Working with the National Sharecroppers Fund
Pollitt discusses his organizational work towards helping sharecroppers over the course of his career. After noting that he first worked with sharecroppers during the early 1950s when he worked with Joseph Rauh of Americans for Democratic Action, Pollitt discusses how he worked with the National Sharecroppers Fund since its inception in 1960. He then describes some of the work the Fund did towards helping sharecroppers, especially African American sharecroppers, in the South.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, April 17, 1991. Interview L-0064-9. 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
I've been a member of the National Sharecropper's
Fund which is also known as the Rural Advancement Fund. This was started
in the late thirties when the mechanized cotton picker came in and
started to displace the sharecroppers in the cotton fields. Cotton was
king at that time and sharecropping was a way of life for many, many
people. So they started to displace the sharecropper and they organized
the Sharecropper's Union, the National
Sharecropper's Union. They were very active in Arkansas and
Alabama and Mississippi. Then they became the National Agricultural
Workers Union for the sharecroppers, cotton and every other kind of
crop. When I went with Joe Rauh in 1952, we represented Mr. H.L.
Mitchell who was the President of the Union. The Union didn't
have any money, so Joe Rauh assigned me to them because he had to earn
money to keep the firm going. So he represented the Auto Workers who
paid and I represented the sharecroppers who didn't pay. We
had a lot of strikes hither and yon and injunctions and organizing and
activities. Then I think it was when I came here, I was asked to serve
on…. Van Hecke, who had been the former dean, had written the
"Van Hecke Report of Migratory Farm Labor" which was
done under Truman. That was the guide for everybody. I was on the
National Advisory Committee on Migratory Farm Labor. It was totally
unofficial. Nobody asked for our advice. We met yearly and had a big
public hearing on the plight of the migrant.
We'd put out pamphlets and stuff. Steve Allen was on that
board with Hollywood dignitaries and so on. Then that merged with the
National Sharecroppers Fund, so I became a member of the National
Sharecroppers Fund with Van Hecke and Frank Porter Graham and Eleanor
Roosevelt and Benjamin Mays and Norman Thomas. So it was a real
high-powered group and I was greatly honored to be on it.
I've been on it ever since; ever since 1960. We meet and we
have our problems. Right now we're working on the poultry
farmers. They are licensed where they have contracts with Perdue and
Holly Farms to raise the chicks and they deliver the chicks and then ten
weeks later they come by and pick them up. They feed the chicks in the
incubators and they spend almost two hundred thousand dollars to get all
the equipment and set it up. And if they try to organize to protest
something, they lose their contract. So we're trying to do
something about that. That's one of the things. And then all
the farmers now are losing their farms, the black farmers. And in North
Hampton County up here before World War I they had two hundred black
farmers. Now there are six black farmers. They can't get the
loans. We bring suits against the Department of Agriculture for
discriminating on the basis of race. When it's ready for
trial they agree to give the loan to the guy, but by then the season is
over, you know.
- ANN MCCOLL:
Does the organization look at legal policy?
- DANIEL POLLITT:
Yes, and we set up co-ops and we have irrigation equipment which we make
available in case of a drought. We have a big co-op in cucumbers up in
Danville, Virginia. We had violence in South
Carolina for the shrimpers and we tried to encourage marketing outlets
and things. It's a significant thing. We've sort
of lost sight of the migrants. We look at the family farm to keep the
family farmer on the farm. So it's a current thrust.