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[Detail] Fishermen. Key West, Florida

Historical Comprehension: Seeing History Through the Eyes of Another

In an interview, James Griffin, a turpentine worker at Putnam Lumber Company, told of his imprisonment for three months at hard labor. According to Griffin, he was jailed for failing to pay the lumber company $50 for three months' rent. He had gotten behind on his rent while he was ill. While in prison, he wrote a song called "Worked All Summer Long." Read this excerpt from the song's lyrics:

Worked all summer long,
I didn't save my railroad fare.
I ain't got no money,
And my friends they don't even care.

Oh my dear mother,
She prayed this prayer for me;
My dear mother,
She prayed this prayer for me.
She said, "Lord, have mercy on my son,
Wheresoever he may be."

From "Record made August 19, 1939 in the office of the Aycock & Lindsey turpentine camp, Cross City, Florida. [Textual Transcription]"

Listen to "Worked All Summer Long" and read the lyrics, as well as the lyrics for another song from Griffin, "Right Back in Jail Again."

  • What topics appear in both of Griffin's songs? What does this suggest about the issues that concerned him?
  • What can you infer about Griffin's life from his songs?

Cull Stacey worked at the Florida Turpentine Camp at Cross City. Stacey described his work and related the lyrics of several songs from the turpentine camps. During the interview, he remarked

"If you Government men can do us any good up there in Washington we sure will appreciate it. Tell em we ain gittin our chops down here. You tell Claude Pepper [Senator and supporter of the New Deal] if he kaint do no better for us than he's doin, to come on back home an plead the law, and let me go up yonder!"

From "Voice Record (Cull Stacey) [Textual Transcription]"

When asked to repeat what he had just said, Stacey, observing three white "woodsriders" (men hired by camp bosses to insure that African American workers followed the rules) remarked, "Oh no! I'm smarter than you think I is. I know bettern ta say anything gainst the Government!"

  • What can you infer from Cull Stacey's remarks regarding the success of the New Deal in assisting African American laborers in the South?
  • What can be deduced from Stacey's refusal to repeat himself when the "woodsriders" approached?