Growing interest in social justice while working for Champion Paper and Fiber Company
Queen briefly discusses her years working for the Champion Paper and Fiber Company in Canton, North Carolina. A factory worker from 1930 to 1940, Queen explains how her experiences as a worker during these years piqued her interested in issues of social justice. In particular, she emphasizes her admiration for the Roosevelts and the New Deal. In addition, she notes that her ideas about social justice were beginning to shape her views about religion at this time.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Anne Queen, April 30, 1976. Interview G-0049-1. 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
In 1930, I graduated from high school and I went
to work at the Champion Paper and Fiber Company. I went to work for
eighteen cents a hour and very soon, the wages were cut to sixteen
cents. When the New Deal came into being after Roosevelt was elected, I
was making fourteen cents an hour, working nine hours a day. Joe Glazer
has this wonderful labor song on a recording of labor songs, which he
calls "From Can't See to Can't
See", and I very much identify with that,
because during the middle of the Depression, I worked from
"Can't See to Can't See," in the
winter. I went to work before daylight and came home after dark, nine
hours a day for fourteen cents an hour. I can remember as well as if it
were yesterday, the day that the National Recovery Act became law.
Someone came to the cutter, I was working on a paper cutter, and told me
that the National Recovery Act had just been passed and that we would
now make a minimum wage of forty cents an hour and that we would work a
minimum of forty hours a week. So, this is why I am a New Deal Democrat
and it is why I admired the Roosevelts so well. I don't make
any claims to be a student of the Roosevelt era, but I was a recepient
of the social change which Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt brought into
being. I worked in the paper mill until 1940.
- JOSEPH HERZENBERG:
Did you do the same job all those years?
- ANNE QUEEN:
No, I started out as a paper sorter and then I worked at the paper cutter
and then the last and I guess the best job I had was as a paper
inspector. I learned a lot during those …actually it was ten
and a half years that I worked. I came to understand some of the forces
in our society which I felt needed to be changed and I had come to the
point, or pretty nearly come to the point, before I left
Champion that the church had no interest or concern about
working people. I was very active in the church during my formative
years. I was a member of the Spring Hill Baptist Church and I was
baptized in a pond, a creek. I was very much a fundamentalist at that
time and my religion, now as I reflect back on it, had much too much
emotional aspects to it. I did understand something of the necessity for
a social implication of the faith and by the time I went to Berea, I was
moving close to the point where I felt the church had no social message.