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Subject: ""Hammer & Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression"" Previous topic | Next topic
Walleye
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Sat Mar-27-21 07:14 AM

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""Hammer & Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression""


          

UNC Press is offering this classic by Robin D.G. Kelley for free right now, with the blessing of the author. Classic status aside, I've never read it, but I got access to the free copy and I'm gonna give it a shot. If anybody's interested, the link and the description is below.

I've been swamped with trying to earn a living at my silly job, but it'd be nice to read something smart for the first time in awhile. Can't guarantee my endurance on this, but I'll try to post about it once a week if anybody wants to join in and talk about it?

https://flexpub.com/gratis/oVd4A

A groundbreaking contribution to the history of the "long Civil Rights movement," Hammer and Hoe tells the story of how, during the 1930s and 40s, Communists took on Alabama's repressive, racist police state to fight for economic justice, civil and political rights, and racial equality.

The Alabama Communist Party was made up of working people without a Euro-American radical political tradition: devoutly religious and semiliterate black laborers and sharecroppers, and a handful of whites, including unemployed industrial workers, housewives, youth, and renegade liberals. In this book, Robin D. G. Kelley reveals how the experiences and identities of these people from Alabama's farms, factories, mines, kitchens, and city streets shaped the Party's tactics and unique political culture. The result was a remarkably resilient movement forged in a racist world that had little tolerance for radicals.

After discussing the book's origins and impact in a new preface written for this twenty-fifth-anniversary edition, Kelley reflects on what a militantly antiracist, radical movement in the heart of Dixie might teach contemporary social movements confronting rampant inequality, police violence, mass incarceration, and neoliberalism.

______________________________

"Walleye, a lot of things are going to go wrong in your life that technically aren't your fault. Always remember that this doesn't make you any less of an idiot"

--Walleye's Dad

  

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Topic Outline
Subject Author Message Date ID
Ok then I mean I haven't read it but I assume they got beaten up
Mar 27th 2021
1
teach us to Nader and Susan Sarandon some more, please
Mar 27th 2021
2
This is my favorite book!
Mar 27th 2021
3
Oh, excellent - can I ask when you read it?
Mar 28th 2021
5
      I read it for the first time senior year of college
Mar 28th 2021
7
           Thanks!
Apr 12th 2021
9
this is a really good book. Def check it out
Mar 27th 2021
4
Can I ask you the same question as above?
Mar 28th 2021
6
      yes it woudl be great for those students. Of course you'll have to
Mar 30th 2021
8
           Excellent - thanks!
Apr 12th 2021
10
Love how clearly it adopts the organizer's perspective
Apr 12th 2021
11
yup.
Apr 12th 2021
12
my opportunity to plug his LONG but excellent Black Ink Interview
Apr 12th 2021
13
Loved the (chapter two) background on sharecroppers
Apr 21st 2021
14

Binlahab
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182697 posts
Sat Mar-27-21 07:26 AM

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1. "Ok then I mean I haven't read it but I assume they got beaten up"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

A lot.

At least the white people did.

Black folks were prolly just killed outright

But will check it out


does it really matter?

wonder what bin's doing?
http://i.imgur.com/phECCMp.jpg

  

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c71
Member since Jan 15th 2008
11549 posts
Sat Mar-27-21 08:38 AM

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2. "teach us to Nader and Susan Sarandon some more, please"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

yep

  

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afrogirl_lost
Member since May 22nd 2012
3055 posts
Sat Mar-27-21 10:56 AM

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3. "This is my favorite book!"
In response to Reply # 0


          

I’m glad it’s being offered for free. I’ve been looking for a book club so I can read it with other folks.

  

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Walleye
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15097 posts
Sun Mar-28-21 06:17 AM

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5. "Oh, excellent - can I ask when you read it?"
In response to Reply # 3


          

I'm reading it now for my own, but I've got to teach a class on 20th century American history in the summer. I got some good advice from people here last year before the same class started, but I still don't feel entirely in control of the scope of the course.

