Back in 1939, the world was a different place. For one thing, there were a lot more people involved in farming. In Missouri’s Bootheel region, this meant bodies were needed to grow cotton. Under the sharecropper model, those Missourians who grew cotton had no guarantees of a wage. They could be evicted anytime from the land on which they lived and worked.
In this episode of Mo’ Curious, we learn about the 1939 sharecroppers strike in Mississippi County, Missouri. It was on January 1 of that Depression year that Bootheel tenant farmers, or sharecroppers, participated in a protest. They camped on the roadside to draw attention to the deplorable economic and housing conditions that kept them impoverished and dependent.
For two months, fifteen hundred Missourians lived their lives on the side of Highway 60 between Sikeston and Charleston.
In order to bring a better understanding of the strike to area youth, we asked Charleston High School students to conduct oral history interviews. These interviews aimed to explain the strike and its legacy on the surrounding communities. Here is some of those exchanges.
Mo’ Curious by Missouri Life is a podcast about the past, present, and future of the 24th state. Hear other episodes at MoCurious.com.