Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression

Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression

Language: English

Pages: 412

ISBN: 1469625482

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A groundbreaking contribution to the history of the "long Civil Rights movement," Hammer and Hoe tells the story of how, during the 1930s and 40s, Communists took on Alabama's repressive, racist police state to fight for economic justice, civil and political rights, and racial equality.

The Alabama Communist Party was made up of working people without a Euro-American radical political tradition: devoutly religious and semiliterate black laborers and sharecroppers, and a handful of whites, including unemployed industrial workers, housewives, youth, and renegade liberals. In this book, Robin D. G. Kelley reveals how the experiences and identities of these people from Alabama's farms, factories, mines, kitchens, and city streets shaped the Party's tactics and unique political culture. The result was a remarkably resilient movement forged in a racist world that had little tolerance for radicals.

After discussing the book's origins and impact in a new preface written for this twenty-fifth-anniversary edition, Kelley reflects on what a militantly antiracist, radical movement in the heart of Dixie might teach contemporary social movements confronting rampant inequality, police violence, mass incarceration, and neoliberalism.

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and international connections undoubtedly contributed songs such as "Internationale," "Solidarity Forever," and countless others to its locally derived musical repertoire. The same can be said for the CIO. The links between union locals and the emphasis on national and international solidarity allowed for greater cultural exchange. One song based on the melody of "Tah Rah Rah Boom Dee Ay" migrated from the North and West and eventually entered the red ore mines of Birmingham: Tah rah rah boom dee

membership rolls. Like the unemployed councils several years later, it might have even provided the foundation for rebuilding the Communist Party in black workingclass communities. But times, and politics, had changed. The Workers Alliance ~ n l y slightly resembled the predominantly black, underground, neighborhoodbased unemployed movement of the early 1930s. It opened its doors to all WPA employees, inchding white-collar professionals who had little tolerance for black issue-oriented politics

because the tremendous work load (compounded by isolation and a constant threat of violence) placed a great strain on his health. The Party's vacillating attitude toward self-determination in the black belt further contributed to his growing disillusionment; on several occasions he castigated national leadership for not distributing the Liberator in the South. Therefore, late in 1934 Murphy left the black belt for good and headed for New York. (A few months later, he boarded a ship for Moscow as

example, the Lowndes County committee added three hundred members to its ranks. The determination there was tremendous: 'There is going to be hell if they try to break up our meeting. We workers on the Bell farm are organized and Mr. Bell or anyone else will catch hell trying to stop us now." And hell it was. On the morning of August 19, J. R. Bell rose only to discover that his cotton bolls were ripe but his fields were empty. He immediately contacted Haynesville sheriff R. E. Woodruff to remedy

press during the 1920s when all that remained of the labor movement after 1922 was fragmented craft unionism. Nativism, racism, and the violence which accompanied these attitudes served as an effective bulwark against the resurgence of an already emaciated labor movement. The war and postwar period altered black lives fundamentally. Northern employment opportunities and Southern injustice compelled a substantial portion of Southern blacks to make their way North, although several thousand rural

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