Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Fall/Section010/Henry Calhoun Weathers

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Overview[edit | edit source]

Henry Calhoun Weathers was a white farm landlord that was born in Wake County in 1889. He was interviewed for the Federal Writers' Project by Harris Bernice K in Seaboard, NC on March 1, 1939.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Early Life[edit | edit source]

Henry Calhoun Weathers was born on a farm in Wake County in 1889. He came from an educated family and was the youngest of nine children. In 1907 he attended the University of North Carolina but had to drop out because his family was low on income from previously paying four college tuitions. In 1909 Weathers re-entered the University of North Carolina where he studied agriculture. Throughout his time at the University of North Carolina he had to work side jobs on campus in order to afford his tuition. Finally after three years of studying, Weathers graduated in 1912 but with a lot of student loans to pay off.

Adult Life[edit | edit source]

After graduating college, Weathers' focus was on improving the educational system. His first job was as a high school principal in 1914. From then until 1922 he changed job positions at the school becoming first superintendent and then agricultural teacher. In 1922 Weathers was elected to supervise vocational agriculture in twenty-five communities where he studied seed selection and breeding as well as soil testing with emphasis on farm management. In 1925 his father in law G.H Planer died leaving the management of his farms to Weathers. Weathers became the landlord of a 100 percent tenant system with five white and five colored families in his farms. He was a very educated landlord who made a lot of profit through the sharecropping system until the Great Depression struck in 1929. In 1929 Weathers and his tenants started making no profit out of the land and would only survive on subsidies and parity checks from the government as part of the New Deal.  

Social Issues[edit | edit source]

Tobacco farmer cuts leaves during the Great Depression

Sharecropping System[edit | edit source]

In the early 1900’s agriculture became a big economic industry in the United States. By this time, slavery had been abolished which left many White landlords and African American freedmen in a dispute of how the agricultural industry would now work. This is where the racially driven sharecropping system came into place. Sharecropping became a compromise between landowners and emancipated slaves in which landowners would get labor for their farms and black or white land workers called tenants would get a share of the crops they produced (Mann, 777). As the editors of History.com explain, sharecropping became such a popular practice because "Instead of receiving wages for working an owner’s land—and having to submit to supervision and harsh discipline—most freedmen preferred to rent land for a fixed payment (History.com, 2010)." This system prevailed for such a long time because even though it was not the most progressive option for African Americans, it was still seen as an advance to slavery (Mann, 776). Eventually the sharecropping system died down in the 1940's as the Great Depression took place and machines took a bigger role over the farm work (History.com, 2009).

Great Depression in the South[edit | edit source]

The Great Depression as scholar Joseph Fronczak explains was “A comprehensive catastrophe, the Great Depression was not only an economic slump, it was a period of political breakdown, social disruption, intellectual illusion, and environmental disaster (Fronzcak, 484).” The Great Depression began in October of 1929 after the stock market crash caused a decrease in industrial output and failure in banks which led to a huge increase in unemployment. In 1930 things worsened specially for the south as a phenomenon called the Dust Bowl occurred. As History.com mentions, The Dust Bowl was a series off, "severe droughts in the Southern Plains that brought high winds and dust from Texas to Nebraska, killing people, livestock and crops (History.com,2009)." Due to this, many Southerners began to move up north to the cities in search of work changing America's economic leading industry from an agricultural industry to a more industrial industry. The situation did not begin to go uphill until Franklin D Roosevelt was elected president in 1932. Roosevelt implemented a series of programs and institutions which he called the "New Deal" to help the country recover from the economic downturns. Some of these included the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Social Security Act (History.com,2009). The Great Depression began to die off in the early 1940's as the employment rate went up due to an increase in creation of jobs such as mass producing weapons so that the USA could participate in World War II.

Racism in the South[edit | edit source]

Jim Crow and Segregation[edit | edit source]

Segregated drinking fountain in use in the American South

As researchers David R. Williams and Chiquita Collins explain, "Segregation refers to the physical separation of the races in residential contexts. It was imposed by legislation, supported by major economic institutions, enshrined in the housing policies of the federal government, enforced by the judicial system, and legitimized by the ideology of white supremacy that was advocated by churches and other cultural institutions (Williams and Collins, 2001)." This was something that prevailed during the 1900's in America specifically in the South. After the emancipation of African American slaves, White Americans did everything in their power to maintain their superiority by keeping African Americans separated from them. This is where the system Jim Crow came into place (Pilgrim, 2000). The Jim Crow system was a series of laws that were implemented to segregate White Americans and African Americans based on the beliefs that White Americans were superior to African Americans. Examples of these laws were that White Americans and African Americans had to attend different schools or ride different buses or if in a shared building have designated water fountains or bathrooms based on whether you were White or "Colored". The Jim Crow system led to an increase of violence against African Americans such as Lynchings which is the public killing (in this case of a certain group) by a group of people usually called a mob (Pilgrim, 2000). For a longtime, the Jim Crow had devastating effects for African Americans and it wasn't until the civil rights movement began to occur in the 1960's and acts such as "The Civil Rights Act of 1968 which made discrimination in the sale or rental of housing units illegal in the United States (Williams and Collins, 2001)" that segregation began to deminish.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Mann, Susan A. “Slavery, Sharecropping, and Sexual Inequality.” Signs 14, no. 4 (1989): 774–98. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3174684.

History.com Editors, ed. 2010. Sharecropping. A&E Television Networks. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/sharecropping.

Fronczak, Joseph. 2018. Dead Money and Modernity: America’s Great Depression. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. https://www.proquest.com/docview/2130839136/abstract/66BB6667A22C42A9PQ/1?accountid=14244.

History.com Editors, ed. 2009. Great Depression History. A&E Television Networks. https://www.history.com/topics/great-depression/great-depression-history.

Williams, David R., and Chiquita Collins. 2001. Racial Residential Segregation: A Fundamental Cause of Racial Disparities in Health. Public Health Reports. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1497358/pdf/12042604.pdf.

Pilgrim, David . 2000. What Was Jim Crow. Ferris State University. https://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm.