Habits of Industry: White Culture and the Transformation of the Carolina Piedmont

By Allen Tullos | Go to book overview

preface

Among matters of fact and threads of narrative that have led me the meeting ground of history, biography, and regional develop- ment in the Carolina Piedmont of the American South, memory turns again and again around a cotton spinner's World War II nightmare.

In 1902 nine-year-old Bessie Buchanan, one of fourteen children, having never sat a day behind a school desk, learned to spin in the Erwin Mill in Durham, North Carolina. For a twelve-hour shift she was paid ten cents. Not until a half-century later would she retire from the spinning frames and bobbins at Erwin.

"The last strike they had over there, Buchanan told an interviewer in 1976, "I reckon it was in '4l or '42. They had a long strike of about eight or nine months. And I was laying here on the bed one night. And this girl who lived with me knew I was opposed to the union, but we never fell out about it. We never had argued about it. . . . I didn't push my feelings on nobody else.

"So I laid down that night and went to sleep. And it was just before World War II, and I dreamed that the Germans had built a wire fence around the whole world and everybody was in that wire fence. And I was out hollering, 'The Germans are coming! The Germans are coming!' [laughs]

"And I don't know why I had that dream or nothing about it. But in that dream, they got me. And they carried me up in an old barn where wheat had been in, and they put a white uniform on me. And they was going to shave my head. And there was two girls, and both of them was in white uniforms. And over here I could hear the awfulest mourning and hollering a-going on.

"And I said, 'What's the matter? Where are they at?'

"And said, 'They's in a lion pit.'

"They'd shave your hair off, and then they'd throw you over in that lion pit if you didn't come over and do what they wanted you to do and join the union.

"Then they come to me and while they was fixing me, I was still sitting up in a high chair. And while they was fixing me to cut my hair off, I says, 'Why

-xi-

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Habits of Industry: White Culture and the Transformation of the Carolina Piedmont
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - A View of the Landscape 16
  • 2 - The Customs of the Country 40
  • 3 - Labor of Loves 86
  • 4 - A History of Industry 134
  • 5 - The League Family of Poe Mill 172
  • 6 - Ethel Hilliard: a Pilgrim's Progress 205
  • 7 - Brown Lung Blues 255
  • Epilogue: the Industry of History 285
  • Notes 305
  • Guide to Sources 339
  • Acknowledgments 379
  • Index 383
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