The Green Corn Rebellion

The Green Corn Rebellion

by William Cunningham, Nigel Anthony Sellars
     
 

These days, rural Oklahoma is the last place anybody would look for leftist revolutionaries, but in 1917 the area exploded into full-blown insurrection. The state's tenant farmers, many of whom were Socialist Party members, viewed the Great War in Europe as a conflict that benefited only the rich. When the federal government enacted a draft, an uprising in eastern

Overview

These days, rural Oklahoma is the last place anybody would look for leftist revolutionaries, but in 1917 the area exploded into full-blown insurrection. The state's tenant farmers, many of whom were Socialist Party members, viewed the Great War in Europe as a conflict that benefited only the rich. When the federal government enacted a draft, an uprising in eastern Oklahoma saw local townspeople skirmishing with rebellious farmers, including whites, blacks, and American Indians. More than 250 men were arrested — some sentenced for up to ten years' imprisonment.

This is the backdrop of William Cunningham's powerful novel The Green Corn Rebellion. First published in 1935, it tells the story of Jim Tetley, who wants simply to be a good farmer — if the banks will only let him. As Jim copes with poverty, family rivalries, and community tensions, he must also weigh the need to respond to the call for armed rebellion.

Although the insurrection itself succeeded only in undermining the socialist movement and fueling the Red Scare of the 1920s, Cunningham's incendiary writing has been compared to that of Erskine Caldwell. A uniquely American story with roots set deep in Oklahoma soil, The Green Corn Rebellion will attract all readers interested in the state's tumultuous history and in populist causes.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Booksmack!
Originally published in 1935, Cunningham's tale of tenant farmers rebelling against the U.S. government preceded Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath by four years. Set in 1917, it is based on a forgotten episode in Oklahoma's history in which farmers, many of whom were Socialist Party members, fought with other locals when the government tried to establish a military draft. The socialists felt that the only ones benefitting from World War I were the rich, so they didn't want to fight and die to line fat cat wallets. Cunningham presents the story through protagonist Jim Tetley, a farmer torn between providing for his family and defending his beliefs. Mike Rogers, "Classic Returns", Booksmack!, 12/2/10

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780806140575
Publisher:
University of Oklahoma Press
Publication date:
09/01/2010
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

William Cunningham (1901–67) grew up in Watonga, Oklahoma. A journalist, college teacher, and novelist, he was the first director of the Oklahoma Writers Project, part of the WPA Federal Writers Project.

Nigel Anthony Sellars is Associate Professor of History at Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Virginia, and author of Oil, Wheat, and Wobblies: The Industrial Workers of the World in Oklahoma.

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