Poverty

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Entry Category: Poverty

Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union

The Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union (STFU) was a federation of tenant farmers formed in July 1934 in Poinsett County with the immediate aim of reforming the crop-sharing system of sharecropping and tenant farming. The facts that the STFU was integrated, that women played a critical role in its organization and administration, and that fundamentalist church rituals and regional folkways were basic to the union’s operation dramatically foreshadowed the post-war civil rights era. A series of natural disasters in the late 1920s and early 1930s, plus the unique circumstances present in Poinsett County, led to the formation of the STFU. The Flood of 1927 revealed the desperate plight of the Delta cropper to the outside world, sparking the interest of unionists …

State of Arkansas v. Artoria Smith

aka: Arkansas v. Smith (2015)
State of Arkansas v. Artoria Smith is a decision of the Pulaski County Circuit Court written by Judge Herbert T. Wright Jr. and filed on January 20, 2015. The decision declared unconstitutional Arkansas’s failure-to-vacate statute—a statute that criminalizes failure to pay rent while remaining on the premises (an act that no other state criminalizes). Three other circuit courts in Arkansas followed suit in declaring the statute unconstitutional. The parties in Arkansas v. Smith stipulated to several facts. Smith and her landlord, Primo Novero, had a lease agreement in 2014. On July 9, 2014, Novero gave Smith ten days’ notice under Arkansas’s failure-to-vacate statute, claiming she had breached the lease. Under the statute, a tenant who remains on the premises more …

Tate Plantation Strike of 1886

In 1886, the Knights of Labor engaged in two strikes in Arkansas. The first of these strikes, the Great Southwestern Strike, involved railroad workers from Texas to Illinois. It began in March and ended in failure by May. The second strike occurred in July at the Tate Plantation in Young Township of Pulaski County, nine miles south of Little Rock (Pulaski County) on the Arkansas River. While this strike also proved unsuccessful, and much briefer, it remains significant because all of the strikers were African Americans, and it foretold efforts at black farm labor activism that would continue in Arkansas well into the twentieth century. Formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1869, the Knights of Labor spread across the nation during …

Tomson, Dan Fraser

A native of Tennessee, Dan Fraser Tomson helped organize—and was a charter member of—the first local assembly (or lodge) of the Knights of Labor in Arkansas. He also served as a state organizer and lecturer and, eventually, as the Knights’ highest-ranking state officer. In addition, he edited a weekly newspaper, the Industrial Liberator, which served as the official organ of the Arkansas Knights of Labor, and he became a significant figure in the national Knights of Labor organization. He served in a variety of military- and government-related jobs throughout his life, including as a clerk in Washington DC, copying the Civil War records of Missouri soldiers; a staff member in the Missouri Senate; and a clerk in the Missouri adjutant …

Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA)

aka: VISTA
Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) is a national welfare program begun in 1965. The volunteers were recruited from all over the country and sent to help people in poverty-stricken areas, including Arkansas. Some of the first areas to receive assistance were Yell County and Texarkana (Miller County). Not only did volunteers help many Arkansans, the written accounts from the time they spent in Arkansas are of great historical value because they describe many details of the rural Arkansas culture of the twentieth century. The program was begun during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency with the “War on Poverty.” The VISTA program was included in the larger program, the Office of Economic Opportunity, originally called National Service Corps. VISTA was described as …

Williams, Claude Clossey

Claude Clossey Williams was a Presbyterian minister and human rights activist who was long involved in the civil rights movement. In addition, he was an active labor organizer and served as national vice president of the American Federation of Teachers. Claude Clossey Williams was born on June 16, 1895, in Weakley County, Tennessee, to Jess Williams and Minnie Bell Galey Williams. His parents were tenant farmers and sharecroppers who were members of the fundamentalist Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In 1910, he left his family and moved in with cousins, working on their farm. During the winters, he worked as a railroad laborer, carpentry assistant, and painter. He also heaved coal for Mississippi River steamboats. In 1916, with the United States on …