Clark the only African American. Originally from Minnesota, Johnson had attended City College in New York and had worked as an organizer for the National Student League before joining the Communist Party and being assigned to Alabama in 1934. Though he eventually left the Party, he remained committed to workers' struggles for his entire life, later becoming involved in organizing beet workers in Colorado, pecan shellers and oil workers in Texas, and electrical workers in Pittsburgh before taking a job as a carpenter and union official in California in the 1950s. Texan Gordon McIntire had attended Commonwealth College in Arkansas (a school that was closed down by the state in 1941 for "teaching anarchy") before arriving in Alabama to work with Johnson and the SCU in 1935. Clinton Clark was a native of Louisiana who helped establish union locals in St. Landry, Avoyelles, and Pointe Coupee Parishes in 1936. Peggy Dallet had been involved in organizing local chapters of various leftwing organizations in New Orleans, including the American League for Peace and Democracy, the League for Young Southerners, and the North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy. She became the union's office secretary in 1937, and later married Gordon McIntire. Reuben Cole came from a sharecropping family in Georgia. Like McIntire, he had attended Commonwealth College, and joined the New Orleans staff in May 1937. [41]

In Louisiana, the communists acted as effective grassroots organizers, offering advice and aid to union members but encouraging local people to make key decisions about issues affecting them. The first issue of the union newspaper, the Southern Farm Leader, invited members to send in letters expressing their concerns and ideas for action, describing conditions in their communities, and reporting on the activities of their locals. [42] Clyde Johnson recalled that whenever a new policy or position needed to be formulated, "everyone available met to talk it over. If it involved a basic union position we discussed it all over the union and tried to have a state meeting approve a position.... We believed the members had to understand and approve an action to have it be successful. Rubber stamps can't cooperate." [43]

Relationships between organizers and local union members were characterized by mutual respect. At its first convention in 1936, the union passed a resolution thanking Clyde Johnson for his tireless efforts on their behalf, calling him "one of the outstanding champions of the Southern day laborers, sharecroppers, tenants and small farmers." [44] Three years later, Gordon McIntire noted the rapid growth of the union in Louisiana, saying, "Much of the credit must go to the Local leaders of the Union, whose courageous desire to improve the economic conditions and protect the democratic rights of brother farmers throughout the agricultural fields has been repaid by the success of the Union." [45]

After establishing itself in Louisiana, the SCU attempted to further strengthen its position by joining forces with other farmers' and laborers' unions. In May 1936 Johnson wrote an editorial in the Southern Farm Leader suggesting that all of the 60,000 southern sharecroppers, tenants, and small farm owners who currently belonged to the SCU, the STFU, or the NFU unite together in the largest of the three organizations, the NFU. [46] Johnson had maintained friendly relations with STFU leader H. L. Mitchell since 1934, and the two unions sometimes cooperated on issues affecting them both. However, Mitchell and others in the STFU were wary of the SCU's communist affiliations, and they rejected the idea of a merger. [47] The SCU's overtures toward the NFU were more successful. Hard-pressed small farmers and tenants among the NFU's all-white membership were beginning to see the value of uniting with black farmers to fight government agricultural policies that mostly benefited large corporate landowners. The more progressive elements within the union saw an opportunity to strengthen their position by encouraging the transfer of SCU members to their organization. [48] In return, NFU charters offered the former SCU locals the protection they so badly needed. [49] Clyde Johnson hoped the charters would enable union members to "meet openly without interference," and that uniting with an established organization that had more than one hundred thousand members in thirty-eight states would "give the Black Belt farmers a much greater backing" in their struggles against plantation owners. [50] In 1937 the SCU's locals in Alabama and Louisiana began transferring into the NFU, and the Louisiana Farmers' Union was chartered as a state division of the national union. [51] At the annual convention of the NFU in November, delegates from the southern states played an important part in electing new executive officers and replacing the union's traditional emphasis on banking and money reform with a program more in line with the needs o f poor farmers. Resolutions called for legislation to help tenants achieve farm ownership, mortgage relief, crop loans, and price control, as well as cooperation between farmers' organizations and industrial workers' unions. [52]

Since the problems confronting agricultural day laborers were different from those of farm operators, SCU leaders urged that they be organized into a separate union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL). [53] In 1937 farm wage workers in Alabama gained an AFL charter to form a union, but shortly afterwards they joined the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA), a new organization of farm and food processing workers sponsored by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Johnson then left the South to work with UCAPAWA lobbyists in Washington, leaving Gordon McIntire to head organizing efforts in Louisiana. McIntire encouraged wage laborers to join UCAPAWA and small farmers, tenants, and sharecroppers to join the LFU. The LFU maintained a stronger presence in the state than the CIO union, however, especially when financial difficulties forced UCAPAWA to abandon most of its rural labor organizing activities after 1938. [54] To complicate matters, man y of the LFU's members worked as seasonal wage laborers at sugar cane cutting time in addition to raising cotton or other crops during the year. For these reasons the LFU did not limit its activities to issues affecting tenants and sharecroppers, and its locals were made up of all types of agricultural workers. [55]

The LFU welcomed white as well as black people, and strong local leadership was provided by members of both groups. The union's "family membership" structure also encouraged participation by women and young people. Dues were $1.50 per year for adult males; women and boys between the ages of 16 and 21 could join for free. Non-dues-paying members were called honorary members but they had the same rights and privileges in local, county, and state unions as dues-paying members. [56] Women took an active part in the union at both the local and state levels. Often more literate than men, they performed valuable services like writing letters, passing on information from printed sources, keeping records, and teaching other members how to read and write. [57] Women delegates at the union's 1936 convention confidently expressed their opinions and ideas for action. Among the resolutions passed were several calls for measures aimed at improving conditions for farm women. They included equal pay for equal work, higher wa ges for domestic workers, free medical attention for pregnant women, and a maternity insurance system. [58]

As with all interracial unions in the South, the LFU's mixed membership presented problems. [59] In keeping with the Communist Party's antiracism, organizers at first did not allow segregated locals, though they avoided challenging southern racial practices too openly. [60] According to Johnson, "To be for equal rights, for freedom and for self-defense was enough. It covered all our problems. We never advocated 'social equality' in those words because in the white mind it was synonymous with demanding that a black marry his daughter. The racist propaganda hung so heavy on this that it was futile to argue...." [61] In later years the policy on interracialism was not rigidly enforced, particularly after opponents charged that the LFU was a "nigger union" in an attempt to discourage white people from joining. Gordon Mclntire refuted the claim in the December 1937 issue of the Southern Farm Leader, explaining that the perception arose after a mass meeting in Opelousas where the black farmers appeared to overwhel m the white members in attendance. "They later realized that their enthusiasm had worked against them," he wrote. "Both white and colored generally prefer to have their own locals and meet separately." [62]

No precise statistics showing the ratio of white to black members are available, but the majority of LFU locals seem to have been made up of African Americans. The union did make some headway among poor white people in rural Louisiana. White farmer John Moore of Simmsport, for example, led efforts to organize a local in Avoyelles Parish before being attacked and driven from his home by a mob in July 1936. [63] Most of the other local leaders were black, including John B. Richard (who served as vice-president of the state union), Abraham Phillips, and Willie and Irene Scott. [64] The black men and women who joined the union were cotton farmers and sugar workers who welcomed the legal assistance, skills, and resources that organizers brought to the freedom struggle. The grievances that LFU members expressed in letters to the union newspaper and in convention resolutions reflected many long-standing concerns of rural black people, including unfair crop settlements, inadequate schools, exclusion from decision-ma king on government policies that affected them, and lack of protection from violence. [65] Joining the LFU signaled their intention to intensify the fight against inequality and injustice.

The LFU's first real battle occurred in St. Landry Parish in 1936. The union had been active there for several months, becoming involved in a range of activities that included forming a farmer-labor cooperative with maritime workers in New Orleans and pressuring state and federal authorities to provide relief to farmers after the region was struck by drought. [66] In November, plantation owners in the parish made their first attempt to destroy the union, precipitating a fight that set LFU members against planters and their associates in local office. With the help of federal officials, the LFU gained a partial victory, but the incident showed that the union was far from welcome in Louisiana and that white landowners were determined to do everything in their power to prevent it from interfering with the plantation system.

The struggle began when twenty families on St. Landry Farm learned they were to be evicted because the bankers who owned the plantation wanted to sell the land to the federal government's Resettlement Administration. Local administrators responsible for choosing farmers to participate in the planned resettlement project decided that LFU members would not be among their number. Most of those who were told they would have to leave were African American sharecroppers and belonged to the union. According to former manager Albert de Jean, all were good farmers. The families were served eviction notices in late November and ordered to move off the place by the end of the following month. As a statement by the LFU pointed out, most rural workers made their arrangements for the following crop season in July and August. The only landowners likely to have farms available this late in the year were" 'ornery' landlords" who abused their workers. The St. Landry Farm families did not want to move. [67]

Eight union locals joined together to protest the action, demanding that the sharecroppers either be allowed to stay and participate in the resettlement program or be placed on good farms elsewhere with loans to buy their own equipment and supplies. Planters and parish officials responded by intimidating organizers and members. A group of white men that included Sheriff D. J. Doucet harassed Gordon McIntire when he went to collect affidavits from plantation residents in December. At a meeting held in Opelousas, vigilantes threatened McIntire and other union leaders while local resettlement supervisor Louis Fontenot "stood among the hoodlums grinning." [68] In late December the Resettlement Administration sent Mercer G. Evans to investigate the LFU's charges of discrimination. After speaking to local officials, Evans said he found no evidence of policy violations, but suggested that the displaced sharecroppers might receive loans if they found new farms and applied for aid. [69] Under continued pressure from the union, federal administrators finally agreed to grant the evicted families loans of between four and five hundred dollars each to help them establish farms of their own. [70]

The LFU achieved similar success in a battle with landlords in Pointe Coupee Parish in 1939. Plantation owners had responded to stricter regulations forcing them to share AAA checks with workers by evicting sharecroppers and altering tenancy agreements so that they could keep a bigger proportion of the government subsidies for themselves. [71] Tenant families were told they must accept the new arrangements or leave. Union officials advised the farmers to stand firm while they lobbied the federal government to intervene. According to local leader Abraham Phillips, "One bad week followed another, for we never knew when the boss would stop bluffing and really put us out in the cold. But we kept building our membership during those anxious days, we appealed to the federal government, and finally won the support of the Farm Security Administration, so that we got better rent contracts for 1939 than we'd ever had before." [72] The ESA agreed to lease the plantations from the owners and arranged for tenants to pay cash rents of six dollars an acre. The settlement allowed the families to receive their full AAA payments, sell their own cotton, and follow a live-at-home program, offering a chance to save some money and get out of debt that most had not previously had. [73]

