The “American Agriculture News” – 1978 to 1983

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Several years ago, the Southwest Collection began collaborating with members of the American Agriculture Movement (AAM) to document their, and other farmers’, decades of hard work and activism. We have received many archival items from AAM members, not the least of which was a couple hundred American Agriculture News volumes dating from 1978 to 1983. Those volumes can now be found among our digital collections.

 

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Published every other Tuesday in Iredell, Texas, for nearly a decade (and perhaps longer?) by Micki Nellis and a handful of others, the News first appeared in early 1978. Sadly, we don’t possess the first two issues. Our set starts with issue 3, printed on February 28th, 1978, with a front page proclaiming that the News had been endorsed by AAM delegates during one of their meetings in Washington, D.C.

 

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The most recent issue we own–volume 6, issue 22–dates from December 13, 1983, just shy of six years after the first one. The front page was run-of-the-mill news, but page 2, above, told a wilder tale: “Farm women will raise more hell and fewer dahlias.”

 

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One of the AAM’s finest moments came in 1979, when its “Tractorcade” set off for Washington, DC. The Tractorcade was a grassroots activism campaign demanding “parity” for farmers throughout the U.S. In 2014 we curated an exhibit about that event, and even wrote two more detailed histories of that watershed moment here and here, so be sure to check those articles out to find out a little more.

 

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An inventory of the full archival collection of AAM materials covering the years 1968-1997 can be found among our other archival finding aids. We’ve also conducted many oral histories with AAM members over the years. To get your hands on any of those resources, please email or call our ever-helpful Reference Department and they’ll happily help you out!

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The Diaries of William DeLoach, A West Texas Farmer

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“Years are the milestones that tell us the distance we have traveled…” These words, the first to appear in the diaries of William G. DeLoach (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/ttusw/00161/tsw-00161.html), were not a platitude. DeLoach noted daily events in his diary from 1914 to 1964, often documenting the mundane life of a West Texas farmer, but at times exploring the emotional and philosophical depth of a man whose daily accounts spanned two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

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This is the first full page of his diary, written Wednesday, March 24th, 1914. It is a simple series of notes. He visited Ralls and Crosbyton, Texas, signed a cotton contract, and saw one of his laborers complete the maize harvest. Such entries comprise the bulk of his notes.

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This page includes October 29th, 1929, also known as Black Tuesday, when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. Yet the crash’s effect took its time crossing the country, so all he described that day was cutting feed until a rain began that lasted well into the night.

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The Depression, and more importantly the Dust Bowl, haunt the background of his diaries, but DeLoach coloring his stories of day-to-day life. On July 23rd, 1937, however, its effects came to the fore. “I hurt all day. Not with much heart. I can’t do any thing with any heart with such surroundings. I even can’t write any more. My (?) are all shot. Just to be the paying teller and nothing more is bad.” But then, as always: “Bill finished the feed plowing.”

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Some entries are punctuated by tragic or amusing local news. Early November 1937 saw a man lose an arm in a cotton gin: “That is bad…. They take too many chances.” The next day, DeLoach heard about an acquaintance who was “pinched for drunk.” He mused, “Too bad to get sauced in Sudan [Texas] if one is a stranger. Homeguard can.”

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“This is March 28th, 1964. My first entry was made on March 28th, 1914.” Infirm “in more ways than one,” William DeLoach set down his pen. “Goodbye, Diary. You have been lots of help in lots of ways.”

(An abbreviated version of the diaries was edited by Janet M. Neugebauer, former archivist at the Southwest Collection, and published as Plains Farmer: The Diary of William G. DeLoach, 1914-1964.)