Sharecroppers' Union

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Founded in 1931 in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, the Sharecroppers' Union (also known as SCU or Alabama Sharecroppers’ Union) had its origins in the Croppers’ and Farm Workers’ Union (CFWU). Among its first members was Ned Cobb, whose story was told in Theodore Rosengarten’s All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw.[1] It was founded with the support of the Communist Party and, although theoretically open to all races, its membership by 1933 was solely African-American.[2][3] Its aims were to improve wages and work conditions for sharecroppers, also referred to as tenant farmers.[4]

SCU's initial demands included continuation of food advances, which had been suspended by landowners in an attempt to drive down wages; the ASU also demanded the right to sell surplus crops directly in the market rather than having to rely on brokerage by the landowners. They demanded also the right to cultivate small garden plots in order to minimize dependence on the landowners for food. In addition to the demand for payments to be made in cash rather than in goods, SCU membership also demanded nine-month public elementary schools for their children.[5]

In 1935, the SCU also turned its attention to the Federal government. Subsidies which were provided by the New Deals' 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act benefited only the landowners and the SCU sued the Federal government for direct payment to sharecroppers. The act was declared unconstitutional in 1936 and the case was subsequently dropped.[5]

By 1935, membership had reached 5,000[6] and by 1936, SCU's membership had increased to approximately 10,000[7] but in October of that year, the Communist Party, desirous of promoting a more popular-frontist bloc with Democrats in the South, withdrew its support of SCU;[8] the SCU was dissolved and it merged first into the Farmers' Union of Alabama, and then into the Alabama Agricultural Workers' Union.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Today in labor history: Black farmer-union leader murdered by sheriff’s posse. People’s World.
  2. ^ Murphy, Al (1933). "Achievements and tasks of the Sharecroppers Union" (Party Speech). In Fried, Albert (1997). Communism in America: A History in Documents. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231102353. Page 142.
  3. ^ Interracial coordinated political activity was a dangerous notion in the South of the 1930s: a white tenant farmer was lynched for his sympathy with the SCU. see Kelley, Robin D. G. (1990). Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807842881. Page 48.
  4. ^ Pirani, Pietro (2003).Sharecroppers’ Union. In Carlisle, Rodney P. (Ed.) (2003). Encyclopedia of Politics : The Left and the Right.Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications.
  5. ^ a b c Law, Michael Klef (2009). "Alabama Sharecroppers Union". Encyclopedia of Alabama.
  6. ^ Carter, Dan (2007). Scottsboro : a tragedy of the American South. Baton Rouge : Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 9780807132883. Page 178.
  7. ^ Haywood, Harry and Hall, Gwendolyn (2012). A Black Communist in the Freedom Struggle: The Life of Harry Haywood. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 9780816679065. Page 198.
  8. ^ Cane, Don and Zorn, Jacob (2008). Communist Organizing in the Jim Crow South. Workers Vanguard No. 925