Review: Remaking the Rural South: Interracialism, Christian Socialism, and Cooperative Farming in Jim Crow Mississippi by Robert Hunt Ferguson

Remaking The Rural South is a rare look at how black and white farmers came to band together in a few farm settlements around 1930s in the United States, living together, cooperating, making their own rules in a way that is antithetical to the racial and economic oppression of that time.

People interested in social justice might find this book intriguing.

Despite all the racial and political violence in the Southern United States, I was fascinated to discover a small community that transcended the mindlessness of that period. More so, I read that this anomaly was in some parts due to a bit of Christian socialism, which is a surprise to me.

"...rural black and white workers had banded together to fight agrarian exploitation through various means before the 1930s. Southerners participated in various interracial political movements in the years between Reconstruction and the solidification of Jim Crow at the turn of the century. The Readjuster Movement in Virginia, the national Populist movement, and the Fusionist alliance among white Populists and black Republicans in North Carolina were, for a time, viable movements aimed at creating cross-racial approaches to government. Interracial labor activism also gained support in various locales. As labor historians have noted, lumbermen and dock workers took part in pragmatic alliances across the color line before the turn of the twentieth century."

"Two early twentieth-century organizations that promoted interracialism were the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC). These organizations achieved some success and broadened the imagination of what was possible within the rigid rule of white supremacy. In the 1910s, the YWCA, called by a strong adherence to the Social Gospel, led efforts to promote interracial cooperation and understanding, especially by organizing interracial conferences at places such as the Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, North Carolina. The CIC began in 1919 as an answer to the upswing of racial violence across the South. While the commission was intentionally interracial, virtually all members were united by economic class. The CIC membership believed that change would come from the intellectual class, who could influence policy and model healthy, equitable cross-racial relationships for working-class Americans. But the CIC also addressed tangible problems by sending volunteers into local black communities to try to solve their most pressing needs. Although the CIC was successful in exposing the deleterious consequences of racial hatred and made positive changes in some communities, many of its members—and subsequent historians—criticized the organization for tepidity and tokenism during its early phases, for not involving the working classes in decision making, and for working within segregation rather than dismantling it."


Remaking the Rural South: Interracialism, Christian Socialism, and Cooperative Farming in Jim Crow Mississippi by Robert Hunt Ferguson is available to buy on all major online bookstores. Many thanks to University of Georgia Press for review copy.

No comments:

Post a Comment