Interview with Oscar Fendler
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QUESTION 19
INTERVIEWER:

—about Secretary Wallace, and what you think he did or didn't do for the sharecroppers, OK.

OSCAR FENDLER:

In the farm situation, since the government, the United States government's involved, you had a bureaucracy involved. Though President Roosevelt didn't know what's going on here at all and the one who would know about the farmer's situation was Henry Wallace. As I recall, Mr. Wallace was up in Iowa, came down from Iowa, and he's probably the first man we ever had in the Department of Agriculture that knew anything about our problems. Now, he didn't know anything about cotton particularly, but he had enough fellows that were with him in the bureaucracy that did know about cotton. Their attention was always centered upon how best to handle it, the situation so he could get, so that the fellow who produced the cotton could get his money worth. Cotton was only selling in '33 for about five cents a pound. Not enough to even pay for the...so, he, he developed that theory of parity. And even when they started giving money to these farmers so that they could have it, they, it's only on condition they signed an agreement with the United States for three years, with the Department of Agriculture, that they'd plow up right there in three, and third of the cotton and kill a third of the pigs and destroy other surplus crops and then for the next year they'd restrict their planting to forty percent of what they called well...the one that handled that was of course through Mr. Wallace himself. As a result he, he was a great help to the landowner and the, and the program as I've said. Without it these, all of these landowners were going bankrupt. What help was he to the tenant or to the sharecropper? That's, the, what do you call it? Trickle down theory of...you're going to give them money for the landowners and it's supposed to trickle down from them to the tenant, and possibly if anything was left over in the trickle it would get to the sharecropper. It never did get to the sharecropper, of course. The, I would, I would say that of all of them that would deserve credit for the farm, trying to rejuvenate the farm system and get it going would have been Henry Wallace, that's Henry Senior, not his son, who came along later. The, without his being up at the time, I don't believe we'd have ever gotten anything accomplished. The other fellas hanging around Roosevelt didn't know tiddly squat about agriculture. They didn't know. They didn't know a cotton, corn stalk from a cotton stalk from wheat to—they didn't know anything. Wallace knew it. And he came down here several times to Arkansas, met with them. Visited with them. Trying to find out what he could do. But most of those meetings, they were with the landowners. He did nothing for the tenant union. He did nothing. Made some effort, I remember back in '34, '35 so that they would raise the cost of what they'd pay for picking cotton. He helped do that. Remember, at this old time now, what was coming, there was a very big revolution, farm revolution. We're going to have machinery. We're not going to need those mules. They're not going to need those sharecroppers. We're going to have a cotton picking machine that'll pick that cotton. We're going to have torches that'll help get rid of these, the cotton chopper, you know, so we don't need them. So they started making arrangements in their own mind and their financing, the landowners did, "When would we get to a point we don't need this labor at all, not even worry about it?" Now, I don't believe the sharecropper ever knew what was going on. about this time a lot of you remember were going out to Hollywood, Los Angeles, _Grapes of Wrath_, if you remember that movie, and that was a fairly accurate movie.