Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience

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

THE NORTH DAKOTA FARM STRIKE OF 1932

Larry Remele

The farm strike of 1932 swept North Dakota with the suddenness of a prairie thunderstorm. From the indication of militant unrest during July to the appearance of pickets at marketing points in late September, the gravitation of the state's hard-hit farmers into organizations which aimed to force price increases through crop and livestock withholding and to resist farm foreclosures by mass action occurred so rapidly that success seemed assured. Yet, the apparent unity created by desperate economic circumstances could not overcome the deep divisions among the farms, and the strike fell apart almost as quickly as it had begun.

Agitation against the economic conditions created by the Depression flourished in North Dakota during the summer of 1932. A combination of commodity prices which dipped to record-setting lows during a bumper crop year 1 and a rising wave of mortgage foreclosures 2 put many farmers into untenable situations and led to a cry for new leadership and new ideas. Emblematic of the discontent, the revitalized Nonpartisan League won a smashing victory in the June Primary election over Republican opposition linked to the policies of President Herbert Hoover, and William L. Langer, who based his bid for the gubernatorial nomination on a platform of cleaning house in Bismarck, rode with a protest vote that brought the League back to dominance in the nation's most rural state. Outside the partisan arena, the North Dakota Farmers' Union worked to win a state-instituted moratorium on foreclosures and to focus rural attention on the need for tight farmer organization. Its activities procreated the Farmers' Holiday Association [FHA], the unit that put the call for change into militant action.

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