The LFU also became involved in efforts to improve conditions for sugar workers. Under the Sugar Act of 1937, growers who wished to take advantage of the AAA subsidy program had to adhere to certain regulations, including the payment of "fair and reasonable" wages. These were to be determined each year by the Department of Agriculture after hearings were held to give planters, processors, and laborers the opportunity to present testimony to government officials. [74] In October 1937, hearings to set wages for the coming harvest season were held at Louisiana State University, a segregated venue that prevented African Americans (who made up the majority of sugar workers) from attending. The morning session was taken up with growers who spoke of the poor prices they received for their product, implying that they could not afford to pay cane cutters any more than the current rates (on average, $1.10 per day or 65[cent] per ton). [75] In the afternoon, Gordon Mclntire spoke on behalf of approximately one thousand LFU members whose complaints included inadequate wages, inaccurate weighing of cane, being paid in scrip, the excessively high prices charged at company stores, and not being allowed to grow their own food. [76] Some of the planters responded by praising the "beautiful paternalism of the old plantation system," arguing that workers received free housing, medical care, and other benefits, therefore they did not need higher wages. Others claimed that black people were lazy and wasted all their money on gambling anyway so it was pointless to pay them more. However, since wage increases seemed inevitable, the growers indicated that they might accept rates of $1.25 per day or 75[cent] per ton. [77] After the hearings the LFU urged members to write to Joshua Bernhardt, chief of the AAA's Sugar Section, telling him why they needed higher wages. [78] The final wage determination set minimum rates at $1.20 per day for women and $1.50 per day for men, or 75[cent] per ton. The regulations prohibited growers from reduci ng wages "through any subterfuge or device whatsoever," and stated, "the producer shall provide laborers, free of charge, with the perquisites customarily furnished by him, e.g., a habitable house, a suitable garden plot with facilities for its cultivation, pasture for livestock, medical attention, and similar incidentals." [79]

The Department of Agriculture held additional hearings in February 1938 to establish wages and working conditions for the planting and cultivation seasons. Peggy Dallet presented a statement by the LFU describing the miserable poverty that year-round employees on the sugar plantations suffered and calling for minimum wages of $1.20 per day for women workers and $1.50 for men. She refuted planters' contentions that the provision of free housing and medical care compensated for low pay, saying that in most cases accommodations were not fit for human habitation and sick people paid their own doctors' bills. Dallet requested that all payments be in cash, and asked that workers be allowed to grow gardens and raise livestock for food. [80] The AAA announced its regulations for the coming season in July, requiring growers to pay women at least $1.00 and men $1.20 per day, and to provide the customary perquisites free of charge. Though the new wage determination was not as high as the LFU had hoped, it still represe nted a 20 percent increase over previous rates. [81]

These wage rates held steady for the next four years. [82] Once the rules were established, workers fought to ensure that planters abided by them. The LFU taught its members how to keep records of what they were owed for the labor they performed each day and encouraged them to file complaints against employers who violated the law. [83] Nearly four hundred wage claims were submitted to local and federal authorities in August and September 1939. At the request of the LFU, the Department of Agriculture withheld AAA subsidies from plantation owners until the claims were settled, and government agents investigated reports that workers in several parishes had been threatened and intimidated by their employers. [84] The same year, union members in Pointe Coupee Parish refused to accept wages of $1.00 per day from a planter who had evicted some families the previous year for filing complaints. As a result, they reported, he was "forced to live up to the law." [85]

Support for the LFU grew steadily throughout the late 1930s. Between 1936 and 1938 the number of dues-paying members more than doubled, increasing from 400 to 891 [86] Although this represented only a tiny fraction (less than one percent) of the LFU's potential constituency of more than 200,000 white and black farm owners, tenants, and farm laborers, it was an encouraging start. [87] Organizers found the response from African Americans especially gratifying. In November 1939 more than three hundred delegates from locals in twenty-five parishes attended a convention for black members held in Baton Rouge, where they presented reports of their activities and listened to guest speakers from the AAA and FSA informing them of their rights under the federal government's agricultural programs. [88] Gordon Mclntire reported that it was "probably the largest meeting of sharecroppers and tenants ever held, but if not I will guarantee that it was the most unified meeting, and surely accomplished more than any that I hav e ever attended." The delegates voted to work toward establishing parish-wide organizations to coordinate the efforts of their union locals, and agreed to allow the collection of dues for 1940 after the current year's harvest, to make it easier for cash-deprived tenant farmers to join the union. [89]

Some white observers in Louisiana ridiculed black people's participation in the LFU, arguing that the communists wanted only to manipulate the state's poor, ignorant sharecroppers for their own purposes. One report on the union stated that it was "a trouble making organization in that it puts ideas in the minds of the negro tenant farmers in Louisiana which could not possibly have originated there." [90] But African Americans were not as easily misled as these analysts believed. Black Louisianians saw the union as a powerful ally in their fight against exploitation and discrimination. They did not need to read Karl Marx or be "duped" by communist propaganda to sense the logic in the LFU's initiatives. Union organizers could not have been so successful if their analysis had not accurately described many aspects of rural black people's lives. As the Urban League's monthly newspaper Opportunity pointed out, black tenant farmers in Alabama and Louisiana knew nothing about theories of economic determinism or Marx ist philosophy, "But these things they do know. They know of grinding toil at miserably inadequate wages. They know of endless years of debt. They know of two and three months school. They know of forced labor and peonage." [91]

African Americans in rural Louisiana had been battling these evils in their own way before the arrival of union organizers. Membership in the LFU offered the chance to fight plantation owners on more even terms. Writing to the Southern Farm Leader "about the dirty landlords, and how they rob us poor tenants," one Pointe Coupee activist stated, "When I heard about this union and what it was for, I joined it and I am proud to be a member of the Farmers' Union and I am willing to help every good effort for our justice and rights." [92] Another member wrote, "When our Creator brought us into this world, He gave each and every man a right to inherit some of land that He created. I'm looking to the Union to open the door for me." [93] With the power of organization behind them and with the help of sympathetic federal officials, black Louisianians gained some limited concessions from plantation owners in the 1930s.

A key issue that had always concerned rural African Americans was gaining fair settlements at the end of the crop seasons. According to Clyde Johnson, one of the first things sharecroppers and tenants wanted was "a way of having a voice. They wanted their account with the landlord to be on paper." [94] The LFU taught its members how to keep records of purchases from plantation stores so that they would know if planters tried to cheat them. At the same time, the union lobbied to make the provision of written contracts with employers a standard practice under federal farm programs. [95] Although administrators had always encouraged the use of contracts, they were not compulsory. In 1938 the FSA announced that it would insist on having written leases drawn up between its clients and their landlords, attempting to pacify planters by saying that this was for the protection of both parties. [96] "We know from experience that both profit from having their agreement in written form," an FSA official stated. [97] Ano ther supervisor explained, "The landlord must be protected against abuse of the land and improvements, abandonment of crops and the like, while the tenant must have assurance of occupancy, a fair division of crop proceeds and renumeration for improvements made." [98] These statements aside, most of the provisions on the FSA's standard lease form seemed designed to improve conditions for tenants, including minimum requirements for the quality of housing and a guarantee that renters be allowed to follow a live-at-home program. [99]

Complementing the campaign for written leases, black people used their union locals to continue the struggle for decent schools. Shortly after his arrival in Louisiana, Clyde Johnson reported that "The Negro people, contrary to the teaching of the landlords, are very hungry for education and culture. Union members are already writing to the state depart[ment] of education explaining that they get only 3 or 4 months schools with very poor facilities and insisting that they be given longer and better school terms." [100] In a resolution calling for resettlement loans for the evicted sharecroppers of St. Landry Farm, LFU Local 2 also demanded "better equipped school houses and free text books, longer school terms, higher salaries for Negro teachers, and free transportation for Negro children." [101] A few months later the Southern Farm Leader reported that a group of union women in the parish had successfully lobbied for improvements at their children's school. The women raised $15.50 for the purpose themselves , then sent a delegation to request more aid from parish officials, who agreed to match the amount. The money was used to install new toilets, new steps, and a fence to enclose the school grounds. [102]

Union members in other communities carried out similar activities, often making education a top priority. The secretary of a newly established local reported in 1937 that "Our first demand is for a school bus, some of the children have as much as 5 miles to walk." [103] The following year, when the LFU endorsed the Harrison-Fletcher Bill providing for federal aid to education, one member told Gordon Mclntire, "I saw in the Bulletin where you said you had been to Washington to get aid for rural schools. To my judgement that is one of the most important things you could have done for us especially in West Feliciana Parish.... I can see and understand that you are on the job and I pray that you and all others keep working for improvement." [104]

The LFU also attempted to give members a voice in the administration of federal farm policies. In 1937, Gordon McIntire represented the union at hearings held by the President's Committee on Farm Tenancy in Dallas, Texas. He joined three representatives of the STFU in urging the federal government to allocate more money to its rural rehabilitation programs, so that assistance could be given to the thousands of farm families who needed it. [105] A common complaint among rural poor people was that agents of the federal government's Agricultural Extension Service often failed to address the needs of small farmers, tenants, and sharecroppers. "County agents are chosen by the landlords to be of service to the landlords," an article in the Southern Farm Leader explained. "Its hard for a square dealing County Agent who wants to be of service to share crop[p]ers and tenants and small farmers, to keep his job. He is soon fired by the landlords." The newspaper encouraged readers to demand that county agents be elected by white and black farmers and farm workers so that they might be more responsive to the needs of the majority of rural people instead of serving the narrow interests of plantation owners. [106] Administrators of federal loan programs also came under attack for discriminating against African Americans and LFU members. Union leaders urged members to write to the heads of government agencies and their representatives in Congress to ask that administration of the programs be placed in the hands of committees elected by all the farmers in the areas they served. [107]

These efforts to democratize federal agricultural policy and increase black people's political influence were largely unsuccessful. [108] At the local level, however, union agitation gained access to New Deal programs for black farmers who otherwise would have been excluded. A measure of the LFU's achievement in this area was that in Pointe Coupee Parish, where the union had many strong locals, more than 80 percent of FSA clients in 1938 were black. [109] Union leaders disseminated information about federal loans that were available and helped members to complete the application process. Black farmers who encountered discrimination from local officials could call on the LFU to assist them in gaining fair treatment. Abraham Phillips, for instance, was repeatedly turned down for an FSA loan by his parish committee because of his "general reputation as a trouble maker and a busy body" (a reference to his union organizing activity). The LFU's persistent appeals on his behalf caused the committee members to relen t in January 1942. They finally approved Phillips's application in an attempt to "harmonize the labor situation" in Pointe Coupee. [110]

