xt7t1g0hx952 https://exploreuk.uky.edu/dips/xt7t1g0hx952/data/mets.xml North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia Federal Writers' Project 1939 Other contributors include: William Terry Couch; xx, 421 pages, 22 cm; Preface signed: W. T. Couch; UK holds archival copy for ASERL Collaborative Federal Depository Program libraries; Call number F210 .F45 1939 books English Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press This digital resource may be freely searched and displayed in accordance with U. S. copyright laws. Tennessee Works Progress Administration Publications These Are Our Lives, As Told By the People and Written By Members of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia text These Are Our Lives, As Told By the People and Written By Members of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia 1939 1939 2015 true xt7t1g0hx952 section xt7t1g0hx952 . • . .·»  ’ ' -· 7.
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 These Are Our Lives

   él ljféiéi§éE:'E%?F§:?:;.·1L·:;,€zéE:Efriggin;;-gr;-;vs- ···—·-*-······ ·~·—·-·~ ~--— -—J·»—·-·—· ---·— -»·—-~-~-~--.--,-.-.;,:, ..r;:.s:;5g5;_""
  The stories in this volume are of real people. All names
  of persons have been changed, and where there is any ._..
  danger of identification, places also.
 . ~··-——
 ==>=*‘—=—=—¢#>·~·¤=—· - ’Z`I..·-  -  *· ·· =- ’£~~ · -~¤’ “* ‘” i * > :—: = = 

 A C) L`
xi"` y  _   "

     !TF'if-—'·`.»·r7Z1Tf`J':";‘···<··_··?—·i-`JZ-·-T-·»L·- · - 7 7 V » . . .-.E . ..,,, V _ _ _ _ _ _ ._:'.;::,é;"’
  ` Q
  . First published May, 1939  
  Second printing June, 1939 `
    @9, l—}5’ M
  F 3 W  
 { g Written by members of the
 4 ; F. C. HARR1NGT0N, Administrator
 Q ; FLORENCE S. KERR, Assistant Administrator
 _} Director of Federal Writers’ Project
  é ‘ .
M  s »>=#=¤» »  ?— ~ { r--¢¤¤=··===·>·=-· ¢-   »~  

if Contents
A A Preface vii
On the Farm 1
. 1. You’1·e Gonna Have Lace Curtains 3
White farm laborers
2. Tore Up and a—Movin’ 17
Negro sharecroppers
3. Get Out and Hoe 30
White sharecroppers
4:. Some Sort o’ How 37
White share renters
‘ 5. I Has a Garden 45
Negro cash renters
6. Five Year Lease 54:
White cash renters
P 7. Last Chance to Own a Farm 61
Negro owner fighting to maintain status
S. We Makes Plenty 70
Negro f3.l'II1 OYVIICF
9. Lived Too Long 77
White farm owner
10. I Saved My Money 91
White farm owner and small landlord
11. lliarsh Taylor, Landlord 101
°`· White large landlord
  I n Mill Village and Factory 127
l 12. A Day at Kate B1·umby’s House 129
Retrospect of a long life in a cotton mill village
Q v

   -.-· =.-.-=-   —»—- 7 7 7   · 7 · 7 —— · ¤ "=’··* "
  p 13. Grease Monkey to Knitter 165
  ` Wanderer, filling station attendant, hosiery mill
  ` worker
  C V 14. Pd Take the l\Iill Anytime 180
    Minor boss in cotton mill
  E 15. Old Man Dobbin and His Crowd 187
  l Worn out cotton mill worker and his family
    16. A Little Amusemint 214
  f Cotton mill worker substitutes dogs for dope
=·· rl . .
  P 17. Solid Time 224
    White brick plant worker and wash-woman wife
  · {Z 18. It’s a Christian Factory 231
 _ j Youthful shoe factory worker
  `l 19. Pd Rather Die 235
  { Young overall factory worker and family
 i   20. Didn’t Keep a Penny 253
    Negro worker, lumber yards, meat packing, rail-
  {. roads, race tracks, building
 l   In S crvice Occupations 261
    - 21. Plow Beams for Pills 263
    Country doctor
    22. Business Is a Pleasure 277
 il   Small town merchant
 ,   23. Gold Tooth 289
  27 Negro dentist
*7:  ` ,
  Q \/ 24. On the Road to Sheriff 298
  ; ‘· Deputy sheriff with a future
  ia 25 .... Ami com 205
    Justice of the peace
  ll 26. Trucker and Builder 317
  ‘ Young truckdriver with ambition and ideas
  27. The Grand Ways 324 V
Q2; * Negro house—maid ’
  i 28. I Can Read and 1 Can Write 335
  J Negro freight handler
  ; - 29. Snappy Feeding 342 7
  *5 `White girl lunch counter attendant
 1 .
L5, ~ *1
S All .
qgi;;:.¤<¤:=u= - ·· =-·- · ·- *·»·’£·7 ‘T· "   .  . ’ _ _- ;

