By Bryant Simon
During this booklet, Bryant Simon brings to existence the politics of white South Carolina millhands throughout the first 1/2 the 20 th century. His revealing and relocating account explores how this staff of southern workers thought of and took part in politics and public power.
Taking a vast view of politics, Simon appears at workers as they engaged in political task in lots of venues--at the polling station, on entrance porches, and at the store floor--and examines their political involvement on the neighborhood, country, and nationwide degrees. He describes the crusade kinds and rhetoric of such politicians as Coleman Blease and Olin Johnston (himself a former millhand), who eagerly sought the staff' votes. He attracts a close photo of mill employees casting ballots, wearing placards, marching at the nation capital, writing to lawmakers, and picketing factories. those millhands' politics mirrored their private and non-private ideas approximately whiteness and blackness,
war and the hot Deal, democracy and justice, gender and sexuality, type relatives and intake.
Ultimately, the folk depicted listed here are neither romanticized nor brushed off because the stereotypically racist and uneducated "rednecks" present in many money owed of southern politics. Southern employees understood the political and social forces that formed their lives, argues Simon, they usually developed
complex political thoughts to accommodate these forces.
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Extra info for A Fabric of Defeat: The Politics of South Carolina Millhands, 1910-1948
11 But mill people, the Will Thompsons of the region, lived in a different setting and experienced the world differently from their country or city cousins. As a result, they had a separate identity. In analyzing politics and political ideas, again, scholars generally erase these differences: all poor whites are seen as the same, as virulent white supremacists. Whether described as venal or vicious, white workers and others, according to these accounts, engaged in politics for one purpose onlyto keep African Americans out of power and to safeguard the supposed privileges of whiteness.
The house next to theirs was also yellow; it too had four rooms, brick stilts, a front porch, and a garden. So did the house next to it and the one across the narrow tree-lined street. All of the houses in the mill village, except for the mill owner's and the superintendent's, were exactly the same. Like Will, most of the people who lived in the identical houses worked from sunup to sundown in the three-story, red-brick textile mill just down the street. And like Will, all of the people in the mill village insisted that they were white.
Why, some questioned, would mill parents want their children to work long hours in a hot lint-filled factory? One answer given, not by workers, but by reformers and later by historians, suggested that laborers were irrational, even mean. They just did not care about their children. But looking at millhands' responses to reform, again, against the backdrop of industrialization, other explanations come to light. Money was part of the reason laborers objected to child labor laws. Because of the southern textile industry's traditionally low wages, cotton mill families could not survive on one or even two paychecks.
A Fabric of Defeat: The Politics of South Carolina Millhands, 1910-1948 by Bryant Simon