During the Depression in 1934, hundreds of thousands of Southerner cotton mill workers engaged in a massive strike known as The General Strike of 1934. The mill workers’ defiant stance – and the remarkable grassroots organizing that led up to it – challenged a system of mill owner control that had shaped life in cotton mill communities for decades. The events of the uprising is detailed in a film by George Stoney, Judith Helfand and Suzanne Rostock entitled THE UPRISING OF ’34.
After three weeks, the strike was stopped … put down with intimidation, national guards and even murder. Many of its leaders were fired, blacklisted, evicted from their homes and ostracized by their communities.
Sixty years later, a dark cloud still hangs over this event. Even in towns where it took place, the uprising of ’34 is spoken of only in whispers, if at all. And for those who do know about it, a mythology has spread which tells only of danger and violence.
Through the voices of people on all sides of the remarkable story and a rare portrait of the dynamics of life in mill communities, THE UPRISING OF ’34 offers a penetrating look at class, race and power in working communities throughout America. The viewer is invited to consider how these issues affect us today. The film raises critical questions about the role of history in our lives and demonstrates how an understanding of history is essential to making democracy work today.
Another film, AFTER 61YEARS OF SILENCE, HONEA PATH REMEMBERS is a five-minute video by Judith Helfand and Lori Castronuovo recording the 1995 dedication of the Workers’ Memorial in Honea (honey-uh) Path, South Carolina. In September of 1934, Honea Path was the site of one of the most violent suppressions of a labor movement in United States history. Seven textile workedrs were killed by special deputies when 45,000 of the state’s 89,000 textile workers went on strike.