I was persuaded to prepare this volume on farmer movements in the South, 1865-1933, for several reasons. My earlier studies in the Middle West had led me to make periodic excursions into the South where I observed that farmer movements of a parallel, if not an identical, nature rose and declined with almost monotonous regularity. This observation, in turn, suggested the idea of making a comparable inquiry into the Southern movements in the belief that such an investigation would broaden this area of knowledge, make possible a periodic comparison and contrasting of movements in the two sections, and complement the findings of scholars who, by concentrating on the demagogic aspects of rural life, have minimized the role that the organized farmers of the region have played. Such a study, I believed, would bring to the surface proof that the Southerners have contributed more to the agricultural thought of the nation than is generally realized.
My original plan was to write a book that paralleled Agriculture Discontent in the Middle West, 1900-1939, written several years ago in collaboration with John D. Hicks. The beginning and terminal dates of this proposed study were also to be 1900 and 1939. But the more I probed into the history of the Southern movements, the more convinced I became that both dates were unsatisfactory. The endless references to the pre-and post-Civil War years, the Negroes, the sharecropping, and the crop-lien system left me no choice but to begin with the Reconstruction period. The terminal date of 1933 was prompted by the fact that the philosophic and psychological ties between the South and the farm policy-makers had been clearly delineated by this time; and also by a realization that the South, after the First World War, had a less complicated history of organized unrest -- hence a less diversified farmer movement than the Middle West.
The evidence on both points is abundant. In the first instance, acreage restrictions, market controls, surplus-storage proposals, minimum prices, and liberal credit facilities, all of which were repeatedly urged by Southerners in one form or another, had been or were about to be accepted by federal policy-makers. In the second instance, farmer movements that flourished elsewhere made little headway in the South. The Nonpartisan League, by way of illustration, made slight appeal to the cotton and tobacco growers while it was overrunning the wheatgrowing states of the agricultural Northwest. The Farm Bloc failed to arouse sustained enthusiasm as it did in the Middle West; and the cooperatives, although they made great progress during the 1920's never . . .