Anyhow, I guess to reframe the above question: do you think undergraduates who aren't necessarily history majors but who are almost universally thoughtful and curious would profit from reading this book in a course?

I love teaching at this school, but I was initially hired to adjunct a class in my actual specialty (medieval church history). I keep taking jobs there because of my affection for the place, but the young women in this course are really good and even though last time went okay, I'd love to improve it.

______________________________

"Walleye, a lot of things are going to go wrong in your life that technically aren't your fault. Always remember that this doesn't make you any less of an idiot"

--Walleye's Dad

  

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afrogirl_lost
Member since May 22nd 2012
3055 posts
Sun Mar-28-21 02:30 PM

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7. "I read it for the first time senior year of college "
In response to Reply # 5
Sun Mar-28-21 02:33 PM by afrogirl_lost

          

in a Historiography course. I think it would benefit a wide variety of people. I think you just may have to teach it differently to those who don’t have a background in academic History. Maybe connect it more to recent social justice battles. See if Dr. Kelley will speak to your class. He’s really accessible and lovely.

  

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Walleye
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15097 posts
Mon Apr-12-21 08:25 AM

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9. "Thanks!"
In response to Reply # 7


          

The classes this school gives me have a ton of internal diversity when it comes to academic background. Students are all really smart and ready to discuss anything, but it's sometimes a challenge figuring out how to meet all of them where they are - so your cautions are very much appreciated. And ditto recommending Prof. Kelley to talk. Reaching out for that would require a personality transplant on my part, but it'd definitely be worth it.

______________________________

"Walleye, a lot of things are going to go wrong in your life that technically aren't your fault. Always remember that this doesn't make you any less of an idiot"

--Walleye's Dad

  

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kayru99
Member since Jan 26th 2004
15829 posts
Sat Mar-27-21 11:56 PM

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4. "this is a really good book. Def check it out"
In response to Reply # 0


          

  

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Walleye
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Sun Mar-28-21 06:18 AM

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6. "Can I ask you the same question as above?"
In response to Reply # 4


          

Do you think this would work in a 20th century American history class for undergraduates? Any related thoughts welcome. I was excited to read this for my own benefit, but if there's a chance I can make it valuable for some good students that would be a huge bonus.

______________________________

"Walleye, a lot of things are going to go wrong in your life that technically aren't your fault. Always remember that this doesn't make you any less of an idiot"

--Walleye's Dad

  

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kayru99
Member since Jan 26th 2004
15829 posts
Tue Mar-30-21 08:22 PM

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8. "yes it woudl be great for those students. Of course you'll have to"
In response to Reply # 6


          

provide some contetxual framing...it really does expand the narratives of both Jim Crow and American labor.

  

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Walleye
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Mon Apr-12-21 08:31 AM

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10. "Excellent - thanks!"
In response to Reply # 8


          

Yeah, getting in there and contextualizing it - without making the entire term about delivering that context - will be the trick. I went with a very simple, wide-and-sweeping survey of 20th century US History last time I taught this and the students *hated* it. That was actually useful, because they were up for talking about why they hated it. But I think something like this that is very strictly focused but has themes that can dial out more broadly and will get them thinking about US historiography could work.

______________________________

"Walleye, a lot of things are going to go wrong in your life that technically aren't your fault. Always remember that this doesn't make you any less of an idiot"

--Walleye's Dad

  

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Walleye
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Mon Apr-12-21 08:40 AM

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11. "Love how clearly it adopts the organizer's perspective"
In response to Reply # 0


          

Probing the ideology of the people involved is an interest, but for the first couple chapters so far not a prevailing concern because of the incredibly appealing messiness of the subject. Very cool to see him approach this from the "what have we got here?" perspective that really embraces the messiness - white, urban northern communists getting some initial traction but ultimately flailing due to a lot of their own issues with race, gender, and - ironically - class, at least as constructed alongside education. His approach really wrings a lot of story out of this, and brings the rural, black workers who took on that organizing burden to real, meaningful life.