African Americans were intensely interested in obtaining credit from sources other than white landowners and merchants. In letters and statements to government authorities, black farmers often expressed the belief that all they needed was a chance to prove their ability free from the constraints of exorbitant interest rates and the dubious accounting practices of landlords. [111] This theme permeated the affidavits collected by Gordon McIntire during the struggle to gain resettlement loans for the sharecroppers of St. Landry Farm. Almost all of those threatened with eviction wanted to buy the land they worked and believed they would be able to support themselves if they could borrow money at reasonable interest rates. Harry Jack Rose summarized the prevailing view when he stated, "If I can just have the chance I sure would like to buy this farm.... I know how to work and I have eight children and four good hands. I can work 40 acres or more. If I can get a little piece with the government I know I can defend myself." [112]

African Americans' faith in their own abilities was borne out by the experiences of many of those who did receive federal assistance. The first black farmer to pay back an FSA loan did so thirty-six years ahead of schedule. [113] Overall, in the six years following the creation of the first rural rehabilitation agencies, the number of farmers who defaulted on federal loans amounted to only 2.6 percent of borrowers. [114] As one study pointed out, a major achievement of the government's lending programs was the "liberation of the negro and white tenants from bondage to the 'furnish' system under which tenants paid an average of 20% to 50% for production credit and were consequently kept in perpetual debt--or perpetually in flight from unpaid obligations." [115]

Planter Reactions

The same developments that held such promise for rural poor people elicited negative and sometimes violent responses from their employers. Union organizers' initial hopes of operating free from harassment in Louisiana were not realized. After its early successes in the mid-1930s, the LFU encountered increasingly strong opposition from white landowners, politicians, and business people in the rural parishes. Opelousas newspapers accused the union of stirring up "class hatred" and turning "the negro against white man, the sharecropper against the land owner." [116] Planters tried to discourage farm workers from joining, claiming the LFU only wanted to exploit them. One member reported, "Ed B. went to his boss' office to get $2. that Mr. H. owed him. Mr. H. told Ed., 'Now don't take this money and give it to that Union because you are only making some fellow rich in New Orleans.'" [117] Another landlord called all his workers together one morning and told them not to join the union or there would be trouble: "Y ou fellows going around writing to the government, it will be too bad. And anyone of you who joins that thing, you will have to move." [118] Gordon Mclntire encountered intense hostility from planters, merchants, and local officials whenever he ventured into the rural parishes. One man told him, "We don't want a Union here.... We'll keep it out ... with our lives if we have to." [119]

As always, plantation owners could rely on law enforcement officers and other public servants to protect their interests. Sheriff D. J. Doucet of St. Landry Parish visited the secretary of the LFU's Woodside local one night, threatened him, and gave him five days to leave the parish. [120] Union members in Natchitoches Parish reported in 1940 that "the landlords are telling the sheriff and deputies to visit all the meetings of the farmers and beat the people until they break up the unions." Police in the parish held and interrogated an elderly black sharecropper for two hours, telling him that it was illegal for people to pay any dues to the union. [121] Local administrators of federal programs also discouraged farmers from joining the LFU by withholding aid from members. Resettlement Administration officials in Pointe Coupee Parish relocated those who had joined the union to poorer land, took their equipment away so that the farmers had nothing to work with, and held up their AAA checks. The secretary of on e local in the parish complained, "The landlords are bitterly against the union in this section," and added, "Resettlement and county agents are carrying on the same crooked work against us."[122] The danger that the frequent overlap of planter and public authority posed to organizing efforts was most clearly revealed in Rapides Parish during the struggle over sugar workers' wages in 1939. According to Gordon Mclntire, immediately after wage claims were submitted to the local agricultural committee, "terror broke out in Rapides Parish, where one of the big landlords against whom we had entered several claims, was Chairman of the Parish Committee." [23]

Union members lived with constant threats of evictions, beatings, imprisonment, and death. One man who dared to ask his landlord if his AAA payment had arrived reported that his employer "seemed to get offended because I asked about my check, and he told me I had been with him too long for him to hurt me, so I had better move before he killed me. And he gave me 24 hours to be gone off the farm." [24] In June 1937, a group of white men broke into the home of Willie Scott in West Feliciana Parish, seeking to lynch him. Finding only his wife Irene at home, they beat her severely in an attempt to gain information. Irene Scott survived by pretending to be knocked unconscious and fleeing to some woods while the men waited outside the house for her husband to return. With the help of other union members, the Scotts escaped to New Orleans. [125] Frightening attacks like this were common. By the late 1930s most LFU members probably felt a lot like Joe Beraud, who feared he would soon be murdered by his landlord. "MR. WARREN is going all around telling both whites and blacks that he is going to kill me," he wrote in a letter to Gordon McIntire. "He is carrying his gun for me.... My life has come to be like a rabbit's." [126]

Black Louisianians who had joined the LFU in the hope of achieving better living and working conditions struggled determinedly against plantation owners' attempts to repress their efforts. African Americans in Woodside responded to the threats made against their union secretary by forming an armed guard to watch over his home and family. [127] Communist organizers supported the right of black people to protect themselves against violence and encouraged the use of armed self-defense. In a letter to LFU members during the St. Landry Farm fight, for instance, Gordon McIntire wrote, "If any members house is threatened by crazy hoodlums they have a right to protect their home with guns. We are not going to make trouble but must protect our rights." [128] In 1937, a report on the situation in West Feliciana Parish noted that "some of the negro union officers were quite capable of determined, courageous and effective leadership and quite competent to take care of themselves in a test of strength with the whites." [ 129] Despite planters' attempts to kill them, Willie and Irene Scott returned to the parish and continued their union activities. The LFU newsletter reported in February 1938 that members in West Feliciana had "bandaged up the victims and dug deep into their pockets for food and other aid," and that the parish locals remained strong even though they could not meet as openly as before. "Maybe poor folks just don't have good sense," the report stated, "but when other people are getting shot at, poor folks want to know why. And so more people join up and the Union rocks on, for Union men are hard to scare." [130]

The LFU's ability to call on federal assistance in the 1930s might have contributed to its members' tenacity. After Gordon McIntire had complained repeatedly to government officials, both the Department of Agriculture and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) finally sent investigators to the sugar parishes in 1939. [131] In its September newsletter, the LFU assured members that government officials were "determined to investigate every case of intimidation or any other violations of civil liberties." [132] Although this statement greatly exaggerated the Roosevelt administration's commitment to ensuring justice in the sugar parishes, the mere presence of the federal agents had a positive effect. The interest that events in rural Louisiana attracted from people outside the region threatened to undermine the tight control that planters had over their communities. Consequently, they sought to avoid actions that might provide material for sensational headlines in northern newspapers or draw national attentio n. Fear of federal intervention prevented officials in Natchitoches Parish from lynching black LFU organizer Clinton Clark after he was arrested and jailed there in 1940. According to one account, there was every likelihood Clark would be killed until the state attorney general made a telephone call to the parish district attorney. "No--no lynching!" he reportedly stated. "We've got to be careful. The State is on the spot. Can't afford that kind of thing with the federal government like it is." [133] Violence continued in Natchitoches and other parishes where the union was active, but the situation almost certainly would have been worse had it not been for the contacts that the LFU had established with officials in Washington.

Southern political and economic leaders deeply resented the encroachment of national authority into local affairs. Although they welcomed efforts to stabilize agricultural prices and benefited greatly from the AAA, planters viewed any attempt by the federal government to address more fundamental issues of poverty and inequality with suspicion. From the earliest days of the New Deal plantation owners had been wary of its implications. In the late 1930s it seemed that their worst fears were being realized. The increased federal presence in the South and the encouragement that liberal officials in Washington provided to organizations like the LFU threatened the existing social order. In the early 1940s, southern lobbyists joined forces with conservative northern business leaders to demand an end to the government's "socialistic" experiment.

Much of this opposition focused on the FSA. The agency was vilified in country newspapers and at mass meetings of plantation owners throughout the South. Critics charged that the FSA's efforts on behalf of poor farmers interfered with natural economic forces that dictated the failure of inefficient or incompetent enterprises, that its encouragement of cooperative farms was "communistic," and that efforts to combat the high incidence of disease among its poverty-stricken clients represented an attempt to introduce "socialized medicine" into the United States. In 1940, enemies of the agency in Congress succeeded in passing budget amendments that restricted appropriations for its tenant loan program. At its annual meeting in December of that year, the powerful American Farm Bureau Federation called for the abolition of the FSA and the transfer of federal loan programs to the Agricultural Extension Service, whose agents generally supported the interests of large producers. Although the FSA officially survived un til its replacement by the Farmers Home Administration in 1946, its activities were sharply curtailed after 1942 by further budget cuts and the shifting of many of its responsibilities to the Extension Service. Assistance was denied the majority of poor farmers who applied for loans after the reorganization of the government's farm credit agencies. The displacement of plantation workers continued with little to cushion the effect, relegating many people to the status of seasonal wage laborers forced to work for low pay during the harvest seasons and dependent on public welfare services at other times of the year. [134]

The Demise of the LFU and the Emergence of the Civil Rights Movement

At around the same time, the fortunes of the LFU began to decline. After reaching a high point of about three thousand members in 1940, both membership and finances decreased dramatically over the next several years. [135] Organizing efforts had always been hindered by widespread poverty among the people the union aimed to recruit. Most rural families could barely afford to spare even the meager amount it cost to join the union, and the LFU had many members who paid their dues irregularly, if at all. [136] Union staff were therefore heavily dependent on donations from liberal sympathizers to finance their activities. Those funds became harder to obtain as the United States prepared to support the European democracies in World War II, a move that most liberals supported, while the Communist Party and union leaders advocated American neutrality and attempts to resolve European problems peacefully. In June 1941, one staff member wrote of the difficulties the LFU was experiencing in raising funds from former ben efactors, saying, "the war has changed the attitudes of 'liberals' who once contributed liberally.... Try to appeal to the [deleted words] today! There's a red bogeyman hiding behind everything except a defense poster." [137]

