Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience

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

RESTRAINED, RESPECTABLE RADICALS:
THE SOUTH DAKOTA FARM HOLIDAY

John E. Miller

During the summer of 1932, as grain and livestock prices dipped to new lows and mortgage foreclosures threatened the farms of thousands of Midwestern farmers, South Dakotans joined their neighbors from nearby states in promoting a Farm Holiday. Roads outside of Sioux Falls, Yankton, Watertown, and Sioux City, Iowa, were blocked off, and one man was killed near Elk Point while trying to run the blockade. Mass meetings of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people enthusiastically called for “cost of production” for agriculture as they uttered their collective cry for economic justice. Yet, as the Farm Holiday impulse spread across South Dakota's borders from Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and North Dakota, the movement in the state generally proceeded along more moderate or even conservative lines than it did elsewhere. 1


GEOGRAPHY OF THE MOVEMENT

The explanation for the general restraint and less radical tone of the South Dakota movement can be found in geographic influences, the historical development of farm protest activities in the state, the political context, and the character of its leadership. Not surprisingly, activism and confrontation concentrated in the eastern part of the state near the Iowa and Minnesota borders and especially around Sioux Falls and Sioux City. South Dakotans took inspiration from the Iowa organization and its leader, Milo Reno, who spoke at meetings in Mitchell, Hurley, Beresford, and Sioux Falls during the summer and fall of 1932. Once launched, however, South Dakota's population shaped their own response to the situation. As elsewhere, the leaders never

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