Green Corn Rebellion

The Green Corn Rebellion took place in 1917 in rural Oklahoma. It was a brief popular uprising advocating for the rural poor and against military conscription by poor European-American farmers, Seminoles, Muscogee Creeks and African-Americans, including people affiliated with the Socialist Party of America.


[edit] Background

Upper Creek Indians took up arms joining forces with other groups to seek aid from the US federal government for the rural poor.[1] The timing of the armed rebellion was during the Creek's traditional Green Corn Ceremony. An Oklahoman Seminole woman, whose uncle was a leader in the movement, remembered: "The full moon of late July, early August it was, the Moon of the Green Corn. It was not easy to persuade our poor white and black brother and sisters to rise up. We told them that rising up, standing up, whatever the consequences, would inspire future generations. Our courage, our bravery would be remembered and copied. That has been the Indian way for centuries, since the invasions. Fight and tell the story so that those who come after or their descendants will rise up once again. It may take a thousand years, but that is how we continue and eventually prevail."[2]

The short-lived uprising erupted when the government attempted to enforce the national draft law passed by Congress. On 3 August 1917, at the end of the Green Corn Ceremony, Creeks, Seminoles, and a group of Central Oklahoma farmers,[2] spurred on by local socialists and the Arkansas-based Working Class Union organized to oppose the draft. The rebels may have believed they would get the support of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). However, the IWW had rejected affiliation with the WCU in May 1917 because the WCU included farmers, shopkeepers, doctors and lawyers and not just wage workers. Arming themselves, a few hundred rebels met on the banks of the South Canadian River and prepared to march on Washington, D.C..

Reacting to the rebellion, local townspeople marshaled their own forces, fought several small skirmishes with the rebels, and eventually scattered them. The battles killed four townsmen, three rebels, and a local schoolteacher mistakenly killed by a posse after he ran a roadblock. [3] In all, 266 men were arrested; 150 were convicted and 75 sent to jail. The rebels served terms ranging from a few months to 10 years, and while most were paroled or pardoned after a short period, five men remained in the Federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, in February 1922.

[edit] Socialism

The Socialist Party had been a significant political force in Oklahoma, regularly winning 10 percent of the vote in elections. As did many socialists in Europe, the Oklahoma farmers viewed World War I as a rich man's war and vehemently opposed U.S. participation in it.

The rebellion weakened the Socialist Party in Oklahoma, although the party did help former Oklahoma City mayor John C. Walton to be elected governor in 1922. Nationally, the Socialist Party was blamed for the rebellion, although the incident was set off spontaneously without its knowledge. [4] This was one in a series of events that undermined the American socialist movement and fueled the Red Scare. [5]

Sam Marcy, founder of Workers World Party upheld the Green Corn Rebellion as the ideal working class, anti-war struggle in his book "The Bolsheviks and War" published in 1985.[6]

[edit] Popular culture

A fictionalized account of the abortive revolt can be found in William Cunningham–s novel, The Green Corn Rebellion (New York: Vanguard, 1935).

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Pritzker, 379
  2. ^ a b Joyce and Harris, 224
  3. ^ "Oklahoma Farmers Failed Revolution: The Green Corn Rebellion." (link) Accessed 2009 September 17.
  4. ^ "The Green Corn Rebellion." Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. (link) Accessed 2009 September 17.
  5. ^ "Communist Party." Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. (link) Accessed 2009 September 17.
  6. ^ Marcy, Sam

[edit] References

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

  • Burbank, Garin (1976). When Farmers Voted Red: The Gospel of Socialism in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1910-1924. 
  • Kohn, Stephen M. (1994). American Political Prisoners: Prosecutions under the Espionage and Sedition Acts. Greenwood Press. 

Marcy, Sam (1985). The Bolsheviks and War. World View Forum. 

  • Peterson, H. C.; Gilbert C. Fite (1957). Opponents of War, 1917-1918. pp. 39–41. 
  • Sellars, Nigel Anthony (1998). Oil, Wheat & Wobblies, the Industrial Workers of the World in Oklahoma. 1905-1930. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 77–92. 
  • Sellars, Nigel Anthony. Treasonous Tenant Farmers and Seditious Sharecroppers: The 1917 Green Corn Rebellion Trials. 27. Oklahoma City University Law Review. pp. 1097–1141. 

[edit] External links

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