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St. Louis and the Sharecroppers: Urban Connections to a Rural Protest

Bonnie Stepenoff
Agricultural History
Vol. 82, No. 1 (Winter, 2008), pp. 78-96
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20454782
Page Count: 19
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
St. Louis and the Sharecroppers: Urban Connections to a Rural Protest
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Abstract

Scholars have paid a great deal of attention to the Sharecroppers' Roadside Demonstration by evicted farmworkers, who camped out along rural highways in Missouri's southeastern Bootheel in January 1939. This article differs from previous works by focusing on Fannie Cook and Marcus "Al" Murphy and their interactions with the sharecroppers. Cook, an affluent Jewish woman, and Murphy, an African-American member of the Communist Party, both participated in the St. Louis Committee for the Rehabilitation of the Sharecroppers. After state officials removed the demonstrators from the highways, Cook traveled to the Bootheel to observe conditions there and wrote a novel about what she saw. She also helped support the Sharecroppers' Camp, or Cropperville, a privately funded refuge for displaced farmworkers. Murphy came to St. Louis in the mid-1930s to teach farmworkers how to organize. When the demonstrators went out onto the roadsides, he worked with labor organizations to collect and deliver supplies. Ultimately, the connections between these urban supporters and rural protesters were personal, not ideological, reminding us that history is not about abstractions, but people.

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