Labor's Promised Land
Radical Visions of Gender, Race, and Religion in the South
In Labor’s Promised Land, Mark Fannin examines the ways in which the social stratification and rigid cultural norms of southern hierarchy were co-opted by those laboring to organize workers in the South. Using the distinct but related examples of the Brotherhood of Timber Workers and the Southern Tenant Farmers Union as case studies, Fannin illustrates how central themes of southern identity were used to mobilize the most disillusioned and exploited elements of the working class in the region.
By subverting customary values to promote movements in which solidarity was more powerful than social divisions, these unions challenged the cornerstones of traditional southern society: women were encouraged to “think and act for themselves,” and they assumed leadership roles within the movements; the rhetoric of race was radicalized; and the religious foundations of devout communities were shaken by an approach that reactionaries saw as explicit and often blasphemous. By upsetting the conservative values and traditions espoused by the agricultural and industrial elites, these organizations provided an important link between the promise of the south and the realization of working-class aspirations, and they created a blueprint for the civil rights movement.
The Author: Mark Fannin earned his doctorate in history for the University of Ulster ad has taught at universities in England and Ireland. A critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, he lives in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.