Hope and Danger in the New South City: Working-Class Women and Urban Development in Atlanta, 1890-1940

By Georgina Hickey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
The Forgotten Man Remembered

IN THE SUMMER of 1932, Atlanta police arrested Angelo Herndon as he picked up his mail from a local post office.1 Police targeted Herndon, an African American and a known Communist, because he had led a peaceful, integrated demonstration by the city’s unemployed only days earlier. They waited to bring him into custody, however, until they could capture him with physical evidence of his radicalism. In Herndon’s mailbox police found that evidence, confiscating Communist literature, including copies of the Daily Worker. Using a state law from the 1830s, prosecutors charged him with attempting to incite insurrection and overthrow the government of Georgia.2 Herndon’s subsequent trials and appeals became one of the most sensationalized legal battles in the city’s history, surpassing even that of Leo Frank two decades earlier. Herndon realized the symbolic role he played: describing the interest in his trial in a 1937 autobiography, he concluded, “At [that] moment I was not only an entertainer in a legal burlesque show to divert them from their boredom, but, even more, I became the outlet for all their hatred, all their fear of the rising power of a working class becoming fully aware of its rights and its ability to enforce the granting of those rights.”3

Two years later, a wave of textile strikes swept across New England and the South. Worker walkouts at ten of the eleven Atlanta area mills caused shutdowns in early September 1934. On a picket line outside the city’s Exposition Mills, police arrested Nannie Leah Young and Annie Mae Leathers, both white native Georgians, and later charged them under the state’s insurrection statute.4 The women, in their words, were “grabbed by the law [and] carried to the police station as two red agents, we was two red agents and they got us for insurrection, same thing they did Angelo Herndon…. We didn’t ever have a gun, just had a Daily Worker.”5 The women, sisters and longtime textile workers, had been passing out radical literature and freely admitted tobeing Communists.The police even reported that the sisters sang the “Internationale” all the way to the police station. Despite being such vocal radicals, the women’s case received relatively little notice even in Atlanta. That Herndon’s trial became a cause célèbre and a

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Hope and Danger in the New South City: Working-Class Women and Urban Development in Atlanta, 1890-1940
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - Rising, Ever Rising 9
  • Chapter Two - Laboring Women, Real and Imagined 25
  • Chapter Three - Public Space and Leisure Time 54
  • Chapter Four - Class, Community, and Welfare 79
  • Chapter Five - Physical and Moral Health 106
  • Chapter Six - Political Alignments and Citizenship Rights 132
  • Chapter Seven - The Transitional Twenties 164
  • Chapter Eight - The Forgotten Man Remembered 190
  • Conclusion 216
  • Notes 221
  • Bibliography 263
  • Index 289
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