The union also suffered from the loss of two of its most experienced organizers. Gordon McIntire contracted tuberculosis and was forced to give up work in January 1940. He left Louisiana six months later, and Peggy Dallet shortly followed. Two other staff members, Roald Peterson and Kenneth Adams, attempted to keep the New Orleans office functioning but insufficient funds and continued repression by plantation owners hindered their efforts. Failure to collect annual dues in the fall, the only time most rural workers had any cash, left the LFU with only one paid-up member on record in 1941. Peterson and Adams found themselves in an impossible predicament, lacking money because they were unable to visit union locals to collect it, and unable to visit locals because they had no money. The union's financial difficulties resulted in the suspension of its state charter by the NFU in December. Local officials in Concordia Parish took advantage of the situation to arrest Adams and Clinton Clark for "collecting money under false pretenses" when they ventured into the parish on a fundraising trip in January 1942. [138] The two organizers were not released until three months later. [139]

Meanwhile, the planter-dominated Louisiana Farm Bureau used its influence over the Agricultural Extension Service to encourage rural people to join the Bureau instead of the LFU. Extension agents printed and distributed notices of farmers' meetings, promoting the Farm Bureau as an organization that had close ties with the government and could do more for farmers than other agricultural unions. An additional "advantage" for poor sharecroppers and tenants was that their landlords were often willing to pay Farm Bureau dues for them. [140]

Developments during World War II also contributed to the demise of the LFU. New economic opportunities drew thousands of rural people to the cities, where they worked in factories for wages that were higher than they could ever hope to earn as farmers. [141] Wartime prosperity and the increasing demand for labor offered an easier solution to farm workers' problems than remaining on the land and fighting plantation owners. Many of the LFU's rural constituents drifted away, either migrating to urban areas or moving into non-agricultural employment. [142] In March 1942 Gordon McIntire wrote a circular letter to LFU members from a Denver sanatorium urging them to continue their union activities while organizers worked to collect enough dues to have the state charter restored, but his appeal failed to halt the disintegration of the union. Although a few locals continued to hold meetings and recruit members, the LFU was not rechartered and there is no trace of official union activity after the mid-1940s. [143]

Even more than the New Deal, the nation's participation in World War II drastically altered conditions in the South. Mechanization, new jobs in industry, better educational facilities, and improved communications networks eroded the tight control over rural black people that plantation owners had maintained in the first half of the twentieth century. The same economic transformations that hastened the death of the LFU simultaneously contributed to the emergence of another, more powerful movement for change: the civil rights movement.

When activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) arrived in rural Louisiana in the 1960s, black people were better placed than they had been in the 1930s to lend their support to organized challenges to white supremacy. Farm owners, business proprietors, factory workers, students, and unemployed people who had escaped agricultural labor and were no longer tied to the plantation economy provided the backbone of the civil rights movement in the region. [144] At least a few of these local activists were former members of the LFU, and those links might have been stronger were it not for the migration and other disruptions that accompanied World War II. [145] More significant than the overlap in membership, though, is that the issues that seemed important to local people showed some continuity with earlier struggles. Responding to what they soon discovered were the main concerns of rural black people, CORE workers eventually modified their narrow focus on voting rights and desegregation to embrace some familiar-sounding objectives: higher wages, access to good jobs and education, helping poor people to achieve economic independence, preventing white violence, and federal protection of African Americans' citizenship rights. [146]

In initiatives that were reminiscent of the LFU's efforts in the 1930s, CORE activists worked with local people to increase black participation in federal farm programs by disseminating information and encouraging African Americans to participate in elections for parish committees of the Agricultural Soil and Conservation Service (successor to the AAA). [147] With financial assistance from the Farmers' Home Administration and the Office of Economic Opportunity, black farmers in St. Landry Parish formed the Grand Marie Vegetable Producers' Cooperative (GMVPC) in an effort to bypass the discriminatory practices of corporate landowners who dominated the processing and marketing of sweet potatoes, which had superseded cotton as their primary crop. After purchasing storage facilities and processing equipment, the GMVPC assumed control over the preparation, packaging, and marketing of its members' potatoes, offering them prices that were double or triple those they had received before. In addition, the cooperative used some of its funds to launch an educational program that brought much-needed advice and assistance to rural poor people in St. Landry and three other parishes. [148]

Community organizing efforts like the Sr. Landry cooperative became the main focus of CORE activity in rural Louisiana in the later half of the 1960s. Civil rights workers from outside the region allowed local people to set the agenda, modifying their own programs to fit the needs of the African Americans they worked with. Plans for a "Louisiana Citizenship Program" drawn up by CORE staff after canvassing several parishes in September 1964 emphasized the need to combine voter registration with other activities like attacking discrimination in employment, establishing adult literacy programs, and building community centers where people could go for legal advice and other assistance. [149] The themes of the earlier freedom struggle reemerged in the era of the civil rights movement, as black people continued the fight for equal economic, educational, and political rights.


In the early twentieth century, the repressive plantation system severely limited black political activity in Louisiana's rural parishes. Yet within its confines, African Americans engaged in subtle forms of resistance to white supremacy that reflected their desire for equality. These efforts were translated into open protest when the New Deal and World War II extended federal influence into the South and transformed the region's economy. Changing conditions altered the methods that black Louisianians used to challenge their oppression, but their underlying objectives remained remarkably consistent throughout the century. Black people's participation in the rural unions of the 1930s and the civil rights movement of the 1960s should not be seen as separate and unrelated events. For African Americans, they were different parts of the same struggle.

Department of History and Art History

Fairfax, VA 22030-4444


Funding for the research and writing of this article was provided by the Department of History and the Research and Graduate Studies Office of the Pennsylvania State University, and by the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. The final version was vastly improved over earlier drafts thanks to the many helpful comments and suggestions offered by the following people: Nan Elizabeth Woodruff, Thavolia Glymph, Daniel Letwin, Gary Cross, Clyde Woods, Charles Payne, Adam Green, Pete Daniel, Reginald Butler, Scott French, John Gennari, Natasha Gray, Phillip Troutman, Andrew Lewis, Vania Penha-Lopes, Eve Agee, Daphne de Jong, and the anonymous readers who assessed the article before publication. I am very grateful to them all.

(1.) "Some Letters from the Field," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, 20 August 1938, 3.

(2.) The political and economic changes that swept the South in the 1930s are discussed in Pete Daniel, Breaking the Land: The Transformation of Cotton, Tobacco, and Rice Cultures since 1880 (Urbana, 1985), 65-151 and Jack Temple Kirby, Rural Worlds Lost: The American South, 1920-1960 (Baton Rouge, 1987), 51-79. Rural poor people's responses to the Depression and to federal agricultural policies are the subject of Donald Grubbs, Cry from the Cotton: The Southern Tenant Farmers' Union and the New Deal (Chapel Hill, 1971) and Robin D. G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression (Chapel Hill, 1990). Neil Foley also offers some very useful insights into this period in The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture (Berkeley, 1997), 163-182, as does Jeannie M. Whayne in A New Plantation South: Land, Labor, and Federal Favor in Twentieth-Century Arkansas (Charlottesville, 1996), 157-218.

(3.) Adam Fairclough devotes a few pages to the LFU in his recent study of the black freedom struggle in Louisiana, concluding that its impact was limited. Fairclough states that rural Louisiana proved to be "a graveyard for black political organization" in the 1930s and 1940s, and that "attempts by some historians to link the work of the farmers' unions to the civil rights movement of the 1960s are unconvincing." Perhaps because the LFU organized around economic issues rather than segregation or disfranchisement, the connections have been obscured. Yet as historian Nan Elizabeth Woodruff has shown, rural black people's notions of citizenship encompassed economic as well as political and social rights. A closer look suggests that African Americans in rural Louisiana supported the civil rights movement for the same reasons they had joined the LFU--as a continuation of their struggles for citizenship, broadly defined. Adam Fairclough, Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972 (Athens , 1995), 51-54; Nan Elizabeth Woodruff, "African American Struggles for Citizenship in the Arkansas and Mississippi Deltas in the Age of Jim Crow," Radical History Review 55 (winter 1993): 33-51.

(4.) J. Carlyle Sitterson, Sugar Country: The Cane Sugar Industry in the South, 1753-1950 (Lexington, 1953), 104-107; W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction: An Essay on the Part which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880 (Cleveland, 1935), 453; Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, African Americans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Baton Rouge, 1992), 150.

(5.) C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913 (Baton Rouge, 1951), 178-185; Jay R. Mandle, The Roots of Black Poverty: The Southern Plantation Economy After the Civil War (Durham, 1978); Robert L. Brandfon, Cotton Kingdom of the New South: A History of the Yazoo Mississippi Delta from Reconstruction to the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, 1967), 1-21; William Ivy Hair, Bourbonism and Agrarian Protest: Louisiana Politics, 1877-1900 (Baton Rouge, 1969), 35-39; Sitterson, Sugar Country, 311-313; "Excerpt from Regional Director's Weekly Report, Region VI," 25 January 1937, 1, loose in box, box 4, Records Relating to the President's Special Committee on Farm Tenancy, 1936-37, Division of Land Economics, Divisional Records, Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Record Group 83, National Archives (hereafter cited as Farm Tenancy Committee Records, RG 83).

(6.) Tenancy arrangements throughout the South varied, offering farm workers different degrees of autonomy. Some tenants simply rented land from plantation owners and retained control over management decisions as well as the sale and division of their crops. Others more closely resembled wage workers who were paid with a share of the crops that they raised under the supervision of landowners or overseers. On large "business plantations" like those that emerged in the Mississippi and Red River delta regions of Louisiana, the more independent types of tenancy were rare, especially for African Americans. The only difference between sharecroppers and tenants on these plantations was that tenants provided their own farm animals and tools, whereas sharecroppers had only their labor to contribute to the making of the crop. When the crops were divided, tenants received a larger share (usually two-thirds) than sharecroppers, who received one half. In 1930, 63,213 (86 percent) of the state's 73,770 black farmers were t enants. Of those, only 6,692 (11 percent) were cash tenants (the most independent type). Fifty-one percent (32,214) were sharecroppers, and 38 percent (24,307) were listed as "other tenants." Two-thirds of the state's 107,551 tenant farmers were black. Harold D. Woodman, New South--New Law: The Legal Foundations of Credit and Labor Relations in the Postbellum Agricultural South (Baton Rouge, 1995), 105-106; Ralph J. Ramsey and Harold Hoffsommer, Farm Tenancy in Louisiana (Washington, 1941); Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States: 1930, Agriculture, Volume 2, Part 2 (Washington, 1932), 1219.

