5 The Worker and the Southwest: A Short, Sharp History of Our Neighbors Across the Red River The following editorial appeared on Nov. 11, 1917 in the Tulsa Daily World: In the meantime . . . if the Oil Workers Union gets busy in your neighborhood, kindly take occasion to decrease the supply of hemp. A knowledge of how to tie a knot that will stick might come in handy in a few days . . . It is no time to waste money on trials and continuances and things like that. All that is necessary is the evidence and a firing squad. The tone of this editorial is probably an accurate reflection of the attitude Paul Jennings is a freelance writer in Houston who specializes in labor and migrant worker affairs. This article is based on a speech Jennings delivered to the Oklahoma AFL-CIO Labor School last summer. By Paul Jennings which leading industrialists of Oklahoma have had towards organized labor. Even though in this particular case no union organizer was actually lynched, Oklahoma has still been the scene of a crime as far as unionists are concerned. That crime was the suppression of the history of the trade union movement in Oklahoma. Anyone who has looked through the textbooks on state history knows how mention of the history of unionism there has been obliterated. This is not the case just for Oklahoma, but for Texas and the other states of the South and the Southwest. Por example, despite the fact that we all have seen or read about cowboys thousands of times, how many of us know that among the first strikes of agricultural workers in this country was one by over 400 cow boys in the Texas Panhandle in 1883? And yet when have we ever seen cowboys portrayed as union men? And after decades of having the sins of racism and bigotry laid at the doorstep of the southern white worker, how many people realize that at the height of Jim Crow segregation, black and white trade unionists were meeting and working together as equals throughout the South, oftentimes in open defiance of state laws which prohibited integrated meetings? And far too few people today know that before World War I Oklahoma workers had built one of the most powerful and progressive labor movements in this country, a movement whose very existence exposes the fiction that the workers of Oklahoma have a history of anti-unionism. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15
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