Forty Acres and Steel Mules

FSA Lange

“It is false to assume that share croppers and share tenants are humanly hopeless”


Frontispiece from Forty Acres and Steel Mules

Published in 1938 in Chapel Hill by the University of North Carolina Press, Herman Clarence Nixon’s Forty Acres and Steel Mules uses a large number of photographs from the Farm Security Administration. The preface declares Nixon’s attempt at “a fresh and integrated interpretation of the rural south” (v). It gestures at Nixon’s previous writing, including “Whither Southern Economy?” in I’ll Take My Stand by twelve Southerners (Harper & Brothers, 1930), and “The New South and the Old Crop” in Essays in Honor of William E. Dodd (University of Chicago Press, 1935). Nixon describes it as having both “kinship and discrepancy” with his previous writings. His claim to authority is personal:

My ideas or observations must speak for themselves. I offer them for whatever merit they may have, relying on the country woman’s dictum, “What I am, I am, and nobody can’t make me no ammer.” (v)

Nixon calls it a short book with big ideas and very little in the way of statistics. He credits Roy Stryker for assistance in selecting the photographs from the FSA. The shift in perspective from his previous writings as described as promoting “a broader program of agricultural reconstruction” than that of his Southern colleagues of the 1930 collection. The use of photographs is conventional, and largely rhetorical as evidenced by the sample page displayed below. Many captions appear to be fabricated quotes, in keeping with the standards set by You Have Seen Their Faces released the year before. Lange’s photos clearly predominate, though the sample page I selected includes mostly Rothstein and Mydans.

The book also features an extensive bibliography:

  • ASHLEY, A. W., “Farm Tenancy” in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, Vol. VI. New York, 1931

  • BARKER, T. D., Libraries of the South. Chicago, 1936.

  • BRUNNER, E. de S., and KOLB, J. H., Rural Social Trends. New York, 1933.

  • CHILDS, M. W., Sweden: The Middle Way. New Haven, 1936.

  • COHN, David I., Picking America’s Pockets. New York, 1936.

  • Commission on Interracial Co-operation, The South’s Landless Farmers. Atlanta, 1937

  • COUCH, W. T. (editor), Culture in the South. Chapel Hill, 1934. This book contains a chapter by A. N. J. Den Hollander on “The Tradition of the ‘Poor Whites.’ “

  • DOLLARD, John, Caste and Class in a Southern Town. New Haven, 1937. Appendix i of this book is an essay by Leonard W. Doob on “Poor Whites: A Frustrated Class.”

  • EDDY, Sherwood, A Door of Opportunity. New York, 1937.

  • ELLIOTT, Howard, ROPER, Daniel C., and SOULE, George, Report of the Special Committee on Reclamation and Rural Development. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, Washington, 1927.

  • GIDE, Charles, Communist and Cooperative Colonies (translated by E. F. Rowe) . New York, 1930.

  • HEER, Clarence, Income and Wages in the South. Chapel Hill, 1930.

  • HOFFSOMMER, Harold, Landlord-Tenant Relations and Relief in Alabama. Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Research Bulletin, Ser. II, No. 9. Washington, 1935.

  • Howe, F. C., Denmark: The Cooperative Way. New York, 1936.

  • JOHNSON, Charles S., EMBREE, Edwin R., and ALEXANDER, W. W., The Collapse of Cotton Tenancy. Chapel Hill, 1935.

  • JOHNSON, Gerald, The Wasted Land. Chapel Hill, 1937.

  • KESTER, Howard, Revolt Among the Sharecroppers. New York, 1936.

  • LITTLE, Clifton T., Restless Americans. Public Affairs Pamphlets, No. 9. Washington, 1936.

  • MEAD, Elwood, Helping Men Own Farms. New York, 1920.

  • MOLYNEAUX, Peter, The Cotton South and American Trade Policy. World Affairs Book No. 17. New York, 1936.

  • National Resources Committee, Farm Tenancy. Report of the President’s Committee. Washington, 1937.

  • — , Regional Factors in National Planning. Washington, 1935.

  • ODUM, Howard W., Southern Regions. Chapel Hill, 1936.

  • OWSLEY, Frank L., “The Pillars of Agrarianism,” The American Review, IV (March, 1935) , 529-547.

  • RAPER, A. F., Preface to Peasantry. Chapel Hill, 1936.

  • RHYNE, J. J., Some Southern Cotton Mill Workers and Their Villages. Chapel Hill, 1930.

  • Richards, H. I., Cotton and the AAA. Washington, 1936.

[I must return a few books I haven’t been able to locate, so I’m archiving the information here]

1 thought on “Forty Acres and Steel Mules”

  1. My father, Marcus A. Weaver, is a first cousin to Herman Clarence Nixon. They were born within seven months of each other in the Jacksonville, Alabama area. Their mothers were sisters. My dad’s mother was named, Alice Green, and Clarence’s mother was named Nancy.
    I own two books about Clarence but am unable to find a copy of his book, “Forty Acres and Steel Mules.” Do you know where I can locate the book? I would also like a copy of any information you may have on the Weaver/Green family of Jacksonville, Al and also the two Weaver brothers that founded “Weaver Station, Al. I believe that one of their sons may have been my Grandfather, Marquis (Mark) Weaver.
    Any additional information on the “Green” family would certainly be appreciated. Please let me know if there are any charges for this info. I would like to pay you for your trouble.
    Mel Weaver

Comments are closed.