(7.) Harrison Brown, interview by author, tape recording, 25 November 1996, T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, Louisiana State University (hereafter cited as Brown interview); "The problem," n.d., 3--4, file "LU-1 184-047, Farm Tenancy," box 1, Farm Tenancy Committee Records, RG 83; Hair, Bourbonism and Agrarian Protest, 51-52; Joe Gray Taylor, Louisiana Reconstructed, 1863-1877 (Baton Rouge, 1974), 401-403; Paul E. Mertz, New Deal Policy and Southern Rural Poverty (Baton Rouge, 1978), 8-9.

(8.) Like cotton growers, sugar planters had experimented with tenants in the decades following the Civil War, but found these arrangements unsatisfactory. Sugar production required a highly disciplined, tightly supervised labor force, and the considerable financial investments that planters had in sugarhouses and other specialized equipment made them unwilling to rely on tenants for their maintenance. In addition, there was no way to accurately measure the amount of sugar that each tenant's cane produced, making a fair division of the proceeds difficult and discouraging more widespread use of tenancy in the sugar parishes. In the 1930s almost 80 percent of the Louisiana sugar crop was produced using wage labor, with African Americans making up 75 percent of the resident work force. Sitterson, Sugar Country, 240-241, 389-390.

(9.) Sitterson, Sugar Country, 114-133; Joseph P. Reidy, "Mules and Machines and Men: Field Labor on Louisiana Sugar Plantations, 1887-1915," Agricultural History 72 (spring 1998): 185-194.

(10.) To ensure that year-round employees fulfilled their contract obligations, some planters paid them half of their earnings every two weeks and withheld the other half until after the harvest. Others paid both permanent and temporary employees weekly or daily wages. Sugar wage rates fluctuated from year to year and during different times of the season, according to prices, market conditions, and the labor supply. Sitterson, Sugar Country, 318-322; Reidy, "Mules and Machines and Men," 184-185; Louis Ferleger, "The Problem of 'Labor' in the Post-Reconstruction Louisiana Sugar Industry," Agricultural History 72 (spring 1998): 149.

(11.) J. Bradford Laws, "The Negroes of Cinclare Central Factory and Calumet Plantation, Louisiana," Department of Labor Bulletin No. 38 (Washington, 1902), 107-112; Sitterson, Sugar Country, 391; Myer Lynsky, Sugar Economics, Statistics, and Documents (New York, 1938), 290; Gordon McIntire to Miss La Budde, 12 October 1937, 3-4, file 3, reel 13, Clyde L. Johnson Papers in The Green Rising, 1910-1977: A Supplement to the Southern Tenant Farmers Union Papers (Glen Rock, 1977), microfilm (hereafter cited as Johnson Papers).

(12.) Martin Williams, interview by author, tape recording, 24 November 1996, T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, Louisiana State University (hereafter cited as Martin Williams interview); Johnnie Jones, Sr., interview by Mary Hebert, transcript, 1 September 1993, 6, 19, T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, Louisiana State University (hereafter cited as Jones interview); Rovan W. Stanley, Sr., interview by Janie Wilkins, transcript, 19 March 1978, 1, Oral History Collection, Center for Regional Studies, Southeastern Louisiana University; "Farmers' Union Asks Federal Aid for Rural Schools," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, 1 June 1938, 1.

(13.) Report of T. F. Wilson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1 August 1939, 16, file "144- 32-2," box 17587, Classified Subject Files--Correspondence, Central Files and Related Records, 1904-1967, General Records of the Department of Justice, Record Group 60, National Archives (hereafter cited as Classified Subject Files, RG 60); Ernesto Garlarza, The Louisiana Sugar Cane Plantation Workers vs. The Sugar Corporations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, et al.: An Account of Human Relations on Corporation-Owned Sugar Cane Plantations in Louisiana under the Operation of the U.S. Sugar Program, 1937-1953 (Washington, 1954), 27, filed at n.d. [Aug 1954], reel 39, Southern Tenant Farmers' Union Papers (Sanford, 1971), microfilm (hereafter cited as STFU Papers).

(14.) Report of T. F. Wilson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1 August 1939, 25, file "144-32-2," box 17587, Classified Subject Files, RG 60; Louisiana Education Association Department of Retired Teachers, We Walked Tall (n.p., 1979), 39; Jones interview, 34; Brown interview.

(15.) Researchers found that in the spring of 1935, between one-third to one half of all sharecroppers and tenants in the South had been on their present farms for less than one year. "Report of the President's Committee on Farm Tenancy: Findings and Recommendations," February 1937, 19, file "Tenancy (Jan 1-Feb 1)," box 2661, General Correspondence of the Office of the Secretary, 1929-1970, Records of the Immediate Offices of the Commissioner and Secretary of Agriculture, Records of the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture, Record Group 16, National Archives (hereafter cited as General Correspondence, RG 16).

(16.) Statement of John Pickering, 8 April 1926, frame 0633, reel 12, Peonage Files of the U.S. Department of Justice, 1901-1945 (Frederick, 1989), microfilm (hereafter cited as Peonage Files).

(17.) Leola Palmer, "The Evolution of Education for African Americans in Pointe Coupee Parish (New Roads, Louisiana): 1889-1969," (Ph.D. diss., Ann Arbor, 1992), 230.

(18.) Palmer, "Evolution of Education," 35, 232, 412; Laurie A. Wilkie, Ethnicity, Community and Power: An Archaeological Study of the African-American Experience at Oakley Plantation, Louisiana (Columbia, 1994), 83; Jones interview, 10.

(19.) Organizational Study, St. Helena Parish, Section 11--Negro Schools, State Department of Education of Louisiana, Bulletin No. 549, March 1945, 2.

(20.) Palmer, "Evolution of Education," 29.

(21.) Wilkie, Ethnicity, Community and Power, 83; Sepia Socialite, The Negro in Louisiana: Seventy-Eight Years of Progress, 5th Anniversary Edition (New Orleans, 1942), 89; "50 Year History of the Knights and Ladies of Peter Claver," Claverite, November/December 1959, 12, file 38, box 6, Alexander Pierre Tureaud Papers, Amistad Research Center; "Women's 4th Dist. Home Mission Baptist Association," 26 July 1938,148, file 11-6, reel PP2.9, Robert Tallant Collection, microfilm, Amistad Research Center.

(22.) At monthly meetings of the Bethel Baptist Church in Natchitoches Parish, for instance, representatives of the church's various districts followed standard parliamentary procedures as they discussed and voted on issues such as the disbursement of funds to needy members, censure and fining of those who were guilty of misbehavior, and long-term policies and programs. Record Book, 1922-1924, Bethel Baptist Church Records, Hill Memorial Library, Louisiana State University. See also William A. Muraskin, Middle-Class Blacks in a White Society: Prince Hall Freemasonry in America (Berkeley, 1975), 123-132; Earl Lewis, In Their Own Interests: Race, Class, and Power in Twentieth-Century Norfolk, Virginia (Berkeley, 1991), 70-73; Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920 (Cambridge, 1993), 5-11; and David T. Beito, "Black Fraternal Hospitals in the Mississippi Delta, 1942-1967," Journal of Southern History 65 (February 1999): 112-113.

(23.) Walter White to John Garibaldi Sargent, 26 January 1926, frames 0755-0756, reel 11, Peonage Files.

(24.) James A. Ray to President, 27 February 1912, file "158260, Section 1,#3," box 1276, Straight Numerical Files, 1904-37, Central Files and Related Records, 1904-67, General Records of the Department of Justice, Record Group 60, National Archives (hereafter cited as Straight Numerical Files, RG 60); John R. Shillady to R. G. Pleasant, 25 June 1918, frame 0319, reel 12, series A, part 7, Papers of the NAACP (Frederick, 1982), microfilm (hereafter cited as NAACP Papers).

(25.) "Kill Innocent Colored Men in Louisiana," clipping from Philadelphia Tribune, 16 June 1928, frame 1152, reel 11, series A, part 7, NAACP Papers; "Somebody Ought To Pay These Mob Bills,' clipping from Chicago Defender, 26 May 1928, frame 0436, reel 12, series A, part 7, NAACP Papers.

(26.) James S. Olson, ed., Historical Dictionary of the New Deal: From Inauguration to Preparation for War (Westport, 1985), 177-178, 549.

(27.) William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940 (New York, 1963), 118-142.

(28.) Harvard Sitkoff, A New Deal for Blacks: The Emergence of Civil Rights as a National Issue, Volume 1: The Depression Decade (New York, 1978), 59-75; Nancy Weiss, Farewell to the Party of Lincoln: Black Politics in the Age of FDR (Princeton, 1983), 220-221; Patricia Sullivan, Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era (Chapel Hill, 1996), 41-67; Hollinger F. Barnard, ed., Outside the Magic Circle: The Autobiography of Virginia Foster Durr (Tuscaloosa, 1985), 127.

(29.) Willie Dixon to Attorney General of the U.S., 24 April 1939, frame 0987, reel 9, Peonage Files.

(30.) For instance, a survey of the land holdings of AAA committee members in Louisiana found that the majority were large growers and corporation owners unsympathetic to the problems of small farmers, tenants, or sharecroppers. Control over crop acreage allotments enabled planters to ensure that they received the largest share, while the amount of land that other farmers could cultivate was drastically reduced. Gordon McIntire, Statement on Sugar Cane Wages, Federal Hearing, 16 June 1939, 7,11-12, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers. See also Clyde Johnson, interview by Bob Dinwiddie, transcript, 4 April 1976, 46, file 1, reel 13, Johnson Papers (hereafter cited as Johnson interview); Daniel, Breaking the Land, 91-109; and Pete Daniel, "The Legal Basis of Agrarian Capitalism: The South since 1933" in Race and Class in the American South since 1890, ed. Melvyn Stokes and Rick Halpern (Oxford, 1994), 79-102.

(31.) David Eugene Conrad, The Forgotten Farmers: The Story of Sharecroppers in the New Deal (Urbana, 1965), 64-82; Grubbs, Cry From the Cotton, 23-25; Merrz, New Deal Policy, 23.

(32.) Tensas Parish Department of Public Welfare, "For the Welfare of Tensas Parish," 15 March 1937, 7, Tensas Parish Scrapbook, 1937-1975, Manuscript Volume 9, Gladys Means Loyd and Family Papers, Hill Memorial Library, Louisiana State University; Maude Barrett to Loula Dunn, 11 September 1935, frames 0015-0016, reel 1, Selected Documents from the Louisiana Section of the Work Projects Administration General Correspondence File ("State Series") 1935-1943, National Archives Microfilm Publication M1367, Historic New Orleans Collection (hereafter cited as WPA Papers).

(33.) Conrad, Forgotten Farmers, 105-119; Grubbs, Cry From the Cotton, 21-23; Johnson interview, 47.

