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Wayne State University Press

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"My World Is Gone"

Memories of Life in a Southern Cotton Mill Town

George G. Suggs, Jr.

American History, Labor Studies, Memoir

Hardback
Published: May 2002
ISBN: 9780814330357
Pages: 192 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 16 black and white images
Review

When his mill-worker father observed, My World is Gone, the historian son determined to recapture that lost world as written history. The result is a moving tribute to [Sugg's] father and other relatives and acquaintances who were part of that past.

— Bess Beatty

Baseball. religion. work. death. and the company store—these figured eminently in the lives of Southern cotton mill workers and their families during the early decades of the twentieth century. In this firsthand account of his native Bladenboro, North Carolina, George G. Suggs, Jr., captures in rich detail the world of a thriving cotton mill town where the company was dominant but workers had forged a strong community. Here the focus is on the workers—their interests, personalities, and values—in their best and in their darker moments. Ultimately we see the many dimensions of working-class culture and taste a way of life that has vanished.

Drawing upon childhood memories and his father's recollections, Suggs covers events in Bladenboro during the 1930s and 40s. He describes the nature of cottonmill work, the stresses and strains produced by undesirable working conditions, and the various ways in which workers and their families learned to cope. Many characters emerge from this story—from the kind woman who dispensed the company fiat money to the desperate men who would gamble it away. The book explores key topics such as social rankings, medical care, the company store, and workers' responses to death. Above all, we see how faith found expression on the job and in the surrounding evangelical churches. The
workers of Bladenboro are gone, and little remains of the mills, but this work pays tribute to lives well lived under the most challenging circumstances.

George G. Suggs, Jr. is Emeritus Professor of History at Southeast Missouri State University. He is the author of Colorado’s War on Militant Unionism; Union Busting in the Tri-State: The Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri Metal Workers’ Strike, 1935; and Water Mills of the Missouri Ozarks. He is the editor of Perspectives on the American Revolution.

When his mill-worker father observed, My World is Gone, the historian son determined to recapture that lost world as written history. The result is a moving tribute to [Sugg's] father and other relatives and acquaintances who were part of that past.

– Bess Beatty, Oregon State University