Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience

By John R. Wunder; Frances W. Kaye et al. | Go to book overview

VEHICLES FOR EXPRESSING THE FARMERS'
RAGE—INSTITUTIONAL ACTIVISM

During the 1930s, farmers throughout the upper Midwest and the Great Plains joined a grassroots uprising to stop the attack on their way of life. Farm organizations that advocated dynamic solutions, such as the Farmers' Union, grew, and their leaders helped direct and mold the growing rage on farms and ranches.

The nascent Farmers' Holiday Association (FHA) was popular in 1932, and the organization spread throughout the northern Plains. The FHA actively encouraged a farm strike to try to elevate the extremely low farm prices. The Farm Holiday movement was particularly attractive to farmers in Nebraska and North Dakota, where it aggressively pursued a lengthy legislative agenda. In South Dakota the FHA seemed less responsive, in part because of geography, conservative traditions, and local political parties.

Radical agrarianism also emerged. Ella Reeve Bloor and other Communists actively sought to recruit farmers in a projected workers-farmers alliance, which was accomplished through the United Farmers League (UFL). In South Dakota the UFL organized direct action to oppose foreclosures and met with some success until South Dakota's attorney general led a legal assault on the organization. Radical agrarian organizations, as well as other, more conventional grassroots responses, were generally short-lived in the 1930s, but they were very popular with many farmers of the Dust Bowl.

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