John L. Handcox, the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, and the African American Song Tradition
|Publication Date||November 2013|
|Formats||Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) Paperback|
|Series||Palgrave Studies in Oral History|
Descended from African American slaves, Native Americans, and white slaveowners, John Handcox was born at one of the hardest times and places to be black in America. Over the first few decades of the twentieth century, he survived attempted lynchings, floods, droughts, and the ravages of the Great Depression to organize black and white farmers alike on behalf of the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union. He also became one of the most beloved folk singers of the prewar labor movement, composing songs such as "Roll the Union On" and "There Is Mean Things Happening in this Land" that bridged racial divides and kept the spirits of striking workers high. Though he withdrew from the public eye for nearly forty years, missing the "folk boom" of the 1960s, he resurfaced decades later - just in time to denounce the policies of the Reagan administration in song - and his work was embraced by new generations of labor activists and folk music devotees. Michael Honey's fascinating and beautifully told history gives us John Handcox in his own words, recounting a journey that began in a sharecropper's shack in the Deep South and went on to shape the labor music tradition, all amid the tangled and troubled history of the United States in the twentieth century.