A Fabric of Defeat: The Politics of South Carolina Millhands, 1910-1948

By Bryant Simon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR We the People of the U.S.A.
New Deal Americanism on the Mill Hills

By the fall of 1934 most mill people had removed the portraits of Cole Blease hanging over the mantels of their company- owned houses and replaced them with pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), the Democratic president. 1 Laura Stringfield and W. P. Stringfield signed their letter to the leading New Dealer and New York senator, Robert F. Wagner, "an American citizen." 2

"We want to organize and support the NRa [sic]," explained a group of Pelzer trade unionists, "do our part and stand by our President." "Roosevelt Our Greatest Leader" read a hand-painted placard at a union rally outside of Columbia. A Horse Creek Valley striker declared: "The National Government called us out." "You ought to respect the flag, get out of the way, you ought to respect the flag," Greenville unionists yelled at strikebreakers as they tried to cross a picket line. At the funeral of seven Honea Path strikers shot in the back by the hired guns of management, union leader George Googe raised a bullet-ridden American flag. 3

We the people of the USA, wrote twenty-one-year-old Lillian Davis to Franklin Roosevelt, "are all assembled under the same stars and stripes, and are doing our part in this vicinity to live up to one of the nation's greatest acts: the National Recovery Act." 4

These are voices and images from South Carolina mill villages during the New Deal era. Occasionally, pictures and sound bites like these from working-class communities across the country show up in the historical record, but only occasionally. When they do appear, they are usually pointed to

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