 CO N TE N TS vii
` 30. Prayer Done the Work 348
Negro bootblack
31. `Easier Ways 356
Negro odd-job worker
On Relief 363
32. Them That Needs ~ 365
Young white man in charge of WPA supply room
33. Till the River Rises 372
People in shanty town in city river bottom
34. I Couldn’t Be What I Wanted to Be 380
Worker in various occupations, student, entrepre— ‘
neur, labor organizer, WPA teacher
35. Weary Willie 411
CCC boy
Instructions to Writers 417

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 P Preface
S of tenant farmers, farm owners, textile and other
factory workers, persons in service occupations in towns
and cities (such as bell hops, waitresses, messenger boys,
clerks in five and ten cent stores, soda jerks), and
persons in miscellaneous occupations such as lumbering,
mining, turpentining, and fishing was begun by the
Federal Writers’ Project in North Carolina. This
work has recently been extended to six other states, and
a large number of stories have already been written.
The idea is to get life histories which are readable and
faithful representations of living persons, and which,
taken together, will give a fair picture of the structure
and working of society. So far as I know, this method
of portraying the quality of life of a people, of reveal-
ing the real workings of institutions, customs, habits,
has never before been used for the people of any region
or country. It seems to me that the method here used
has certain possibilities and advantages which should no
longer be ignored.
A large amount of material is already in print deal-
ing with life in the South; but that portion which is
fictional, excellent as it is as fiction, cannot be and has
not claimed to be accurate in the sense indicated here.
In works of fiction, the author may and usually does
make his characters composites of persons he has known

  Q or imagined; and because of its composite or imaginary
  f character fiction cannot be regarded as a transcript of
    the experience of particular individuals.
  ‘ Popular non—fiction has not attempted the task con- .
  templated here. Sociology has furnished the classifica-
  ft tions and much of the information on the basis of which
    this work has been shaped and the stories in this book
  3 selected. But sociology has been content in the main
 Q.   to treat human beings as abstractions. Certainly,
 4 IQ sociologists have used case histories, but for the most
    part their use has been limited to narrow segments of ·*
  ` experience collected and arranged to illustrate partic-
  §_ ular points. Useful as such segments of experience are
    they cannot possibly convey as much information and
    real knowledge as a story which covers the more signifi-
 ]   cant aspects of the whole life experience, including
    memories of ancestry, written from the standpoint of
 * gi the individual himself. This principle has been recog-
    nized and applied in a number of sociological works
    dealing with special problems, particularly those of
    personal maladjustment, but never for the purpose
  i contemplated here.
 .~   The life of a community or of a people is, of course, .
    made up of the life of individuals, who are of different
  g status, perform different functions, and in general have
 l $ widely different experiences and attitudes-——so different,
    indeed, as to be almost unimaginable. It would seem
    therefore that one important method of revealing the
  L life of a people would be through life histories selected
  f to represent the different types present among the
  il people, with attention proportioned according to the
  { numerical importance of the different types.
  . In writing the life histories the first principle has
  . been to let the people tell their own stories. With all
ii-?  ?
kg;-j_=,=::.> #===»¤=·=·—    *· ··— · ’s=** =mi’**   * ; " VQ 4  . _ ’

our talk about democracy it seems not inappropriate to
let the people speak for themselves.
This volume is published only as a suggestion of what
· can be done with life histories. It is my hope that later
separate volumes will be published on people in agri-
culture, in industry, in lumbering, turpentining, min-
ing and in miscellaneous groups; at the same time it may
be possible to choose typical communities and use this
method to reveal their nature and workings. Until
after a large amount of material has been collected and
studied, it is not possible to know what is most im-
portant, most typical, or how stories should be classified
and published in order to give the most faithful rep-
Twenty of the stories in this volume are from North
Carolina, fourteen from Tennessee, one from Georgia.
Stories have been written in Alabama, Florida, South
Carolina and Virginia; but for various reasons I have
had to decide not to include any from these states in
this first volume. Among the more than 4¤00 stories
that I have had to choose from are life histories of baby-
boarding house keepers, barbers, bootleggers, business
- men, carpenters, cigar makers, clerks, cooks, dairymen,
doctors, dressmakers, elevator operators, farm owners,
farm laborers, and tenants, fishermen and florists, board-
ing and lodging house keepers, housemaids, janitors,
lawyers, lunchroom workers, mailmen, milliners, miners,
workers in cleaning and pressing shops, nurses, mid-
wives, ministers, old people, peddlers, policemen, rail-
road men, sawmill workers, shoe salesmen, shrimpers,
stone masons, storekeepers, street car conductors, tex-
tile workers, tobacco warehouse owners, managers,
doorkeepers, auctioneers, buyers and speculators,
tramps, jailbirds and bums, truckers, salesgirls, sheriffs

