Delta and Providence cooperative farms papers, 1925-1963.

Creator: Delta and Providence cooperative farms.
Collection number: 3474
View finding aid.

Abstract: Delta Cooperative Farm, started in 1936 in the community of Hillhouse (later called Rochdale) in Bolivar County, Miss., and Providence Cooperative Farm, started in 1939 near Cruger in Holmes County, Miss., were attempts by Cooperative Farms, Inc., a philanthropically supported corporation, to help southern agricultural laborers out of their economic plight. The cooperatives were organized around four principles: efficiency in production and economy in finance through the cooperative principle, participation in building a socialized economy of abundance, inter-racial justice, and realistic religion as a social dynamic. To these ends, the Delta and Providence cooperatives were to pay African Americans and whites equal wages for work and provided social and other services, most of which were open to neighboring communities. These services included a cooperative store; a medical clinic, eventually run by physician David R. Minter; a credit union; a library; a community building; religious services; educational programs; summer work camps; and community institutes. In addition to growing cotton, agricultural operations eventually included a dairy farm, a beef farm, a pasteurizing plant, and a saw mill. Papers include correspondence of Sherwood Eddy, secretary-treasurer; Sam H. Franklin, director 1936-1943; and A. Eugene Cox, director after 1943. Major topics include agricultural issues and farm operations; fundraising and donations; interracial issues; member morale; poor conditions of southern sharecroppers; cooperative methods; staffing; medical issues; relations and tensions with surrounding communities; criticisms of the farms; and the establishment and impact of the various educational, social, and religious programs on the farms. Other topics include eviction and dire conditions of Arkansas sharecroppers following a strike, many of whom became members at Delta; the Rust cotton picker and plans to fund cooperatives with revenue from its sales; and criticisms of the farms’ management techniques and member morale from trustees William R. Amberson and Blaine Treadway, among others, which ultimately led to an investigation conducted by the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union in May 1940. Also included are scattered financial material and other records; plans; issues of the farm publication, “The Co-op Call”; membership agreements; and letters from prospective members seeking placement on the farms. Prominent correspondents include Arthur Raper of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation; H. L. Mitchell and Howard Kester of the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union; Delta trustees Reinhold Niebuhr, John Rust, and William R. Amberson; David R. Minter; and various representatives of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Socialist Party, the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, the Cooperative League, the American Friends Service Committee, the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and the Young Women’s Christian Association, among others. There is also some correspondence with Margaret Sanger regarding the Delta farm’s interest in contraception. Other papers include incorporation materials, financial materials, organizational papers, meeting minutes, subject files, histories, ledgers, writings, medical reports, and clippings. Clippings

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Subseries 1.1 contains a lot of documentation about Delta Cooperative Farms and its operation for two years prior to Providence Farm’s purchase. Folder 5 contains the founding principles of the Delta Farm and has been digitized. Click here to link to the finding aid for this collection and access the digitized content.

Much of the correspondence deals with the eviction and subsequent difficult conditions of sharecroppers in Arkansas after a strike. Folder 6-8 particularly contains correspondence with the Y.W.C.A. regarding summer student volunteers, especially the Y.W.C.A.’s objection to the racial segregation of students while on the farm, and a document entitled “Brief digest of trip to Arkansas by James Myers June 2-10 in connection with cotton choppers strike”.

Subseries 1.2 includes materials on such topics as fundraising for a new church and the hiring of a pastor for the African American community at Providence, arrangements to receive medical and dental services and clinics from the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and educational institutes at the farm for African Americans. Folder 132 contains correspondence from 1941 related to complaints from white members of Providence Farm about tension with other whites in the surrounding community, claiming that they (the white members) were looked down upon because of the cooperative’s involvement with and outreach to the local African American community. Folder 137 includes a brief report entitled “A Brief Report of an Educational Institute for Negroes.”

In Series 2, Folder 198 contains newspaper articles from 1955, about a meeting in Tchula, Miss., during which David Minter and A. Eugene Cox were asked by the community to leave Holmes County because they had been accused of teaching social equality between races on the farm.