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Ain’t Got No Home

Erin Royston Battat

Publication Year: 2014

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. xi-xiv

It is my great pleasure to thank the many colleagues, friends, family members, and institutions that helped me to research and write this book. I owe a tremendous debt to John Stauffer, who trained me in interdisciplinary scholarship, sparked my interest in protest literature, and guided the project through its early stages. John unfailingly expressed his faith in me...

Abbreviations and Acronyms

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pp. xv-xviii

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pp. 1-14

In May 1940, while on his honeymoon in Mexico, Richard Wright joined left-wing documentary filmmaker Herbert Kline and his screenwriter, the famous novelist John Steinbeck, in boozy planning sessions for the film The Forgotten Village. Both writers were basking in the glow of literary success. Steinbeck had recently won the Pulitzer Prize for...

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1. Race, Sex, and the Hobo

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pp. 15-40

On 25 March 1931, a group of black boys got into a fight with some white boys on a Memphis-bound freight train. When the police rounded up the black youths near Scottsboro, Alabama, they found a couple of white girls hiding on the train and coerced them into filing rape charges. Although Alabama’s Governor Benjamin Meek Miller and the National Guard prevented...

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2. An Okie Is Me

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pp. 41-70

While the reactionary tendencies of the hobo made him a problematic icon for the Popular Front, the migrant family held more promise. In particular, government photographers produced images of dust bowl migrants in California that rallied support for New Deal programs. These unemployed workers had advantages over the Scottsboro boys in terms of public...

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3. Steel Mill Blues

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pp. 71-94

Like Sanora Babb, William Attaway was both insider and outsider to the Great Migration that he depicted in his novel Blood on the Forge. Attaway was six when his middle-class family migrated to Chicago from Mississippi in 1911. The Attaways could afford to leave the South before labor-starved northern factories opened their gates to southern workers during World...

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4. Beyond the Migrant Mother

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pp. 95-126

As the preceding chapters suggest, Popular Front depictions of interracial alliance often focused on the male worker. Yet the iconography of migrant motherhood was also widespread in Popular Front culture. Maternal imagery was rhetorically versatile, appealing to middle-class audiences contemplating the efficacy of the New Deal as well as to radicals pushing for deeper...

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5. Wartime Shipyard

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pp. 127-162

Through stories of freedom-seeking hoboes and militant migrant workers, through images of failed births that give rise to a new collective consciousness, radical writers of the 1930s envisioned southern migrants as the harbingers of change. They insisted that shared class interests transcended differences of race and gender. The mobilization for World War II would...

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pp. 163-174

In the poem “I Heard a Black Man Sing,” Earl Conrad pairs iconic images of white and black migrants to celebrate interracial unity:

The peat bog soldier in the camp,
    The Joads out seeking food,
The black man breaking from his chains:
    He sang in fighting mood!1
Conrad, a white Communist, originally wrote the poem in 1941 and dedicated...


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pp. 175-200


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pp. 201-224


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pp. 225-233

E-ISBN-13: 9781469614045
E-ISBN-10: 1469614049

Publication Year: 2014