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Oral History Interview with Lacy Wright, March 10, 1975. Interview E-0017. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Lacy Wright was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. At the age of twelve, Wright left school in order to start working to help support his family. Wright's father worked for Cone Mills in Greensboro and arranged for Wright to work at the White Oak plant where he worked. Wright explains that it was a common practice for children to work at the same plant as their parents. Wright explains how company paternalism in the mills and in the mill villages helped to facilitate family ties in the workplace: children compromised approximately one-fourth of the labor force in the Cone textile plants during this time. Except of a brief stint with the post office in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Wright worked only for Cone Mills from the late 1910s into the mid-1960s, when he retired. All but two of those years were spent in the White Oak plant. During these years, Wright also lived in Cone Mill villages. Throughout the interview he discusses what it was like to live in company housing, stressing the paternal role of Cone Mills in the lives of their workers. Aside from some efforts at organization and one short-lived strike during the late 1910s and early 1920s, Cone Mill workers largely stayed out of the labor movement until the 1950s. Decent wages and a low layoff rate kept them out of the 1934 general strike, say Wright. Nevertheless, Cone Mill workers were increasingly drawn into the labor movement during the 1950s when organizers from the United Textile Workers/American Federation of Labor and the Textile Workers of America/Congress for Industrial Organization competed for support amongst Cone Mills plants. Wright describes this process and explains his own growing involvement in the labor movement during his last years as a worker for Cone Mills. In addition, he describes his general support of unionization and outlines what he perceives as unique challenges of labor organization in the South.
    Excerpts
  • Working in the textile mills as a child
  • Working for Cone Mills during the Great Depression
  • Workers' efforts to organize in the late 1910s and early 1920s
  • Reaction to flying squadrons during the general strike of 1934
  • Better wages and living conditions for Cone Mill workers
  • Organizing the White Oak plant and challenges of organizing southern workers
  • Strike at White Oaks Cone plant in early 1920s
  • Organization efforts at Cone Mills in the mid-1950s
  • Unionization is important for southern labor
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Trade-unions--Southern States
  • Children--Employment--Laws and legislation
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.