(34.) Brown interview.

(35.) Kelley, Hammer and Hoe; Grubbs, Cry from the Cotton; Michael W. Flamm, "The National Farmers Union and the Evolution of Agrarian Liberalism, 1937-1946," Agricultural History 68 (summer 1994): 54-80; Kirby, Rural Worlds Lost, 51-52; Donald Holley, Uncle Sam's Farmers: The New Deal Communities in the Lower Mississippi Valley (Urbana, 1975), 82-104; Mertz, New Deal Policy, 20-44.

(36.) Johnson interview, 48; Kelley, Hammer and Hoe, 168-169.

(37.) Tom [Clyde Johnson] to H. L. Mitchell, 31 January [1936], reel 1, STFU Papers.

(38.) Dale Rosen, "The Alabama Share Croppers Union," March 1969, 89, file 2A, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(39.) Johnson interview, 29.

(40.) C. L. Johnson, "The Sharecroppers Union," Louisiana Weekly, 16 May 1936, 6; Rosen, "Alabama Share Croppers Union," 138--139; Kelley, Hammer and Hoe, 63, 172.

(41.) Rosen, "Alabama Share Croppers Union," 4, 89, 138--139; Kelley, Hammer and Hoe, 63, 169; Robin D. G. Kelley, "A Lifelong Radical: Clyde L. Johnson, 1908--1994," Radical History Review 62 (spring 1995): 254--258; Reuben Cole, "Southern Farm Students Praise College for Workers," Southern Farm Leader, February 1937, 2; Tex [Gordon Mclntire] to Clyde and Anne [Johnson], 13 April 1956, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; Clyde Johnson, "A Brief History, Share Croppers' Union, Alabama/Louisiana, 1931-1941," April 1979,18, box 9, Clyde Johnson Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina; Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Louisiana Farmers' Union (Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union of America, Louisiana Division)," 27 September 1941, 8, File 100-45768, Louisiana Farmers Union, Federal Bureau of Investigation Files, Amistad Research Center (hereafter cited as FBI Files).

(42.) "Southern Farm Leader," Southern Farm Leader, May 1936, 1.

(43.) Clyde Johnson quoted in Rosen, "Alabama Share Croppers Union," 89.

(44.) "Share Croppers Union Expresses its Thanks to Secretary Johnson," Southern Farm Leader, August 1936, 5.

(45.) "Your Paper--Our Bow," Louisiana Union Farmer, November 1939, 4.

(46.) "For Unity in the South," Southern Farm Leader, May 1936, 4.

(47.) Rosen, "Alabama Share Croppers Union," 99--106. Noncommunist contemporaries as well as many historians of New Deal era social movements viewed the part that communists played in these struggles with ambivalence. Communist Party members received funding and direction from the Soviet Union for their activities, raising concerns about their underlying motives and goals. Rigid adherence to the Party line and the efforts of some members to gain control over the noncommunist organizations they belonged to antagonized more moderate activists and contributed to the weakening of the American left in the 1940s. On the other hand, the Party provided many of the most dedicated and effective organizers in the labor movement, and its members were among the few white people who openly supported racial equality in the decades before World War II.

H. L. Mitchell's and others' suspicions notwithstanding, the organizers of the SCU and LFU bore little resemblance to the uncompromising ideologues depicted in some accounts of communist activity. The decision to seek alliances with other liberal and left-wing organizations was reached independently of Soviet influence and antedated the Communist International's formal proclamation of the Popular Front by more than a year. Although they might have started out with the aim of transforming southern sharecroppers and tenants into the vanguard of an American workers' revolution, organizers ultimately became more concerned with helping rural people to achieve a measure of comfort and security in their daily lives. By early 1935, Johnson stared, "all of the pretense of running party units a la New York was given up," and union organizers' contacts with the Party leadership were minimal. See Rosen, "The Alabama Share Croppers Union," 3--4, 95--96, (the quotation is on page 96). For some historical analyses of the r ole of communists in the freedom struggle see Kelley, Hammer and Hoe; Wilson Record, Race and Radicalism:

The NAACP and the Communist Party in Conflict (Ithaca, 1964); Mark Naison, Communists in Harlem during the Depression (Urbana, 1983); Michael Honey, Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights: Organizing Memphis Workers (Urbana, 1993); and Roger Horowitz, "Zegro and White, Unite and Fight!": A Social History of Industrial Unionism in Meatpacking, 1930-90 (Urbana, 1997).

(48.) Kelley, Hammer and Hoe, 169-172; Rosen, "Alabama Share Croppers Union," 86-87, 99-107, 112-113.

(49.) A union newsletter explained, "The charter gives the local the legal right to hold closed meetings and it is unlawful for anyone who is not a member to break in a meeting," "Organization Information," Union News, 30 April 1937, 2, file 2, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(50.) Clyde Johnson to J. M. Graves, 15 May 1937, 1, file 2, reel 13, Johnson Papers; "S.C.U. Locals Transferring to Farmers' Union," Southern Farm Leader, February 1937, 2.

(51.) Johnson interview, 48; [Clyde Johnson] to G. S. Gravlee, 23 September 1936, file 2, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(52.) SCU leaders strongly supported working with organized labor, encouraging members to form local farmer-labor cooperatives and to support candidates of the fledgling Farmer-Labor Party when they ran for political office. In return, leaders of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) promised support for the struggles of rural people in the South. At its annual convention in April 1937, the Louisiana State Federation of Labor endorsed the LFU's efforts. The editor of the state AFL's newspaper, William L. Donnells, provided office space for LFU organizers and helped produce the Southern Farm Leader for more than a year before the farm union's failure to pay its bills caused him to withdraw this support. "Farmers' Union National Convention," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, 1 December 1937, 1-2; Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union of America, National Program, December 1937, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; "Washington Hears Farm Workers' Plea for Recogni tion," Southern Farm Leader, May 1936, 1; "A New Party is Needed to Battle for Justice," Southern Farm Leader, August 1936, 5; "Louisiana Labor Pledges Support for Farm Union," Southern Farm Leader, April/May 1937, 1; "New Office for Louisiana Farmers' Union," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, 15 January 1938, 1; Gordon McIntire to Mack, Bob, and Clyde [Johnson], 23 June [1938], file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(53.) "For Unity in the South," Southern Farm Leader, May 1936, 4.

(54.) Although UCAPAWA represented agricultural workers at federal hearings and before government agencies concerned with labor, most of its organizing activity centered on the processing industries. [Clyde Johnson], "Activities in United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing and Allied Workers of America, 1938," 3 July 1976, file 4, reel 13, Johnson Papers; Kelley, Hammer and Hoe, 172; UCAPAWA Yearbook, December 1938, 8, 14, file 5, reel 13, Johnson Papers; Rosen, "Alabama Share Croppers Union," 113-115.

(55.) Gordon McIntire to Miss La Budde, 12 October 1937, 3, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(56.) "S.C.U. Locals Transferring to Farmers' Union," Southern Farm Leader, February 1937, 2; "Organization Information," Union News, 30 April 1937, 2, file 2, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(57.) Rosen, "Alabama Share Croppers Union," 91; Whayne, A New Plantation South, 194. Women and girls typically spent less time working in the fields than men and boys, so they could attend school for a greater part of the year. Stephanie J. Shaw provides additional insight into rural black people's determination to educate their daughters, particularly, in What a Woman Ought to Be and to Do: Black Professional Women Workers during the Jim Crow Era (Chicago, 1996), 13-16.

(58.) "Women Delegates Discuss Schools, Adopt Program," Southern Farm Leader, August 1936, 1; "Women Are Entitled to Free Medical Aid," Southern Farm Leader, August 1936, 4.

(59.) The literature on this topic is extensive. White and black southerners were certainly capable of overcoming mutual suspicion and mistrust to form strong interracial alliances, but these organizations always remained vulnerable. If the racism of individual members did not weaken or destroy them, racist and sometimes violent attacks by members of the larger community often did. See for example Barbara S. Griffith, The Crisis of American Labor: Operation Dixie and the Defeat of the CIO (Philadelphia, 1988); Eric Arnesen, Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class and Politics, 1863--1923 (New York, 1991); Honey, Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights; Daniel L. Letwin, "Interracial Unionism, Gender, and 'Social Equality' in the Alabama Coalfields, 1878--1908," Journal of Southern History 61 (August 1995): 519-554; and Stephen H. Norwood, "Bogalusa Burning: The War Against Biracial Unionism in the Deep South, 1919," Journal of Southern History 63 (August 1997):591-628.

(60.) Rosen, "Alabama Share Croppers Union," 90.

(61.) Clyde Johnson quoted in Rosen, "Alabama Share Croppers Union," 92.

(62.) In the same article, McIntire asserted that "The Farmers' Union is proud of its large colored membership. But just as America has more white farmers than colored so has the Union." It is (perhaps intentionally) unclear whether "Farmers' Union" meant the LFU or the NFU, but it seems likely that he was referring to the predominantly white national membership and not the state union. Gordon McIntire, "Between the Plow Handles," Southern Farm Leader, December 1936, 4.

(63.) "Simmesport Hoodlums Drive Organizer Moore Out of Town," Southern Farm Leader, August 1936, 2.

(64.) Rosen, "Alabama Share Croppers Union," 90, 139-140.

(65.) "Resolutions of Sharecroppers' Convention--A Call to Action," Southern Farm Leader, August 1936, 3-4.

(66.) "First Louisiana Union Label Farm Produce for Maritime Strikers," Southern Farm Leader, November 1936, 1; "St. Landry Farmers Need Corn Relief," Southern Farm Leader, November 1936, 2.

(67.) Gordon McIntire and Clyde Johnson, "Statement on the St. Landry Farm Case," n.d., 1-2, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(68.) Gordon McIntire and Clyde Johnson, "Statement on the Sr. Landry Farm Case," n.d., 1, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; "Editorial Notes," Southern Farm Leader, December 1936, 4.

(69.) Gordon McIntire and Clyde Johnson, "Statement on the St. Landry Farm Case," n.d., 3, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; Mercer G. Evans to Clyde Johnson, 24 December 1936, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(70.) Clyde Johnson to Louis Fontenot, 4 January 1937, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; "St. Landry Farm Tenants Getting Teams and Tools," Southern Farm Leader, January 1937, 1.

(71.) "Seek AAA Relief Payments," Southern Farm Leader, September 1936, 4.

(72.) Louisiana Farmers' Union news release, 29 November 1939, 1, file "Southern Tenant Farmers' Union Jan 23-Dec 20," box 406, series A, part 1, Papers of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Library of Congress (hereafter cited as NAACP-LC Papers).