______________________________

"Walleye, a lot of things are going to go wrong in your life that technically aren't your fault. Always remember that this doesn't make you any less of an idiot"

--Walleye's Dad

  

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kayru99
Member since Jan 26th 2004
15829 posts
Mon Apr-12-21 09:25 AM

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12. "yup."
In response to Reply # 11


          

its wild how little history/sociology still isn't written from the perspective of rural black working class folks.
America looks completely different when you're on the floor, and the descendants of slaves are always the floor. The only honest telling of American history has to center our perspective. Plus, that perspective fills in so many gaps in the story

  

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ShawndmeSlanted
Member since Oct 30th 2004
42752 posts
Mon Apr-12-21 12:10 PM

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13. "my opportunity to plug his LONG but excellent Black Ink Interview"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

have you read this?>

https://black-ink.info/2020/01/16/solidarity-is-not-a-market-exchange-an-interview-with-robin-d-g-kelley/

I love this shit but its also the longest thing ive ever read on the internet.


Trey was supposed to have a "book club" with me about it but he flaked lol

---
"though time has passed, im still the future" (c) black thought

  

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Walleye
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Wed Apr-21-21 10:41 AM

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14. "Loved the (chapter two) background on sharecroppers"
In response to Reply # 0


          

Exhausting to even read about having to hustle that hard to feed your family, and then to hustle even harder to actually get paid or treated fairly within the context of this terrible job. The people that emerged, though, get a real, three-dimensional life out from Kelley, though - as with Ralph Gray, there's a real risk that being introduced to one of these figures means finding out they were brutally murdered a couple pages later. It also helps build a narrative that doesn't lean on the idea of these northern, white Communists coming down and organizing people - but rather of black sharecroppers demonstrating rather quickly a desire for collective action (which Kelley points out they'd been doing on a smaller scale for a long time) and organizing themselves according to the eccentricities of their own labor, community, and understanding of their objectives. Interesting too to see their open-ness to non-traditional leadership, women and younger people, the northern Communists didn't object to but seemed to find kind of eyebrow-raising.


"The Grays were known by their neighbors as a proud family with a militant heritage. Their grandfather Alfred Gray had been a state legislator in Perry County, Alabama, during Reconstruction and a staunch advocate of equal rights as well as a sharp critic of the Freedmen's Bureau. He told a mixed crowd in Uniontown in 1868, “I am not afraid to fight for , and I will fight for it until hell freezes over. ... I may go to hell, my home is hell, but the white man shall go there with me.”16

Ralph Gray, who had been nourished on stories of his grandfather, emerged as the fledgling movement's undisputed local leader. One of fifteen children, Gray was born in Tallapoosa County in 1873 and spent about one year of his adult life working in Birmingham. After returning to Tallapoosa in 1895, he married and settled down as a tenant farmer until 1919, when he and his family left Alabama in search of better opportunities. Having spent some time sharecropping in Oklahoma and New Mexico, he returned to the place of his birth in 1929 and purchased a small farm. Gray owned a plot of land but it was hardly enough to survive on. Nevertheless, he managed to remain debt-free and purchased his own automobile, thus earning the respect of his local community. Early in 1931 Gray applied for a low-interest federal loan with which to rent a farm from Tallapoosa merchant John J. Langley.

Because the loan check required a double endorsement, Langley was able to cash the check and withhold Gray's portion, who then retaliated by filing a complaint with the Agricultural Extension Service. “When the landlord heard what he had done,” his brother Tommy recalled, “he got mighty mad and jumped on Brother Ralph to give him a whipping. Instead Brother Ralph whipped him.” Soon thereafter, Ralph began reading the Southern Worker, joined the Communist Party, and set out with his brother to build a union."

______________________________

"Walleye, a lot of things are going to go wrong in your life that technically aren't your fault. Always remember that this doesn't make you any less of an idiot"

--Walleye's Dad

  

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