Ala. Negro Croppers
Resist White Terror

Pitched Battle Between Posse & Negroes

(December 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 51, 31 December 1932, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The attempt to seize the mule and cow of a Negro sharecropper in Notasulga, Tallapoosa County, Alabama, and the armed conflict between the harassed croppers and the legally armed mob that attacked them, brings to the forefront all the horrors and misery of the Negro throughout the notorious “Black Belt” in the South. At least three of the band of Negro croppers who gathered in the home of Clifford James to defend him from the mob of armed deputies, are known to be dead; several are wounded. As was the case in the Camp Hill, Alabama, affair a year and a half ago, the attack was courageously resisted by the assembled Negroes, who were finally compelled to submit in the presence of an overwhelming hostile force recruited from the entire country for miles around and even outside the county limits.

As a sequel to the Notasulga battle, the International Labor Defense office in Birmingham was raided and its equipment practically destroyed; while Alice Burke, the wife of the I.L.D.’s Southern organizer, was arrested a short time afterward in the home of a white worker of East Lake, Alabama, where a protest meeting was being held.

The Bourbon System

The fact that the Negroes involved did not meekly submit to the arrogant demands of the white landlords and their armed posse, is of tremendous significance. Ever since the end of the Civil War, the bourgeoisie of the South has put at the very spearhead of its policy the determination to keep the Negro submerged as far as possible, to inculcate in him the spirit of subserviency and non-resistance, to impress him with the absurd, unfounded, reactionary theory of “Negro inferiority”. The whole social and political system erected around these ideas has been bolstered up by “Jim Crowing,” the Negro, disfranchizing him in every conceivable manner, keeping him on the lowest rung of the economic ladder, and, to impress him with the advisability of not resisting, by torturing and murdering him in accordance with the principles of Judge Lynch. The unrelenting persistence which the Southern Bourbons have shown in preserving this barbaric system of virtual enslavement of the Negro, is accounted for by the fact that the emancipation of the millions of colored toilers in the South is equivalent to the end of white capitalist domination.

Suffering most acutely from the nightmare of Southern capitalist democracy, are the Negroes engaged in “share-cropping”. The leasing of land, and sometimes also of mechanical equipment or livestock, to the croppers, is paid for by them in the form of a portion of the crop they garner. The system is strongly reminiscent of the dark feudal ages. It places the cropper at the mercy of the white landlord from whom he can scarcely ever liberate himself. The living conditions of the croppers, lowest in the scale of tenant farmers, are indescribable. They are constantly, and more often than not, increasingly indebted to the landlord, who robs them of their already scanty income not only by the “cropper’s contract” which puts the Negro in the hands of the landowner, but also by the fantastic prices charged at the latter’s food and clothing commissary.

The Negroes Stand Their Ground

When there is added to this the fact that cotton, the principal cash money crop in the “Black Belt”, has been hit terrific blows by the crisis, the desperation of the Negro sharecroppers may be easily imagined. No wonder that in spite of the tremendous forces the landlords have at their disposal, the Negroes in the South are beginning, for the first time in years, to stand their ground against the arbitrary, tyrannical encroachments upon their already sufficiently miserable living conditions.

Camp Hill and Notasulga of symbolic significance. No longer does there exist a progressive bourgeoisie in the North which is compelled to grant at least formal recognition to the rights of the Negroes, in the interests of their own fight for liberation from the hampering fetters of a slave-owning aristocracy. The union of the Southern Bourbons and the Northern republicans into a reactionary financial oligarchy, has long ago been accomplished. From that source, the Negro can look for anything but support or comfort. But not much more support will the cruelly exploited Negro get from the petty bourgeoisie, his own not excepted. The Negro petty bourgeoisie is in that peculiar position where it actually thrives on the segregation and Jim Crowing of the black toiler! That is why its interests are so intimately associated with these of the ruling bourgeoisie. That is why it continuously counsels the Negro masses to wear the “Uncle Tom handkerchief” on its head, the symbol of the fawning slave who never fights back.

This leaves the Negro of town and country only one way out of the purgatory in which they are confined. The Negro tenant and cropper of the South cannot lead and organize the movement for liberation; they can, however, contribute (as they have) all the passion of the wronged, the strength at their command, the heroism they have already displayed. But at the head of the columns marching to victory must stand the class conscious, machine-organized, urban proletariat, white and black. Eventually, it will stand there. When it has reached the consciousness of its task, it will not find the Southern Negroes wanting. Camp Hill and Notasulga are signs of the vast inflammable material in the South which can be ignited to burn to the roots the bestial rule of oppression.

Shachtman button
Max Shachtman
Marx button
Marxist Writers’

Last updated on 7 December 2014