(73.) "Cotton Tenants Win Rent Victory," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, March 1939, 1-2. To "live at home" meant that farm families grew as much of their own food as possible instead of purchasing it from landlords or merchants.

(74.) Sugar Act of 1937, in Lynsky, Sugar Economics, 215-216.

(75.) Although it is possible that some of the planters did have genuine financial difficulties, most were probably not as poverty-stricken as they claimed. Between 1930 and 1936, gross income from the Louisiana sugar crop more than doubled (increasing from $15,000,000 to $33,000,000), while wages remained relatively static. Godchaux Sugars, a company that owned a dozen plantations in seven parishes, reported a net income of $858,000 in 1936. At the 1937 hearings, when the owner of Burgaires Sugar stated, "It is not a question of how we are going to divide the profits but how we will share the losses," a small grower from his parish pointed out that the company had made $500,000 in profits the previous winter. In any case, plantation owners derived great benefits from the government's subsidy program, and it was not unreasonable to require them to share part of their increased earnings with their workers. Lynsky, Sugar Economics, 23, 93; Gordon McIntire to Miss La Budde, 12 October 1937, 1, file 3, reel 13, J ohnson Papers.

(76.) Gordon McIntire to Miss La Budde, 12 October 1937, 3-4, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(77.) Gordon McIntire to Miss La Budde, 12 October 1937, 5, 7, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(78.) Godfrey G. Beck and Gordon McIntire to Sugar Cane Cutters and Friends of Field Labor in the Sugar Industry, n.d. [October 1937], file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(79.) This did not mean that all planters had to provide such benefits, only that those who had always done so could not withdraw these privileges in an effort to reduce wages. In a set-back or the LFU, the Sugar Section later determined that growers could deduct pay for board if this was agreed to in advance with their laborers. Gordon McIntire called the new ruling "simply a loophole" that allowed planters to pay less than the minimum wage. H. A. Wallace, "Determination of Fair and Reasonable Wage Rates for Harvesting the 1937 Sugar Crop of Louisiana Sugarcane, Pursuant to the Sugar Act of 1937," 12 November 1937, in Lynsky, Sugar Economics, 233; "The Check-up on Cane Cutting Wages," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, 1 March 1938, 5; Tex [Gordon McIntire] to Clyde Johnson, 14 September 1939, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(80.) "Farmers' Union Asks Wage Increases for Sugar Workers," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, 1 March 1938, 1-3.

(81.) "Increased Wages for Sugar Cane Workers Specified in Rules," Opelousas Clarion-News, 28 July 1938, 3; Joshua Bernhardt, The Sugar Industry and the Federal Government: A Thirty Year Record (1917-47) (Washington, 1948), 208.

(82.) LFU organizers and members attended additional hearings in August 1938 (to establish rates for the 1938 harvest season) and June 1939 (to establish rates for the 1939 cultivation and planting seasons, and the 1940 harvest season), but the union was unable to gain further wage increases. With the start of World War II, however, wages rose to almost $3.00 per day and continued to increase after the war, reaching up to $3.70 per day or $1.74 per ton during the 1949 sugar harvest. "Cane Grower Denies Labor Intimidated," clipping from New Orleans Item, n.d. [6 August 1938], file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; Tex [Gordon McIntire] to Clyde [Johnson], 20 June 1939, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; Bernhardt, Sugar Industry, 224-225, 242, 251-252, 266, 272, 275-276; Sitterson, Sugar Country, 393-394.

(83.) "The Check-up on Cane Cutting Wages," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, 1 March 1938, 5.

(84.) "Action on Cane Wages," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, August 1939, 3; "The Sugar Battle Still Rages," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, September 1939, 3; B. E. Sackett to Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7 September 1939, file "144-32-2," box 17587, Classified Subject Files, RG 60.

(85.) "Sharecroppers and Tenants Hold Convention," LFU news release, 4 November 1939, 2, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(86.) [Clyde Johnson] to G.S. Gravlee, 23 September 1936, file 2, reel 13, Johnson Papers; Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Louisiana Farmers' Union (Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union of America, Louisiana Division)," 27 September 1941, 6, File 100-45768, Louisiana Farmers Union, FBI Files.

(87.) Bureau of the Census, United States Census of Agriculture: 1945, Volume 1, Part 24 (Washington, 1946), State Tables 1 and 5. The census lists a total of 206,719 farm operators and laborers (excluding unpaid family labor) in Louisiana in 1940.

(88.) "Sharecroppers and Tenants Hold Convention," LFU news release, 4 November 1939, 1, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; "Negro Conference in Baton Rouge," Louisiana Union Farmer, November 1939, 1.

(89.) Tex [Gordon McIntire] to Clyde [Johnson], 11 November 1939, 1, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(90.) Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Louisiana Farmers' Union (Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union of America, Louisiana Division)," 27 September 1941, 18, File 100-45768, Louisiana Farmers Union, FBI Files.

(91.) "Editorial Notes," Opportunity, August 1931, 234.

(92.) A New Member, "Slavery," Southern Farm Leader, October 1936, 3.

(93.) Quoted in "Sharecroppers and Tenants Hold Convention," LFU news release, 4 November 1939, 1, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(94.) Johnson interview, 45.

(95.) Gordon McIntire and Clyde Johnson, "Statement on Farm-Tenancy," n.d. [c. January 1937], 3, file "Extra Copies Briefs from Hearings on Farm Tenancy, Dallas, Texas, Jan. 4,1937," box 1, Farm Tenancy Committee Records, RG 83; "The Sharecrop Contract," Southern Farm Leader, April/May 1937, 3.

(96.) Mertz, New Deal Policy, 202.

(97.) "F.S.A. News," Pointe Coupee Banner, 8 June 1939, 1.

(98.) "FSA Insists on Written Farm Lease," St. Francisville Democrat, 1 October 1938, 2.

(99.) "FSA Farm News," Pointe Coupee Banner, 2 October 1941, 1.

(100.) C. L. Johnson, "The Sharecroppers' Union," Louisiana Weekly, 16 May 1936, 6.

(101.) "Local No. 2 Resolution," Southern Farm Leader, December 1936, 3.

(102.) "Mother's Club Gets Toilets for School," Southern Farm Leader, January 1937, 1.

(103.) "Want School Bus First," Southern Farm Leader, April/May 1937, 3.

(104.) "Farmers' Union Asks Federal Aid for Rural Schools," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, 1 June 1938, 1; "Some Letters from the Field," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, 20 August 1938, 3.

(105.) "Unions Ask Land for Landless at Texas Meeting," Southern Farm Leader, January 1937, 1.

(106.) "Your County Agent," Southern Farm Leader, June 1936, 4.

(107.) "Resettlement," Southern Farm Leader, May 1936, 4.

(108.) Pete Daniel has shown that government farm policies continued to privilege large, corporate landowners over small farmers while accommodation to southern traditions and prejudices allowed racism to become institutionalized within the Department of Agriculture. As late as 1992, only 417 African Americans served on county committees of the Farmers' Home Administration (successor to the FSA) out of a total of 6,611 members. Discrimination was so prevalent that black farmers filed a class-action lawsuit against the government, winning a settlement in January 1999 that promised hundreds of millions of dollars in backpayments to African Americans who had wrongfully been denied credit, grants, and other benefits. Daniel, "The Legal Basis of Agrarian Capitalism," 100; Alan Jenkins, "See No Evil," The Nation, 28 June 1999, 16.

(109.) This was a much greater percentage than was typical for the South as a whole, where discrimination against black farmers kept the number of successful FSA applicants low. In 1939, for instance, only 722 loans were granted to African Americans in fourteen southern states, representing 23 percent of the loans that were available in those states. (Black people made up 35 percent of the tenant farmers in the same states.) African Americans constituted 70 percent of tenants in Pointe Coupee Parish in 1935. "Good Record for Pointe Coupee's FSA Farmers," Pointe Coupee Banner, 20 January 1938, 1, 4; Report of the Administrator of the Farm Security Administration 1939 (Washington, 1939), 15, file "183-04 Annual Report 1937," box 27, General Correspondence, 1935-42, Records of the Resettlement Division, Records of the Central Office, Records of the Farmers Home Administration, Record Group 96, National Archives (hereafter cited as General Correspondence, Resettlement Division, RG 96); Bureau of the Census, Unite d States Census of Agriculture: 1935, Volume 1 (Washington, 1936), 703.

(110.) Douglas Robinson to Steve Barbre, 18 March 1941 and E. C. McInnis to A. M. Rogers, 31 January 1942, both in file "Pointe Coupee Parish, La. AD-S 10," box 193, General Correspondence Maintained in the Cincinnati Office, 1935-42, Records of the Office of the Administrator, Records of the Central Office, Records of the Farmers Home Administration, Record Group 96, National Archives (hereafter cited as General Correspondence, Cincinnati Office, RG 96).

(111.) See for example L. J. Billingsley to Secretary of Agriculture n.d. [c. February 1934], file "Bero to Bill," box 3, Correspondence with the General Public to which Individual Replies were Made, 1933-35, Records of the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, Records of the Central Office, Records of the Farmers' Home Administration, Record Group 96, National Archives (hereafter cited as Subsistence Homestead Division Correspondence, RG 96); Willie Bates to Franklin Roosevelt, December 1934, folder "Bas to Beat," box 2, Subsistence Homestead Division Correspondence, RG 96.

(112.) Statement of Harry Jack Rose, 7 December 1936, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(113.) "First Negro Farmer Pays Off FSA Farm Ownership Loan," Louisiana Weekly, 27 February 1943, 12.

(114.) Arthur Hatfield, "Farmers Able to Buy Farms Under Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act," Louisiana Weekly, 9 August 1941, 7.

(115.) [Statistics on African American Gains under FSA Programs], n.d. [c. between 1937-1942], file "Investigation of Clients Preference (Veterans, Indians, etc.)," box 43, General Correspondence, 1937-42, Records of the Farm Ownership Division, Records of the Central Office, Records of the Farmers' Home Administration, Record Group 96, National Archives.

(116.) "Is Communism in Our Midst," Opelousas Clarion-News, 3 December 1936, 4; Statement by Gordon McIntire, 9 December 1936, 2, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; "The Farmers' Union and the Negro," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, 15 February 1938, 1.

