Politics, Society, and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949

By Glenn Feldman | Go to book overview

13 Farm, Factory, and Hooded Persistence

Most of Alabama's rural Communists, like their urban counterparts, were black. It was a good bet that they, too, did not know the difference between Stalin and Trotsky or between Lenin and Marx, nor did they much care. They were starving during the 1930s. Times were hard.

It is difficult to determine exactly whether city dwellers or farmers had it worse in Alabama during the Great Depression. Certainly, both were in a bad way, but farm families perhaps had two slight advantages. First, they were accustomed to poverty. Their economic history had been a stultifying record of steady downward mobility since at least 1865. Also, it was more difficult to go completely without food in the countryside. Even after worse came to worst, farm people had recourse to the meager produce of a family garden.1 Much as in the city, though, poverty in the countryside bred desperation, and desperation bred experiments in communism. Radicals in the Alabama hinterland also guaranteed that the KKK would remain present and active.

So abject was Alabama's farm poverty, so complete the system of subjugation under which tenants lived, and so dismal their prospects for change that some 5,000 rural Alabamians actually turned to the Communist Party during the 1930s. Most were attracted by the Communists' determination to abolish hunger rather than by the ideological bases of radical doctrine. Birmingham became a center of Communist activity during the decade and served as the jumping-off point for attempts at organizing Alabama's sharecroppers. Hosea Hudson and several other organizers got their starts as Communist workers in Birmingham and, as the decade progressed, spread the radical word throughout Alabama's countryside.2

The vast majority of Alabama's farm Communists consisted of black ten-

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Politics, Society, and the Klan in Alabama, 1915-1949
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Origins of the Revised Klan 11
  • 2 - The Civic, Educational, and Progressive Klan 21
  • 3 - The Moral and Religious Klan 37
  • 4 - The Racist and Nativist Klan 51
  • 5 - The Political Klan 63
  • 6 - The Year of the Whip 92
  • 7 - Elite War on the Klan 116
  • 8 - Limits of the Oligarchy's Campaign 137
  • 9 - Race Over Rum, Romans, and Republicans 160
  • 10 - Disloyalty, Revenge, and the End of an Era 193
  • 11 - 1930s Causes Celebres Scottsboro and Hugo Black 219
  • 12 - The Threat of Urban Radicalism 238
  • 13 - Farm, Factory, and Hooded Persistence 259
  • 14 - World War II and Postwar Alabama 285
  • 15 - Federal-State Interaction in the 1940s 305
  • Epilogue "To Wither Away" 325
  • Abbreviations 329
  • Notes 335
  • Bibliography 399
  • Index 427
  • About the Author 458
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