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Oral history interview with Clay East, September 22, 1973 : interview E-0003, Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).

Author: Henry Clay East; Sue Thrasher; Southern Oral History Program.; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Documenting the American South (Project); University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library.
Publisher: [Chapel Hill, N.C.] : University Library, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2007.
Edition/Format:   eBook : Document : Audio book, etc. : Biography : State or province government publication   Sound Recording : English : Electronic ed
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
Clay East spent most of his childhood in Tyronza, Arkansas. The son of a farmer and store merchant, East became a founding member of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. In this interview, East discusses a wide variety of topics, but focuses primarily on life in Tyronza, his conversion to socialist politics, and his involvement with the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. East begins by offering some general comments about  Read more...
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Details

Genre/Form: Oral histories
Interviews
Named Person: Henry Clay East; H L Mitchell; Norman Thomas
Material Type: Biography, Document, Government publication, Audio book, etc., State or province government publication, Internet resource
Document Type: Internet Resource, Computer File, Sound Recording
All Authors / Contributors: Henry Clay East; Sue Thrasher; Southern Oral History Program.; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Documenting the American South (Project); University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library.
OCLC Number: 196384072
Notes: Title from menu page (viewed on February 21, 2008).
Interview participants: Clay East, interviewee; Sue Thrasher, interviewer.
Duration: 03:44:22.
This electronic edition is part of the UNC-CH digital library, Documenting the American South. It is a part of the collection Oral histories of the American South.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner. Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers.
Details: Mode of access: World Wide Web.; System requirements: Web browser with Javascript enabled and multimedia player.
Other Titles: Oral histories of the American South.
Interview E-0003, Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Interview with Clay East, September 22, 1973

Abstract:

Clay East spent most of his childhood in Tyronza, Arkansas. The son of a farmer and store merchant, East became a founding member of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. In this interview, East discusses a wide variety of topics, but focuses primarily on life in Tyronza, his conversion to socialist politics, and his involvement with the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. East begins by offering some general comments about the first meeting of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, held in a small schoolhouse in Tyronza. He addresses the nature of opposition to the organization of tenant farmers and sharecroppers. From there he moves back in time to address his family history and life in Tyronza. During the World War I years, East went to school in Blue Mountain, Mississippi. After graduating from Mississippi Heights Academy around 1917, East spent a few months at the Gulf Coast Military Academy. During the 1920s, East learned the service station business, and by the end of the decade, he owned his own successful service station. By that time, Tyronza was being ravaged by the Great Depression. Although East's business survived (and even prospered), others in the area were not as fortunate. While East watched the tenant farmers and sharecroppers in the area suffer, his friend H.L. Mitchell introduced him to socialism. East was a quick convert, and during the early 1930s, he and Mitchell helped to organize the Socialist Party in Arkansas. Emboldened by a visit to the area by a leading figure of American socialism, Norman Thomas, East and Mitchell decided to organize a union of tenant farmers and sharecroppers. East describes in detail how the initial meetings of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union were organized and his work towards encouraging membership. East was actively involved in the union only during its first years, but he offers an insider perspective on the union's formation and its early activities. In particular, he focuses on the issue of integration in the union (which he advocated) and the visceral opposition the union faced from farm managers, planters, and local law enforcement, particularly during conflicts in Marked Tree and Forrest City, Arkansas.

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