NEW WEB SITE DOCUMENTS LIFE AND WORK IN THE SOUTHERN TEXTILE INDUSTRY
The Like a Family web site (http://www.ibiblio.org/sohp) was created in the summer of 2000 by Dr. James Leloudis and Dr. Kathryn Walbert as a part of the American Historical Association's program "Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age," funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Based on the award-winning book, Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, James Leloudis, Robert Korstad, Mary Murphy, Lu Ann Jones, and Christopher Daly, the Web site complements UNC Press's new edition of the book and makes some of the oral history sources upon which the book is based available to teachers at the secondary and college level. The site also suggests some of the ways the cotton mill stories told in Like a Family can enrich the classroom experience for U.S. History students.
The authors of Like a Family relied on hundreds of interviews with working-class Southerners conducted by the Southern Oral History Program in the Piedmont Industrialization Project of the late 1970s and early 1980s. They combined those sources with materials drawn from the trade press and with workers' letters to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to craft a richly detailed account of cotton mill life, work, and protest. The website models itself on the organization of the book and is divided into three sections: "Life on the Land," "Mill Village and Factory," and "Work and Protest." "Life on the Land" focuses on the South's agricultural past, the changes in farm life that swept the region after the Civil War, and the economic pressures that pushed farm families away from the land and toward factory work at the turn of the century. "Mill Village and Factory" explains the production process in early textile mills, describes the work experiences of textile employees, and explores life in the company-owned mill villages that sprang up around the factories. "Work and Protest" focuses on millhands' growing dissatisfaction with working conditions in the 1920s and 1930s, documents the development of unions in the mill villages, and describes the General Textile Strike of 1934.
In each section, visitors can read an historical overview of the issues addressed, view photographs, listen to audio clips of interviews with mill workers, and access ideas for lesson plans based on the unit. Many of the black-and-white photographs show children working on textile machines, and these images, in particular, may spark interesting discussions with students. The digitally-enhanced audio clips range in length from fifteen seconds to more than eight minutes and are available as MP3 files or as Real Media files. Short descriptions of each clip provide the name of the interviewee and interviewer, the date and location of the interview, cataloging information that would enable the listener to find the full interview in UNC-Chapel Hill's Southern Historical Collection, and a brief sense of the content of the clip.
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