 :3,;;;. I  
 ' xii PREFACE
  . and deputies, shopkeepers, teachers, vegetable market
    men and women, waitresses, wash women, kept women
  E and prostitutes, people on relief and people not on but
    who are in dire need.
  V I have chosen for this first volume stories which
  Z seem to me most typical and most important. I would
  rl like to have included at least one story each of fisher—
 _|   men, coal and iron miners and smelters, turpentiners,
    lumberers and miscellaneous factory and shop workers
  Al and especially of Negroes in these occupations. At
    present we have no life histories of factory owners and
  ii managers, and few of middle class people. I doubt l
  of whether any owners have ever spoken better for them-
  selves than Kate Brumby and Smith Coon here speak
    for them; but nevertheless they should be given a chance
    to speak for themselves. I have not included in this
A    volume any one of a number of extremely sordid stories
 ,   which I think are of considerable importance, be-
  xi cause space is limited and the stories here presented i
    seem to me to deserve attention first.
    l\Iy ideas as to what ought to be done and what can
      be done in the writing and publishing of life histories
    are subject to change. I have learned and hope to
    learn from this material things about people that can-
  not be learned by reading books written from other
  books, or books, however interesting, by persons with
  literary talent and fertile imaginations.
  Qi How authentic are the stories in this volume? I be-
    lieve the best answer to this is to ask the reader to read
  carefully a few of the stories. If he does, I am con-
    vinced he will agree that real people here are speaking.
  if Each story has been written after one or more interviews.
  Vvlhen one name is given after a story the story has not .
  been sent back to the author for revision and no revision .
 Sir n
@5 —‘=‘-=—*··   .l,... .Q ` · · ’·‘ ¤ ··* ·  C   _; '

or changes of any consequence have been made. Where
two or more names_ are given, the names after the first
one are of the editors, who have made cuts, suggested
that additional material be secured, and made revisions
generally. In all such instances the copy has been read
and approved in final form by the author and, in some
instances, by the subject of the story. All names of
persons have been changed, and where there is any
danger of identification, places also.
I have included in an appendix the instructions `
which have been given to the writers. These instruc-
i tions have been amplified but have not been changed
in any essential respect. In the stories here printed
they have been carefully followed, and if the stories are
not worth printing the fault is in the idea and the in-
structions, not in the persons who have carried it out.
To those who glance at a page and imagine they
have absorbed its contents, to those who are fixed in
I their ideas as to how writing should be done, to those
who are already certain how people think and feel, to
those who are not genuinely interested in the rich variety
of human experience, to those who cannot for a moment
look at the world and people as if they were seeing
them for the first time, pushing aside all patterns and
doctrines that might be obstructive, this book will have
no meaning. I ask only that the reader take the time
to consider and understand why and how it has been
written. I shall appreciate greatly any suggestions or
criticisms which might lead to improvement of the
method used here, or to a better method of revealing the
people as they are.
This is no trivial matter. The people, all the people,
must be known, they must be heard. Somehow they
» must be given representation, somehow they must be

