ERIC Number: ED222964
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1982-Oct
Reference Count: 0
The Failure of an Interracial Southern Rhetoric: The Southern Tenant Farmers Union in North Carolina.
Griffin, Keith H.
When the American Civil War ended, the southern aristocracy turned to sharecropping as a means for continuing its existence and for keeping former slaves in the fields. Tenant families during the economic depression of 1929 were forced to live in squalid conditions, and the natural antagonism between whites and blacks was exacerbated by the competition for jobs during this period. Landowners tended to replace black tenants with white workers who had been laid off from factories. In July 1934, 27 tenant farmers, both black and white, set aside their racial differences to organize the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU), to work for decent living and working conditions. By 1936, the STFU had enrolled nearly 31,000 members. The rhetoric of the STFU was characterized by four basic strategies: an association with the church, a reliance on music and poetry, the two-local tactic (two segregated unions in larger communities), and agitation to attract publicity. William Thomas Brown, a black tenant farmer's son and a student at Shaw College-Raleigh, instigated the only STFU local to form in North Carolina. His activities were conspicuous for only 3 years, however, after which the local union disbanded. No other such locals were ogranized in the state. William Thomas Brown acknowledges that the STFU failed to sustain its foothold in North Carolina for two primary reasons: the impact of the Old South paternalistic attitudes toward tenants and the absence of white leadership, which curtailed the potential for a powerful interracial tenant farmers union. (HTH)
Publication Type: Reports - General; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Depression (Economic 1929); Southern Tenant Farmers Union; United States (South)
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Carolinas Speech Communication Association (Raleigh, NC, October 1982).