Heartbreak in Tennessee: Poor Whites and the Unions

Heartbreak in Tennessee: Poor Whites and the Unions

You don’t have to come South to see the face of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. You can see it—the concave cheeks, the deep-set pale blue eyes, the blowy, sandy hair—in the meaner streets of Chicago and Detroit and Cleveland. These are the yeoman farmers, the backbone of the South, thrown off the Iand by technology. They are the waste products of the relentless process which has wiped out 2,400,000 farms in the last 25 years and, as Secretary of Agriculture Freeman warned in Lawrenceburg, may destroy another million in the next five.

What of those farmers who reject the hectic anonymity of Northern cities and the ministrations of their social workers, who fight to stay on the land and retain a meaningful heritage by finding supplementary jobs in the industries now flocking South? They have produced no latterday Tom Watson, no white Martin Luther King, nor have they organized marches or demonstrations. Yet in the view of “Preacher” Townsend, a Missionary Baptist leader in Lawrenceburg, they are not strangers to bondage. “Little Egypt” is what he and several thousand citizens of Lawrenceburg have dubbed the Murray Ohio Company, the largest bicycle-producing factory in the world. Struggling toward the Promised Land, these people have confronted the might of Lawrenceburg, the might of Lawrence County, the might of the governor of Tennessee, and the might of that durable Pharaoh, Jimmy Hoffa. And the Red Sea has not parted for them yet.

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Lima