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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Olive Stone, August 13, 1975. Interview G-0059-4. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Conference for farm and sharecroppers' unions

Stone describes a conference she attended in Chicago, Illinois, sometime around 1933 or 1934. As Stone explains several times in the interview, it was during the 1930s that her interest in radical politics became increasingly central to her involvement in social activism. This particular conference related to her work with various farmers' and sharecroppers' unions. Of particular interest here are her comments regarding the role of race in the organization of agricultural workers in the South.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Olive Stone, August 13, 1975. Interview G-0059-4. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

SHERNA GLUCK:
Well, what was that convention like then? That was to sort of update what was happening with the farm workers?
OLIVE STONE:
Yes. The Middle West farm unions were the most active and articulate but there were sharecroppers' union representatives there, and that was my area of interest. On the closing day industrial unions joined in the rally.
SHERNA GLUCK:
So it wasn't basically a rural organizing conference?
OLIVE STONE:
Yes, but with industrial labor support.
SHERNA GLUCK:
Well, do you remember anything about that conference?
OLIVE STONE:
No. Only that delegates were given places in people's homes, so they didn't have to go to hotels; and that I stayed in a worker's home for the few days that I was there. I didn't stay through the whole conference; I went mainly to talk with Minneola and Jerry, and to see what the sharecroppers' union representation would be like.
SHERNA GLUCK:
Do you recall what the black and white representation was?
OLIVE STONE:
I know that they had both races throughout the conference. But that was the way labor was organized, except in the South. It came to be organized with black and white in the mines, you know, very early in Alabama, because they found that the way that their wages were kept down was that there were four layers (I've told you that): the white men, the black men, the white women, the black women. Four levels, and if white men didn't accept the Negroes' wages, then the Negroes would get the jobs, so they decided they'd better stay together and have one set of wages. It might make them feel better temporarily to have a higher wage than the black man, but it didn't make them feel better economically [laughter] in the long run to be pushed down.
SHERNA GLUCK:
This conference, then, would have had representatives from the Alabama Sharecroppers' Union and the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union? From all the various farmers' groups, in other words?
OLIVE STONE:
Yes. Reading: "Farmers' National Committee for Action" Nov. 1933: 702 delegates from 36 states with a major goal to break down antagonism between farm owners and farm wageworkers. In large convention hall at the close thousands of industrial workers attended and cheered." There were stirring talks about organizing and working together. And it was still the Depression period; the Depression wasn't solved, as you know, [laughter] until the war came.