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Overview

In its zeal to implement New Deal farm programs, the Roosevelt Administration caused the eviction of thousands of southern sharecropper families. Thus incensed, a handful of black and white farmers met in a schoolhouse in Arkansas and formed the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU). This union was to become a powerful force in American labor, and would eventually be a prototype for Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers of America.

The Southern Tenant Farmers Union Papers (also called "The Green Rising") encompass a multitude of issues, movements, and individual histories on microform. A major acquisition for any library's social science collection, these papers can be used by scholars and researchers investigating the historical perspectives of the New Deal, farm labor, or Southern, Mexican-American, and American labor history.

Founded by seven black and eleven white sharecroppers on an Arkansas cotton plantation, the STFU laid the groundwork for and contributed to the creation of the LaFollette Civil Liberties Committee in the U.S. Senate and the Kennedy-Johnson Administration's War on Poverty.

The entire history of this influential union can be traced, from its humble beginnings under the auspices of the Socialist Party, through its brief and stormy affiliation with the CIO; from its entry into the AFL up to its merger into another union in the 1960s.

A unique feature of this collection is the correspondence from sharecroppers to union officials. Notes scrawled on scraps of paper or penciled on the backs of outdated calendars tell of usurious landlords, sick children, and flood conditions.

Supplement to the Southern Tenant Farmers Union Papers, 1910-1977 This supplement to the papers of the STFU features the personal papers and records of four of farm labor's dynamic leaders.

 

  • H.L. Mitchell Papers--The private papers, subject files, and printed materials of STFU co-founder H.L. Mitchell include unpublished and out-of-print studies of Mexican-Americans, and his correspondence documents STFU's Socialist Party origins.
  • Clyde Johnson Papers--Documented is the life of Clyde Johnson, a dedicated trade unionist who was the last secretary to the Alabama Sharecroppers Union. Featured is an unpublished thesis by Dale Rosen, which documents the facts surrounding the Reeltown Massacre, as well as Johnson's oral history.
  • David S. Burgess Papers--Insight into the lives of migrant workers during the 1940s can be gathered through the papers of David Burgess--a minister who saved the homes of 600 families in the Delmo Labor Homes Project of Southeast Missouri. In later years, Burgess was a CIO organizer and head of the Georgia CIO.
  • Thomas H. Gibbons Papers--Gibbons' unpublished "Autobiography of a Technocrat" is based on the author's experiences as a migrant worker and his beliefs in radical economic theory.

Though no longer formally in existence, the STFU's legacy lives on through the indelible mark it left on the southern and western labor movements--and on the American labor movement in general.

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