Providence Plantation (Miss.)

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Delta Cooperative Farm, started in 1936 in the community of Hillhouse (later called Rochdale) in Bolivar County, Miss., and Providence Cooperative Farm, started in 1939 near Cruger in Holmes County, Miss., were attempts by a philanthropically supported corporation, Cooperative Farms, Inc., to help southern agricultural laborers out of their economic plight. The cooperatives were organized around four principles: efficiency in production and economy in finance through the cooperative principle, participation in building a socialized economy of abundance, inter-racial justice, and realistic religion as a social dynamic. To these ends, the Delta and Providence cooperatives were to pay African Americans and whites equal wages for work, and provided social and other services, most of which were open to neighboring communities. These services included a cooperative store; a medical clinic, eventually run by physician David R. Minter; a credit union; a library; a community building; religious services; educational programs, including a school for African American children; summer work camps for visiting students; and community institutes. In addition to growing cotton, agricultural operations eventually included a dairy farm, a beef farm, a pasteurizing plant, and a saw mill.

Delta Cooperative Farm was founded by missionary evangelist and author Sherwood Eddy, who served as secretary-treasurer, and Reverend Sam H. Franklin, director, 1936-1943. In addition to Franklin and Eddy, the original board of trustees included theologian Reinhold Niebuhr; John Rust, inventor of the cotton picking machine; and Professor William R. Amberson. Later trustees included Blaine Treadway, Charles S. Johnson, Arthur Raper, and Frederick Patterson. Most of the first member families on the farm were sharecroppers who lost work following the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933; many were also refugees from East Arkansas who were evicted during a strike in the mid-1930s. Interracial efforts on the farm primarily focused on establishing economic equality, as whites and African Americans worked together and were to be paid equally depending upon the amount and quality of work done. Living arrangements, schooling, and social affairs were segregated, while it appears that some religious services and the medical clinic were integrated. The farm was managed by a democratically elected council made up of five members, no more than three of whom could be of the same race, and was organized into a Producer's Cooperative and a Consumer's Cooperative. Delta was funded primarily through capital investments. Over time, members were to amortize the capital funds supplied by the board of trustees and would gradually gain control and ownership of the farm. The capital funds would then be used by the trustees as a revolving fund for the establishment of more cooperative farms.

Providence Cooperative Farm was established in 1938 in hopes that its better quality soil would bring in higher revenues for the project, as there were deficits at Delta for 1936 and 1937. The Delta farm was sold in December 1942 and operations were consolidated at Providence due to better farming prospects and the number of familes at Delta who had left for service in World War II. The consolidation brought the first African American members to Providence, which had been started with six white families from Delta. Providence was organized into a Producer's Cooperative and the Providence Extension Farm. The Producer's Cooperative handled the bulk of the farming, while the Providence Extension Farm, whose earnings funded social work and other services offered at Providence, handled dairy and beef herds and the farming of land that was not part of the Producer's Cooperative. Additionally, there was the Providence Cooperative Association, an organization of African Americans living in and near Providence aimed at community improvement along religious, educational, economic, and public health lines. Educational institutes were held under the auspices of the Providence Cooperative Association, which brought in leaders from institutions such as the Tuskeegee Institute and the Farm Security Administration to teach on topics such as farming methods, community health, and civic problems. In May 1943, Franklin left Providence to serve as a naval chaplain to Asia, and A. Eugene Cox, the farm's accountant, took over as director.

In 1946, Delta Foundation Inc., was organized as a non-profit organization primarily for educational work. In 1950, Sam Franklin, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Charles S. Johnson resigned from the Providence Cooperative Farm board of trustees and a new board of directors was formed. On this new board were A. Eugene Cox; Lindsey Cox, registered nurse at the medical clinic; David Minter; and Mary Sue Minter. By 1950, cotton had become unprofitable at Providence, and from 1950 to 1956, operations were almost entirely centered on education and medical work. Efforts to provide educational opportunities on a broad geographic scale, which were primarily funded through cash rent and the sale of timber, included summer camps, farmer's institutes, the consumer's cooperative, the credit union, and the medical program. The political climate of the early and mid-1950s, especially with regard to McCarthyism, increased tensions between the Providence Cooperative Farm and the surrounding communities, as Providence was accused of being a communist operation that taught social equality between races. Probably due in part to these tensions, cooperative efforts at the farm ceased around 1956 and portions of the land were sold to the individual member families.

From the guide to the Delta and Providence Cooperative Farms Papers,  , 1925-1963, (bulk 1936-1943), (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Providence Plantation (Miss.). Delta and Providence cooperative farms papers, 1925-1963. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Delta and Providence Cooperative Farms Papers,  , 1925-1963, (bulk 1936-1943) University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Delta Cooperative Farm (Hillhouse, Miss.) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country

Corporate Body

Active 1925

Active 1963

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SNAC ID: 69226357