The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 413
These folk, driven to the piedmont mills by hard times on the farms,
were not oppressed by their experiences in the mills and did not consti-
tute a caste, Newby believes, since they exercised considerable mobility
in going up and down the economic ladder. There is no mention of the
Southwest in the book, but Texas, of course, did have some textile mills
as well as thousands of poor whites in the East Texas lumber camps in
Newby does not ignore the negative features of the mill hands' lives,
such as the sweltering, lint-filled factories, with unsafe machinery, un-
sanitary facilities, and tobacco juice covering the floor; the lack of school-
ing and the related use of child labor; and fundamentalist, company-
paid preachers offering stand-pat conservatism and a gospel of work.
He asserts that these features are misunderstood, but his attempts to
defend the image of the white folk sometimes seem strained. He argues
that, after all, mill work was easier than picking cotton and there was
much socializing in the factories. The schools were dismal and not
worth attending and, in any case, children's labor provided vital fam-
ily income. Preachers could not be bought, he implies, and even reli-
gions committed to social change affirm social order by relieving griev-
ances that might produce social change. The latter implication-that if
churches talk about change, it's less likely to occur-seems particularly
odd, given the preachings and actions of ministers during the civil
rights movement of the 195os and 196os.
Moreover, while the author illustrates that there was considerable
movement of the folk between mill work, sharecropping, and the forest
products industry, this constitutes lateral mobility and fails to prove
that the folk did not constitute a caste. Indeed, the author concedes
that the mill hands could not aspire to become superintendents and
never thought much about advancement anyway, and in many cases
the workers were held in place by their indebtedness to the owners.
While the author may not have dispelled the alleged "fog of preju-
dice and ignorance" (p. 569) that has obscured the history of southern
white working folk, he has probably succeeded in provoking more
thought and argument about the subject.
University of Texas at Arlington GEORGE N. GREEN
Social Change in the Southwest, 1350o-88o. By Thomas D. Hall. (Law-
rence: University Press of Kansas, 1988. Pp. xvi+287. Preface, in-
troduction, figures, tables, maps, notes, references, index. $35.)
Anthropologist Thomas D. Hall has produced an interesting and
useful study in historical sociology that analyzes the process by which
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page .
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/m1/469/ocr/: accessed July 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.