Poverty and Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Farm Security Administration

Poverty and Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Farm Security Administration

Poverty and Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Farm Security Administration

Poverty and Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Farm Security Administration

Excerpt

On the eve of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, Erskine Caldwell introduced Jeeter Lester to the American people. Jeeter was a poor sharecropper, living with his wife and son in a shack on land that had once been part of his grandfather's rich plantation in the west-central area of Georgia. Taxes, delinquent debts, poor management, bondage to cotton culture, and soil erosion had, over the years, pared his inheritance to a portion of land that was too exhausted to produce a crop, and by World War I the remainder of the Lester land was lost through foreclosure.

Jeeter and his family were permitted to occupy one of the old shacks and to work a few acres of land on a share basis, but year after year they sank deeper into hopeless poverty. Family and friends urged the Lesters to leave the land and to seek work in a cotton mill in Augusta, but Jeeter stubbornly refused to abandon his faith in Providence:1

God is a wise old somebody. You can't fool Him! He takes care of little details us humans never stop to think about. That's why I ain't leaving the land and going to Augusta to live in a durn cotton mill. . . . Some of these days He'll bust loose with a heap of bounty and all us poor folks will have all we want to eat and clothe us with. . . . He'll put a stop to it some of these days and make the rich give back all they've took from us poor folks.

Never did it occur to Jeeter Lester and his kind that their deliverance might lie not only in the hands of Providence, but also in the State and in themselves.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.