Georgia State University Library Awarded Grant To Digitize Accounts of Deadly Labor Strike

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The National Historical Publications and Records Commission has awarded the Georgia State University Library a $121,418 grant to digitize and transcribe more than 200 hours of recorded interviews from the production of “The Uprising of ’34,” the 1995 documentary on the General Textile Strike of 1934.

Image from the 1934 strike, courtesy of Atlanta History Center

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission has awarded the Georgia State University Library a $121,418 grant to digitize and transcribe more than 200 hours of recorded interviews from the production of “The Uprising of ’34,” the 1995 documentary on the General Textile Strike of 1934.

The project will make a collection of first-person accounts of the strike and its aftermath widely available for the first time, including interviews from workers who participated in the strikes, their families, mill owners and labor organizers.

The interviews will be presented online alongside their transcripts using the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, an open-source software application developed at the University of Kentucky’s Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. The interview tapes are held by the Library’s Southern Labor Archives.

The project, which will begin Aug. 1, is expected to take 18 months. Once digitized, all 200-plus hours of interviews will be available free online.

The Uprising of ‘34

The documentary “The Uprising of ’34,” released in 1995, tells the story of the General Textile Strike of 1934. The strike, one of the largest in American history, was a defining moment in the South’s relationship to organized labor. The 88-minute documentary was distilled from more than 200 hours of interviews with workers who participated in the strikes, their families, mill owners and labor organizers.

The Strike

In 1934, textile workers at cotton mills in multiple states across the South and up the Eastern seaboard attempted to unionize in an effort to improve their working conditions. Unionization efforts in the South were deeply divisive, and anti-union sentiment flourished in many areas. The workers’ attempts to organize culminated in a strike that began in early September and lasted 22 days. Nearly half a million workers walked off their jobs. Mill owners responded with force, and strikers were shot and killed in several Southern towns.

Workers who participated in the strike lost their jobs, and many were blacklisted from working in their small towns. The economic consequences of the strike were devastating and helped to reinforce the anti-union sentiment that exists in many parts of the South even today.

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Leah Seupersad
Georgia State University
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