(117.) "Some Letters from the Field," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, 20 August 1938, 3. Some planters honestly believed that union organizers were taking advantage of their black laborers for mercenary reasons. Numerous references to the poverty of the New Orleans staff members in the papers of the LFU show that this was not the case. Organizers received no regular salaries and were dependent on donations from northern supporters in addition to some limited funds allocated by the NFU. When they traveled out to the rural parishes to visit union locals, they relied on members to feed and house them. "Racketeers Said to Be Robbing Poor as Alleged RA Workers," Opeloasas-Clarion News, 2 January 1936, section 2, 4; George A. Dreyfous and M. Swearingen, "Report to the Executive Committee of the [Louisiana League for the Preservation of Constitutional Rights] on Investigations in West Feliciana Parish," n.d. [1937], 6, file 19, box 2, Harold N. Lee Papers, Howard Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University (hereafter cited as Lee Papers); Tex [Gordon McIntire] to Clyde [Johnsonl, 17 February 1937, 16 April 1937, 22 May 1937, 22 June 1938, and 23 June 1938, all in file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(118.) Report of T. E Wilson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1 August 1939, 25, file "144-32-2," box 17587, Classified Subject Files, RG 60.

(119.) Elma Godchaux to Louisiana League for the Preservation of Constitutional Rights, 17 October 1937, 2, file 7, box 1, Lee Papers.

(120.) Report of T. F. Wilson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1 August 1939, 28, file "144-32-2," box 17587, Classified Subject Files, RG 60.

(121.) "Natchitoches Farmers Rally to Defend Clark," Louisiana Weekly, 17 August 1940, 5.

(122.) "Trouble With Checks," Southern Farm Leader, January 1937, 3. Similar complaints were made by farmers in Alabama and Arkansas was well as other parishes in Louisiana. See "Resettlement," Southern Farm Leader, May 1936, 4.

(123.) Gordon McIntire to Gardner Jackson, 17 July 1939, 1, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(124.) Report of J. O. Peyronnin, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 6 September 1939, 2, file "144-32-2," box 17587, Classified Subject Files, RG 60.

(125.) "Statement of Terror against Farmers' Union Leaders in West Feliciana Parish Louisiana," 2 July 1937, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers.

(126.) Report of J. O. Peyronnin, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 6 September 1939, 3, file "144-32-2," box 17587, Classified Subject Files, RG 60.

(127.) Report of T. F. Wilson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1 August 1939, 28, file "144-32-2," box 17587, Classified Subject Files, RG 60.

(128.) Gordon Mclntire [to St. Landry Farm LFU Members], February 1937, 3, file 2, reel 13, Johnson Papers. See also Johnson, "A Brief History," 11-12 and Rosen, "Alabama Share Croppers Union," 92.

(129.) George A. Dreyfous and M. Swearingen, "Report of the Executive Committee of the [Louisiana League for the Preservation of Constitutional Rights] on Investigations in West Feliciana Parish," n.d. [1937], 3, file 19, box 2, Lee Papers.

(130.) "Union Men Don't Scare," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, 15 February 1938, 1-2.

(131.) Gordon Mclntire to Gardner Jackson, 17 July 1939 and Gordon McIntire to Clyde Johnson, 19 July 1939, both in file 3, reel 13, Clyde Johnson Papers; Report of T. F. Wilson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1 August 1939 and Report of J. O. Peyronnin, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 6 September 1939, both in file "144-32-2," box 17587, Classified Subject Files, RG 60. The FBI's involvement was reluctant and its agents showed more empathy with plantation owners than with sugar workers. In his final report, the Bureaus Special Agent in Charge in New Orleans dismissed McIntire's complaints, saying, "The Bureau's attention is invited to the fact that McIntire is a labor union organizer who is trying to organize the negro workers in the cane fields and he, of course, is meeting with the usual opposition any such movement would have, especially in this part of the country, in connection with attempts to organize negro workers. His interests in the whole matter are purely mercenary, in attempts to secure membe rs for his organization." B. E. Sackett to Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7 September 1939, 2, file "144-32-2," box 17587, Classified Subject Files, RG 60.

(132.) "The Sugar Battle Still Rages," Louisiana Farmers' Union News, September 1939, 3.

(133.) Margery Dallet, "Case of Clinton Clark, Natchitoches, La.," 17 August 1940, file 15, box 3, Lee Papers.

(134.) H. L. Mitchell to Members of Executive Council of the STFU, memorandum, 7 March 1941, 1, reel 18, STFU Papers; "Farm Bureau Advocates Abolition of Tenant Program," Tenant Farmer, 15 July 1941, 1, file "Southern Tenant Farmers' Union 1940-1941," box 527, series A, part 3, NAACP-LC Papers; H. L. Mitchell, "The People at the Bottom of Our Agricultural Ladder," 7 October 1952, 1, reel 36, STFU Papers; Sidney Baldwin, Poverty and Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Farm Security Administration (Chapel Hill, 1968), 335-362; Holley, Uncle Sam's Farmers, 174-278; Mertz, New Deal Policy, 218-220; Daniel, Breaking the Land, 91-109; Kirby, Rural Worlds Lost, 51-79.

(135.) Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Louisiana Farmers' Union (Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union of America, Louisiana Division)," 20 February 1943, 1, File 10045768, Louisiana Farmers Union, FBI Files. This figure was an estimate given to an FBI agent by a former member of the LFU. It is unclear whether it refers to the union's total membership or only dues-paying members-if there were three thousand dues-paying members, then the union's total membership could have been several times that number.

(136.) Gordon McIntire, "Dear Friends," n.d. [1938], file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Louisiana Farmers' Union (Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union of America, Louisiana Division)," 20 February 1943, 1, File 100-45768, Louisiana Farmers Union, FBI Files.

(137.) Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Louisiana Farmers' Union (Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union of America, Louisiana Division)," 27 September 1941, 22, File 100-45768, Louisiana Farmers Union, FBI Files.

(138.) Gordon McIntire to Members and Friends of the Farmers' Union in Louisiana, 10 March 1942, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; Fred Kane, "Clinton Clark Threatened With Mob Violence," Louisiana Weekly, 31 January 1942, 1, 7.

(139.) "Farm Union Organizers Are Freed," Louisiana Weekly, 11 April 1942, 2.

(140.) Gordon McIntire to 0. Warburton, 14 November 1939, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; "Pointe Coupee Farmers Organize," Pointe Coupee Banner, 13 June 1940, 1; M. L. Wilson to H. C. Sanders, 9 June 1943, file "Dir. La, 1.43-6.43," box 886, General Correspondence of the Extension Service and its Predecessors, Correspondence, Records of the Federal Extension Service, Record Group 33, National Archives; Rosen, "Alabama Share Croppers Union," 79.

(141.) "Memorandum Concerning Economic and Employment Conditions in Louisiana, Notes on Individual WPA Districts," June 1941, frames 0753-0755, reel 6, WPA Papers; "Louisiana and National Defense, Second Report," 30 April 1941, 3, file 3, box 13, William Walter Jones Collection of the Papers of Sam Houston Jones, Howard Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University.

(142.) Bureau of the Census, Census of Agriculture: 1945, Volume 1, Part 24, State Tables 1 and 5. Approximately 60,000 rural people left the land between 1940 and 1945. They represented more than one quarter of Louisiana's farm population.

(143.) Gordon McIntire to Members and Friends of the Farmers' Union in Louisiana, 10 March 1942, file 3, reel 13, Johnson Papers; Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Louisiana Farmers' Union (Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union of America, Louisiana Division)," 6 August 1943, 1, File 100-45768, Louisiana Farmers Union, FBI Files.

(144.) Ronnie Moore to Vernon Jordan, memorandum, 16-18 December 1966, 4, file 4, box 23, Scholarship, Education, and Defense Fund for Racial Equality Papers, State Historical Society of Wisconsin (hereafter cited as SEDERE Papers); John Zippert, interview by author, tape recording, 28 June 1998, T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, Louisiana State University (hereafter cited as Zippert interview).

(145.) Local leader Abraham Phillips of Pointe Coupee Parish later became involved in the Deacons for Defense and Justice, an armed self-defense group that was formed to protect civil rights workers in Louisiana. A comparison of names that appear in the records of both the LFU and CORE suggests that several other residents of Pointe Coupee Parish who were active in the 1930s were also involved in the civil rights movement (Siegent Caulfield and Leon Lafayette, for example). Kelley, Hammer and Hoe, 169; Abraham Phillips et al. to Mr. Baldwin, 21 October 1941, file "Pointe Coupee Parish, La. AD-510," box 193, General Correspondence, Cincinnati Office, RG 96; Mimi Feingold, "Parish Scouting Report--Summer Project, Pointe Coupee Parish," 14 April 1964, 2, file 20, box 1, Congress of Racial Equality, Sixth Congressional District Papers, State Historical Society of Wisconsin (hereafter cited as CORE Sixth Congressional District Papers); "Report for Pointe Coupee Parish," n.d. [11 October 1963], 1, file 3, box 6, Co ngress of Racial Equality, Southern Regional Office Papers, State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

(146.) Oretha Haley, interview by Kim Lacy Rogers, tape recording, 27 November 1978 and Rudy Lombard, interview by Kim Lacy Rogers, tape recording, 9 May 1979, both at Amistad Research Center; August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights Movement (Urbana, 1975), 338-339.

(147.) Henry Brown, et al., Field Report, West Feliciana Parish, 14--21 July [1965] and Henry Brown, et al., Field Report, West Feliciana Parish, 28 July--3 August [1965], both in file 15, box 1, CORE Sixth Congressional District Papers; Wilbert Guillory, interview by author, tape recording, 25 June 1998, T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, Louisiana State University; Zippert interview; Meier and Rudwick, CORE, 351.

(148.) "History of Grand Marie Co-op,' n.d., file 3, box 1, John Zippert Papers, State Historical Society of Wisconsin (hereafter cited as Zippert Papers); John Zippert to Marvin Rich, 2 August 1966, file 11, box 23, SEDFRE Papers; "Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service: A Report of the United States Commission on Civil Rights," 1965, file 5, box 1, CORE Sixth Congressional District Papers; National Sharecroppers' Fund, "Statement on Discriminatory Practices Affecting Programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture," 29 August 1963, frames 01228--01231, reel 38, The Papers of the Congress of Racial Equality, 1941-1967 (Sanford, 1980), microfilm (hereafter cited as CORE Papers); Sweet Potato Alert Proposal, Progress Report, 30 May-3 July 1966, 2, file 3, box 1, Zippert Papers; Zippert interview.

(149.) Ronnie Moore, "Louisiana Citizenship Program," September 1964, frame 00542, reel 20, CORE Papers.
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Author:de Jong, Greta
Publication:Journal of Social History
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Date:Sep 22, 2000

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