Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Spring/105/Section 56/Samuel T Clowney

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Overview[edit | edit source]

Samuel T. Clowney, a former South Carolina State Representative, was interviewed by W. W. Dixon in association with the Federal Writers' Project at his home in Winnsboro, South Carolina, sometime in 1867.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Winthrop Historic District

Samuel T. Clowney was a former South Carolina state House of Representatives member. He was born on March 6th, 1862 to Moses and Susanna Clowney in Buckhead, an unincorporated community in Fairfield County, South Carolina. Clowney grew up in Buckhead with his parents and multiple siblings, attending school in a one-room school building, until the age of eighteen, when his father gifted him fifty acres of land and a horse and told him to make a life for himself. Following his initial success, at the age of twenty Clowney purchased 178 additional acres of land and became independent of his father. Clowney then married Emma Louise Welling, and with her raised three boys and five girls. Clowney described himself as "sitting pretty"[1] managed to amass over 1,000 acres of land, sent his children to Clemson and Winthrop for college, and eventually moved out of the countryside to Winnsboro, where he was then elected to the state legislature. During his time as a representative in the South Carolina State House of Representatives, Clowney committed a verbal assault against an African-American waiter at a restaurant he was dining at, so severe that the authorities were called and he was subsequently arrested. Towards the conclusion of his first term, Clowney felt he hadn’t done anything to distinguish himself as a member or merit himself returning for a second term, and hatched a scheme with a close colleague, whom he had introduce an incredibly unfavorable bill calling for the cessation of railroad operations in the entire state of South Carolina on Sundays. Clowney, being a member of the Railroad Committee of the South Carolina state legislature, then proceeded to give a fiery speech publicly denouncing the bill, gaining him considerable favorability among the voting population. Following this skyrocket in popularity, Clowney chose not to run again, and lived out the rest of his life living quietly with his son on the outskirts of Winnsboro.

Social Issues[edit | edit source]

Wealth Inequality in Relation to Education[edit | edit source]

Primarily white, wealthy students could afford to attend school during the Depression, which set them up for success over other minority groups who couldn't do the same.

During the Great Depression, inequalities in wealth distribution among Americans became exacerbated by the country's severe financial crisis. Children from wealthier families were proven to have come out of the Great Depression having been set back less than those who came from poorer families. It was found by researchers at Harvard University that "...the sons of richer fathers get more years of education… sons of poorer fathers may have been more likely to drop out of school earlier to enter the labor force."[2]The disparity in the accessibility of education in America during the Great Depression contributed to this financial divide. Generational wealth also played a role, as minorities were centuries behind their colonizer counterparts in terms of accumulating wealth. Schools attended by economically disadvantaged students and minorities provided lower quality educations which were incomparable to those provided to students in wealthier locations.[3]

Racial Inequality[edit | edit source]

The impacts of the Great Depression negatively affected minority groups, specifically African-Americans, in disproportionate quantities when compared to the effects of the Depression on white Americans. African-American communities experienced increased violence as a result of the social effects of New Deal legislation, intended to benefit the country, to the point where the country experienced a 250% increase in lynchings between the years of 1932 and 1933. [4]During the Great Depression, nonwhite individuals also experienced lower levels of human welfare due to Jim Crow regulations. Race-specific analyses of human welfare in America "...reveal a divergence in life expectancy after 1930.”[5] Interestingly enough, southern states, where Jim Crow regulations were the strongest, were the most reliant on federal programs, such as the Works Progress Administration, to help them rebound from the Great Depression, largely in part because minority populations struggled to obtain employment due to the segregation and racism sanctioned by Jim Crow[6]. The results of the New Deal as whole in souther states were mixed as none of them addressed racial segregation. If anything, many of the programs furthered the issue.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Dixon, "Samuel T. Clowney"
  2. Feigenbaum, "Intergenerational Mobility During the Great Depression."
  3. Shores and Steinburg, "Schooling During the Great Depression: Patterns of School Spending and Student Achievement Using Population Data."
  4. "Race Relations in the 1930s and 1940s."
  5. Bruckner, Ima, Nguyen, Noymer, "Race and Life Expectancy in the USA in the Great Depression."
  6. Hayes, "New Deal"

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Bruckner, Tim, Ashley Ima, Trang Nguyen, and Andrew  Noymer. Race and Life Expectancy in the USA in the Great Depression. Italy: Genus, 2019.
  • Feigenbaum, James. Intergenerational Mobility During the Great Depression. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University, 2015.
  • Folder 844: Dixon, W. W. (interviewer): Samuel T. Clowney, in the Federal Writers' Project papers #3709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • Hayes, Jack. New Deal. Columbia: University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies, 2017.
  • Race Relations in the 1930s and 1940s. Washington D.C: Library of Congress. Accessed March 21, 2022.
  • Shores, Kenneth , and Matthew  Steinburg. Schooling During the Great Depression: Patterns of School Spending and Student Achievement Using Population Data. AERA Open, 2019. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858419877431.