Poverty and Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Farm Security Administration

By Sidney Baldwin | Go to book overview

PREFACE

On the eve of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, Erskine Caldwell introduced Jeeter Lester to the American people. Jeeter was a poor sharecropper, living with his wife and son in a shack on land that had once been part of his grandfather's rich plantation in the west-central area of Georgia. Taxes, delinquent debts, poor management, bondage to cotton culture, and soil erosion had, over the years, pared his inheritance to a portion of land that was too exhausted to produce a crop, and by World War I the remainder of the Lester land was lost through foreclosure.

Jeeter and his family were permitted to occupy one of the old shacks and to work a few acres of land on a share basis, but year after year they sank deeper into hopeless poverty. Family and friends urged the Lesters to leave the land and to seek work in a cotton mill in Augusta, but Jeeter stubbornly refused to abandon his faith in Providence:1

God is a wise old somebody. You can't fool Him! He takes care of little details us humans never stop to think about. That's why I

____________________
1
Erskine Caldwell, "Tobacco Road," in the Three by Caldwell ( Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown, 1960),pp. 13, 29-30.

-vii-

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