Honea Path and the End of Summer

Claude Cannon, Lee Crawford, Ira Davis, E. M. “Bill” Knight, Maxie Peterson, C. R. Rucker and Thomas Yarborough all celebrated Labor Day for the last time on September 3, 1934 in the small town of Honea Path, South Carolina.  Three days later six were dead and one was mortally wounded.

The general textile workers strike of 1934 strained relations between mill owners, management and workers throughout the eastern United States.  The strike began in the south on September 1st and grew to become the largest general strike in U. S. history.  In Honea Path, three days into the strike, hundreds of workers from the Chiquola Milll were picketing outside the mill when violence erupted. What happened to start the violence remains unclear.  Whatever the flashpoint, when the guns fell silent six mill workers were dead (the seventh died days later) and  dozens were wounded.

Fox Movietone News Story 23-157 documents the funeral held for the murdered textile workers on September 9th.  George L. Googe, Southern Regional Director for the American Federation of Labor, spoke at the funeral as did John A. Peel of the United Textile Workers.

The scope of the funeral is itself a testament to the significance of this event.  According to one source, over 10,000 people attended–a figure that is plausible based on what is visible in this film (note: the film’s audio was poorly recorded at the time).

A large crowd assembles for the funeral of the six men killed at Chiquola Mill

The full story of the Chiquola Mill massacre remained unknown for most of the 20th Century.  Frank Beacham (grandson of Honea Path’s mayor at the time) has written movingly about how in 1994 he came to learn the truth about the killings, killings which he acknowledges may well have been ordered by his grandfather.

Labor Day began as a celebration of the dignity of labor and while most Americans (including me) see the day foremost as the end of summer we ought to remember that the labor of men and women over the generations has help make this country great.  Some, like Cannon, Crawford, Davis, Knight, Peterson, Rucker and Yarborough gave their lives to make our nation better.

– Greg Wilsbacher

 

About gregw

Greg Wilsbacher curates the Newsfilm Collections at MIRC. These include: The Fox Movietone News Collection, local television News collections (WIS, WBTW, WLTX), the Harry and William Birch Collection and the Marvin Lipman Collection.
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One Response to Honea Path and the End of Summer

  1. carl e. anderson says:

    “the Uprising of ’34″ PBS broadcast of 1995 which SCETV declined to air avoided uncovering the dark past of the textile industry’s reliance upon economic slavery.
    The Honea-Path Massacre of September 6, 1934 is not an event that the average South Carolinian would be aware. Nothing exists in textbooks and only a few “liberal” history sources mention this event along with the “Battle of Blair Mountain” and “the Homestead Mill strike”. All three of these events were milestones in the history of management and owners violent repression of the labor movement.
    The failure of SCETV to broadcast “the Uprising of ’34″ due to political pressure from any source was a failure to document and reveal the foundations of South Carolina’s history of repression of worker’s rights. The reminder of this heritage is the current “employment at will” laws in SC. This stance is better described as “unemployment at will of the management”. The current cluster of nationally influential”labor law firms” in the upstate certainly belies the persistent anti-labor sentiment that has been pervasive in SC since the Civil War ended “slavery”.
    It is time for SCETV to re-broadcast this 20 year old PBS program. The recent Greenville News front page article about Frank Beacham’s history of the Honea-Path Massacre should bring renewed interest. From a civil-rights point of view, this event is at least as important as the murders of 3 civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964. Unfortunately there are no survivors to prosecute or living owners to pay for lives lost 80 years ago in Honea-Path

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