 ga  xiv PRE FACE  
 ,i§ given voice and allowed to speak, in their essential l
  character. To accomplish this, many different kinds ·
  of effort on different levels will be necessary. Books of  
    life histories can help with this job. ,
  Here, then, are real, living people. Here are their .
  own stories, their origins, their more important ex- '
  periences, their most significant thoughts and feelings,
  told by themselves from their own point of view. '_
  Here are John and Sarah Easton, farm laborers, B
  one—time sharecroppers, past middle age, parents of 1
  five children all now away from home but two, living in if i
  a one—room filling station, getting jobs and wages when
  and how they can. In the cotton states in the last ten
  years there have been three—quarte1·s to a million farm
  laborers living as they live, excepting that John and
 ,5 Sarah are probably better off than the ma  ority in this
  group. How many families are dependent on farm
  laborers, how many people are in this group, no one
  knows with any exactness. This class shifts from town I
  to country, from one farm to another, from working _
  for wages to sharecropping. B
  The farm laborer and his family in the South are
  near the bottom of the social pyramid. Beneath them A
  in economic and social status are only such groups as A
  the down and out and almost hopeless unemployed not V
  on relief, the derelicts, tramps, bums and criminals.
  No wage and hour laws protect the farm laborer; »
 E social security overlooks him, and likely as not he will
  overlook old age insurance if he does notldie before he
  knows he is eligible. The proportionate size of this ‘_
  class is increasing because of the rapid introduction of
  ` machinery and rationalization of methods. V
* i¤¤ 
1-# * 
 Z§.`Q`[ ·· · ·* ’:1· = *  il    ’

; Here are Gracie and James Turner, Negro share-
i croppers, with their children, and their children’s
J children, and Gracie’s father, age 91. At the time
l this story was written the Turners were looking for a
. place to move. Gracie gives an account of the places in
· which they have lived. Her family has not moved as
Q frequently as the typical cotton tenant family.
I Throughout the vast area from Virginia through Texas,
tenants move, on an average, once every three years.
v_ This is probably the most severe handicap of this
4 region, not without possible remedy, but nothing has
‘ { been attempted by the states to correct it. In the story
{ l of the Turner family, as told by Gracie, we see the
I helplessness of the sharecropper, his awareness of his
handicaps, and his inability to do anything to remove
Just how typical Irma is in "Get Out And Hoe" when
Morrison comes home, after having run away with
another woman, I cannot say; but when Irma says:
4 "I aint got no right to be mad now, Morrison. You
` had your fling and done come home. VVe need you
g awful bad. I/Ve got to get out and hoe in the to-
` bacco tomorrow. You better get some sleep,"
A I feel as if I know Irma better than I possibly could
A from mere statistical facts concerning tenant farmers.
I can assure the reader that Irma and MO1'1`lSOH are
I not unusual so far as those experiences of tenant
» farmers are concerned which have been counted, tabu—
lated, and analyzed (except for division of crops four-
{ifths to tenant, one—fifth to landlord—which is un-
· usual) ; but this, which tells what kind of person Irma
` is, cannot be contained in any tabulation or subjected
V to any analysis. If we are to know the character of

#3  ,
 _- xvi PREFACE
 sl  Irma it is necessary that we be given this view of her.
  The experience of Irma and her family and of the
  Turners is typical of that of about three-quarters of a
  million families, involving with children, three to four
  K million people.
 ,§§ The Joe Fieldings, white share renters, are a little
  better off than the sharecroppers. The number of
  share renters, white and black, is slightly greater than
  that of sharecroppers. Tom Doyle and his family,
  Negro cash renters, are sturdy, self-respecting farmers,
  living probably as well as it will ever be possible for
  large numbers of people to live.
  In the story, "Five Year Lease,” the white cash
  renter, Ma1·tin, gives a good statement of one of the
  customs which make tenancy in the South so costly and
  destructive of both human and property values. His
 QE landlord, he says,
  "-—won’t give me a five year lease and so I can’t
 w g afford to make many improvements. If I was sure
  I could stay on, I could make over the house, fh;
  up the terrace and clear off some more land. The
  trouble is that just as sure as the tenant makes the
  farm more productive, the owner boosts his rent."
  In the Southern states there are about a quarter of
  a million cash renters, amounting with families to a
  million or a million and a quarter people. Tom and
  Martin, Negro and white cash renters, are probably
  above the level in prosperity of the majority of the
  group to which they belong.
  Sally Beams, Negro woman, age 52, with her family,
  husband dead, faces her last chance to own a farm.
  She and her husband managed to acquire a farm of
  50 acres and paid for it. Then they bought another
    ........ -- ......,;.., m--.W..c.-.,,.,,,,,,.,.;q,,,_,,,,,,,,,,,!,!!,,F

50 acres adjoining and were trying to pay for the
additional 50 when two years ago George, the husband,
was crushed to death in a road accident. Sally has not
been able to make the payments on the additional 50
acres and fears she will lose the first 50 as well as the
second. Sally is not bitter; she makes no charges of
unfairness. From her account, she and her family
were first fortunate but later, in recent years, have been
victims of a series of misfortunes. George was