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In 1939, evicted sharecroppers held a roadside protest that captivated the nation

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Image: Library of Congress

In January 1939, motorists on highways in the “Bootheel” of southeastern Missouri began reporting a strange sight: thousands of sharecropper families were camped out on the roadside, their meager possessions piled around them, exposed to the wintry cold.

The families, almost all African-American, had been evicted by the owners of the farms where they had lived. Because sharecroppers were entitled to a portion of the harvest of the fields they worked, the government had recently announced they were also entitled to a direct portion of federal farm subsidies — a distasteful arrangement for the landowners, who had decided they would rather keep the full subsidies and hire day laborers to bring in their crops. Read more…

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