As scholars and singers have pointed out in monographs and folk songs, the cotton boll weevil was a devastating force on southern farming and rural life. No symbol is more indicative of this destruction than Enterprise, Alabama’s boll weevil monument. This essay examines not how the cotton pest destroyed the region’s staple crop, but how women and men across race and class lines understood the beetle’s threat and used it to their advantage. The statue, like the countless blues and folk songs about the pest, was a cultural statement that shaped the understanding of the bug itself and its supposed transformation of southern agriculture. By examining the local conditions that gave rise to dramatic, albeit short-lived, crop diversification, and in turn the monument’s erection, this essay uncovers the ways in which the boll weevil myth was as important a force on southern life as the long-snouted beetle itself.

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