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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David Burgess, August 12, 1983. Interview F-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Postwar industrialization in the South

Burgess recalls that some of his fellow white, southern, Christian labor leaders saw industrialization, and the anti-unionism that accompanied it, as inevitable. Burgess watched union membership decline in the South after the late 1940s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David Burgess, August 12, 1983. Interview F-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

What was the dominant attitude of these people towards the new south, industrialization and urbanization?
I think there is something of Jefferson in Buck Kester, and Jean Smathers. But I think that the rest of them knew that it was coming. But they also knew that the industrialization meant going from Florwar, Massachusetts to Rockville, South Carolina, from New Bedford to Greenville, South Carolina. Running away from the union and running away from union conditions of making all sorts of activating fields with local municipalities with the local sheriff's office, with the state and so forth. And that was where the production and the trend was. I think that they had an illusion that this could be stopped. I don't think that I was there during the part of the south which you could change and homogenize, say like Atlanta or it could be Los Angeles. It is more than just the south, it is the metropolitan area with all sorts of folks. I lived in Atlanta for four years, but it hadn't quite come into that stage yet. But I would say that there was nothing anti-industrial. It is just that we knew that the industrialization of the south was coming because the company wanted it. And because the local municipality wanted it. And they were running away from the union conditions in other places. That can get more jobs, but how do you get workers conscience that they also can join the union. Ironically I was in the textile workers union in 1947 and 1948 when numerically there was height of their membership. But because of the pull out in the north and the inability to organize the south, the gross membership went steadily down.