In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

260Southern Cultures Candler's place in southern history is much like that of the cigarette manufacturers of North Carolina. Entrepreneurs in both industries entered the marketplace in the late nineteenth century with new consumer products, distinctive in their taste and appealing to a rapidly growing national urban population. In both cases the companies themselves controlled distribution and advertising and from that experience developed considerable national marketing expertise. Asa Candler, JuIe Carr, R. J. Reynolds, and James Buchanan Duke all established direct relations with wholesalers and retailers and relied less on intermediaries such as commission merchants. For better or worse, soft drinks and cigarettes were the first truly modern "big businesses " in the South. The peculiar nature of these southern success stories also demonstrates why they did not immediately spark widespread economic growth. Both industries used fairly simple manufacturing processes that were easily activated and required few skilled workers. Soft drinks and cigarettes brought fantastic wealth to businessmen in Atlanta, Durham, and Winston-Salem, but that prosperity did not spread to the larger population of the South. The headquarters of Coca-Cola remains in Atlanta today, but its syrup is manufactured, bottled, and distributed by employees spread across the globe. Organizing the Breathless: Cotton Dust, Southern Politics, and the Brown Lung Association. By Robert E. Botsch. University of Kentucky Press, 1993. 228 pp. Cloth, $29.00. Reviewed by Bennett M. Judkins, associate professor of sociology at Lenoir-Rhyne College and author of We Offer Ourselves as Evidence: Toward Workers' Control of Occupational Health. Labor organizing in the South has had a long and eventful, although not particularly successful , history. Early writers about the region tended to blame this failure on the workers, depicting them as docile and obedient. This was especially the case in the textile industry, where northern union leaders often cited southern workers' acceptance of nonadversarial relationships within a system of paternalistic management. Many contemporary historians and social scientists have challenged this image of southern millhands, suggesting that the power and resistance of industry executives have probably played a greater role. They point to the fact that much of the industry migrated from the North in order to escape from unions, and once relocated, continued efforts to resist them. In the mid-1970's, a new effort emerged to organize southern millhands. Political scientist Robert E. Botsch chronicles its history in Organizing the Breathless: Cotton Dust, Southern Politics, and the Brown Lung Association. This time the focus was on retired and disabled as well as active workers, and the issue was not higher wages or unionization. It was occupational health, more specifically, a disease called brown lung, or byssinosis—a disabling obstructive pulmonary disease caused by the inhalation of cotton dust into the lungs. The issue underlying Botsch's analysis seems to be who, or what, was responsible for the Brown Lung Association's successes and failures. At the heart of this question are the roles played by organizers and staff in relation to the membership, composed primarily of retired and disabled textile workers. Botsch documents the important role of Si Kahn, Reviews261 a young community organizer and protest singer, in establishing the basic philosophy behind the association: "It was to be a self-governing, self-sufficient, member-run, nonhierarchical , highly egalitarian, democratic, grassroots group that would develop links to other groups and widen its scope in order to promote a populist political agenda to offset corporate power." This was the ideal; the reality that emerged was something else. Botsch characterizes the staff of the Brown Lung Association as "interest group liberals " who came to the South to volunteer their time and energy "to organize the unorganized so that there would be a better balance in the struggle between interest groups that characterizes American democracy." According to Botsch the staff placed major emphasis on teaching members organizational skills and self-reliance, and many did gain enough skill and confidence to speak up and play important leadership roles. But old age and poor health required ongoing leadership replacement, leaving few members with the necessary skills to maintain the association. Money and staff abruptly disappeared when President Reagan cut the funding that allowed grassroots organizations to join the competition among interest...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 260-262
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.