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Labor's Promised Land: Radical Visions of Gender, Race, and Religion in the South

Labor's Promised Land: Radical Visions of Gender, Race, and Religion in the South

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Описание
Highly stratified and regulated by norms and values peculiar to the region, southern society has been idealized and condemned in equal measure. Through the crises of secession, Civil War and Reconstruction, the industrialization of the South, and the ravages of the Great Depression, those who traditionally benefited from this stratification upheld the reactionary tenets of racial exclusivity and strictly defined gender roles and championed the value of religion and religious expression. Despite evidence to the contrary, these ideals formed the basis of what adherents saw as a civilized society and culture, and allowed authority to rest with an alliance of existing and emerging elites. While claiming to represent the interests of society at large, this alliance used issues of gender, race, and religion to divide the working classes and maintain its own position of power.

In Labor’s Promised Land, Mark T. Fannin examines the ways in which these social and cultural pillars of southern hierarchy were co-opted by those laboring to organize workers in the South. Using the distinct but related examples of the Brotherhood of Timber Workers and the Southern Tenant Farmers Union as case studies, Fannin illustrates how the central themes of southern identity were used to mobilize the most disillusioned and exploited elements of the working class in the region.

By subverting customary values to promote movements in which solidarity was more powerful than social divisions, these unions challenged the very cornerstones of traditional southern society: women were encouraged to "think and act for themselves," and they assumed leadership roles within the movements; the rhetoric of race was radicalized; and the religious foundations of devout communities were shaken by an approach that reactionaries saw as explicit and often blasphemous. Thus, by upsetting the conservative values and traditions espoused by the agricultural and industrial elites, these organizations provide an important link between the promise of the South and the realization of working-class aspirations.

Using organizational strategies and rhetoric that reconstructed the firmly policed boundaries of "accepted" southern propriety, the unions added momentum to the growing crusade for an egalitarian society in the South—a crusade that would culminate in the civil rights movement.