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Thu, 08.01.1918

The Progressive Farmers, and Household Union is Formed

People listen to a
Progressive meeting, 1937

*This date in 1918 celebrates the forming of The Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America (PFHUA).

This was a union of Black tenant farmers (sharecroppers).  Robert L. Hill, a Black tenant farmer, formed the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America.  According to the articles of the constitution of the PFHUA, the group’s objective was “to advance the interests of the Negro, morally and intellectually, and to make him a better citizen and a better farmer.”

The organization had characteristics of a fraternal order, such as passwords, handshakes, and signs for members, and it also resembled a union.  Members purchased shares for one dollar, resulting in a capital stock of $1,000 for the joint stock company of the PFHUA. This stock was designed to allow the organization to invest in real estate.  An elected salaried deputy in organizing clubs held office for six months. According to Hill, the history of the union began in 1865 in Washington, DC, under an act of Congress. Then, it was known as the Colored Union Benevolent Association.

The PFHUA grew steadily during the spring of 1919 as sharecroppers and tenant farmers around Elaine (Phillips County) joined the order. The union had several offices in the Elaine, Arkansas, area. In late 1919 they organized resistance amongst Blacks in the Elaine area. This included withholding Black women's services to whites and insisting on higher wages for the cotton pickers.

They also hired lawyers at the state capital and planned to sue landlords for shares allegedly withheld from them. A union meeting at Elaine, Arkansas, was attacked on October 1, 1919, sparking the Elaine Race Riot. Hill escaped and fled to Kansas. He was arrested there but was never extradited to Arkansas to face charges.

To Become a Farmer

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Poetry Corner

The sale began-young girls were there, Defenseless in their wretchedness, Whose stifled sobs of deep despair Revealed their anguish and distress. And Mothers stood with streaming eyes, And saw their dearest children... THE SLAVE AUCTION by Frances E. W. Harper.
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