The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories
Southern Tenant Farmers Union. Ephemera
Repository: University of Memphis. Special Collections/Mississippi Valley Collection
Collection Description (CRHP): This collection includes oral histories conducted by Southern Tenant Farmers Union founder H. L. Mitchell as well as autobiographical lectures given by him and an oral history of him. As an interracial union in the 1930s and beyond, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union paved the way for the later civil rights activism of the 1950s and 1960s. Folder 53 contains a transcript of a tape recording of Mitchell made for Columbia University's Oral History Office during 1956-1957. Box 1, Folder 9 contains a transcript of an interview done by H. L. Mitchell on February 3, 1972, of Jules Coreil, then the retiring secretary-treasurer of District Union No. 327 Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of N.A. AFL-CIO. He discusses his childhood, racial prejudice in labor unions, and his efforts to merge unions despite this in the late 1950s to early 1960s time period. He was involved with union activity in New Orleans. This folder also contains a transcript of a recording Mitchell did in Alexandria, Louisiana, on Jan. 4, 1972, of Charles W. Stanfield that deals with union activity and race relations. Stanfield discusses supporting a black man for a union leadership position and how it was 'rather dangerous to take the lead in supporting a black man.' He also discusses his other work to ensure racial equality in union matters. In addition, this folder contains autobiographical lectures given in the early 1970s by Mitchell that deal with the founding of the SFTU, rural poverty, the War on Poverty, and race relations in unions. One of these lectures (the one in 1973 at Princeton) was apparently distributed by the Southern Rural Welfare Association (an association in Montgomery, Alabama that Mitchell headed at the time and involved former members of the STFU) and labeled as an oral history of him. He discusses race relations, opposition to the STFU's anti-racist stance, the formation of the STFU, Washington politics and government, a 'sit-down' demonstration by black and white unionists before the 1960s, and Cesar Chavez, among other union topics. A question and answer session is included. There also is a short transcript of a radio interview that Mitchell gave to Columbia, South Carolina's TV Channel 10 WSIX.
Collection Description (Extant): This collection was donated by A. Eugene Cox on July 1968. The collection contains miscellaneous reports, articles, books, speeches, correspondence, photos, and newspaper clippings related to significant events in the history of the SFTU. Of particular interest is a legal brief of the 1955 test case 'Sharecroppers of Arkansas vs. Hiram Norcross.' This case, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, came about as a result of violations by planters of section 7 of the U.S. Government's Cotton Reduction Program. The suit, filed against plantation owner, Hiram Norcross, to seek protection for tenant farmers, was lost but brought the issue to public debate. In addition to the material pertaining to the SFTU there are a large number of newspaper clippings on the following subjects: civil rights, Memphis Police Dept, City of Memphis Hospital employee strike, Elvis Presley, labor unions (local and national), and Mississippi politics.
Digital Status: No
Existing IDs: MS 5
Extent: 7.5 cu. ft
Related Archival Items: The official depository of the records of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union is the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill. Mississippi State University is the official depository of the papers of A. Eugene Cox.
Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights
African American farmers
African Americans--Civil rights--Tennessee
Civil rights movements--Tennessee
Labor movement--Southern States
Labor unions--Organizing--Southern States
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Urban League
Southern Tenant Farmers' Union
White supremacy movements