Having been evicted from their farms because of incentives created by the New Deal’s Agricultural Adjustment Act, sharecroppers in Arkansas formed the bir acial Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union (STFU) in 1934. Led by socialists and radicals, the organization ultimately claimed upward of thirty thousand members and constituted an assault on the social, economic, and racial status quo of the South. Historians have celebrated the STFU, especially its commitment to biracial cooperation and equality. This article digs beneath this carefully constructed image of the union to scrutinize the internal dynamics of the movement. It revises a number of interpretations surrounding the STFU Although the greatest obstacles to the union’s success were external, it also faced internal divisions that diminished its efficacy. The STFU’s decentralized structure did not foster strong connections between leadership and membership, resulting in misunderstandings. But most importantly, the union struggled to live up to its creed of biracialism and equal treatment of African Americans. Ultimately, the STFU was less an aberration that tirelessly confronted the social and racial ills of the South and more an organization that reflected some of those ills even as it grappled with them.

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