Sep 21, 2023 - News

Remember when... the governor declared martial law during a textile strike?

A black and white photo of striking workers standing in the beds of trucks as they arrive at a prison camp in the woods

Photo: Courtesy of the AJC/Georgia State University Library

This weekend marks the anniversary of the end of the General Textile Strike of 1934 in which 400,000 workers picketed over mill owners' refusal to follow federal New Deal-era rules about working hours, wages, and benefits.

Why it matters: Also known as the Uprising of '34, the largely overlooked strike effort was the largest in U.S. history at the time, and the Southern effort stands as one of the largest in the region's history.

Flashback: An estimated 44,000 Georgia workers joined laborers along the East Coast as far as Maine in walking off the job and protesting outside the mills.

Details: Private security clashed with picketers, some of whom scuffled with people who opted to keep working, according to a Georgia State University teaching plan about the movement.

  • At least three picketers and one mill guard were killed during the strike, according to University of West Georgia researchers.
  • In the third week of the strike, Gov. Eugene Talmadge — whose primary election took place during the shutdown — broke with some of his peers and declared martial law.
  • Talmadge commanded the National Guard to arrest striking men and women who refused to stop picketing and detain them at Fort McPherson in southwest Atlanta, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

The bottom line: The crackdown and assurances from federal officials that the government would investigate working conditions at the mills helped end the strike in Georgia. Few strikers returned to the mills, however.


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