Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the origins and growth of the agriculture industry in Southeast Georgia and Bulloch County.
In the book, written by Charlene Gilbert and Quinn Eli, entitled “Homecoming: The Story of African-American Farmers” (2000), the slight of Southern Black farmers is addressed.
In 1890, led by A.J. Carothers, President J.J. Shufer and General Superintendent Rev. Richard M. Humphreys, who were all white, a Colored Farmers National Alliance and Cooperative Union (CFA) was formed.
In Georgia, Black farmers formed their own group, which they named the “Georgia Colored Farmers Alliance.” Headed by E.S. Richardson from Marshallville, it appointed Rev. J.W. Carter as state lecturer.
Carter was a very well-known Black Baptist preacher in Thomasville, Georgia. Carter’s first sub-alliance formed was in Screven County, which was chartered in February of 1889.
By 1889 there were some 240 chapters of the Colored Farmers Alliance in Georgia alone. The alliance sent delegates to the National Alliances’ meeting in St. Louis in 1889. Here, alliance men argued about allowing its members to join.
There were several alliance stores established in the Wiregrass region of Georgia, where Black farmers could purchase supplies, sell their crops, and borrow money at much prices than the open market.
Closest to Bulloch was the Sandersville store, started by the local members who came up with $1,200 seed money, as well as another store in Eatonton. The stores were immediately beset by financial woes.
In January of 1890, the National Alliances newspaper the National Economist addressed the issue of how A.J. Carothers, who started the Consolidated Alliance had formed another competing organization.
His “National Colored Alliance” actively sought to enlist CFA members, weakening the CFA by having “divided our churches, embittered our communities, and created discord in our families.”
At the next meeting in 1890 at Ocala, Florida, members from the Georgia Colored Farmers Alliance and Colored Farmers National Alliance and Cooperative Union met separately. There was much friction caused by their differing opinions about how to best serve their membership.
In 1891, The National Economist felt it necessary to urge Black alliance members to pay their CFA dues in full, instead of buying all kinds of “frivolous items.” The CFA had some political success in Georgia in 1890.
When alliance men were elected to state legislatures throughout the South, many black alliance men were very upset that those legislatures then passed so-called “Anti-Negro Laws.”
Black alliance men did get elected, including Lectured Crawford from McIntosh County and J.M. Holzendorf from Camden County, who were elected to the Georgia House of Representatives.
At the Ocala meeting of the alliance on May 19, 1891, 1,400 delegates from the Southern, National and Colored Alliances. They decided to form a third national political party: “The Peoples Party.”
Concerning the “Federal Election Bill,” which would have returned federal troops to oversee elections, there was an Alliance split: the CFA supported it, while the SA vehemently opposed it.
This bill, not surprisingly, failed to pass. According to Alliance records, at the annual CFA Alliance convention in 1894 in Dublin, as few as 75 CFA members even bothered to show up
Because of their distrust in the much more powerful SA, many of the former CFA members joined other organizations or simply went back to taking care of themselves
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.