THE LAND OF
DIRECTOR OF DRAMA
HE ASSOCIATED PUBLISHERS, INC.
.WASHINGTON, D. C.
Printed by The Printing House of Leo Hart
Rochester, N. Y.
BY THE ASSOCIATED PUBLISHERS, INC.
My daughter and son,
HENRIETTE and RANDOLPH, JR.
These plays are for reading purpose only. They are
fully protected by copyright law. All rights are reserved.
No performance, professional or amateur, may be given
without written permission. Royalty fee for "The Land
of Cotton" is $25 for each performance; for each of the
one-act plays $5.00 for each performance. Queries con-
cerning the production of these plays should be addressed
to the Associated Publishers, 1538 Ninth Street, N. W.,
Washington, D. C.
THE LAND OF COTTON AND
The Land of Cotton
Gangsters over Harlem
The High Court of Historia
A WORD ON PLAYS AND
Prefaces are usually worthless. Few people read them;
and those who do seem promptly to forget the noble
statements of intention and proceed to judge the work
in the light of what they think the author should have
done. The close correlation between declaration and
fulfillment makes no impression upon critics who always
think that something different and better should have
-resulted from the material. Nevertheless, a preface to a
book is a hallowed tradition; so authors continue to write
them for a mostly non-existent public. Far be it from me,
then, to disturb such a sacrosanct custom.
In my opinion, it is necessary to keep in view at least
'two fundamentals in order to judge adequately the plays
of Negro authorship designed for the Negro stage of to-
day. The first of these is the fact that since the majority
of Negroes live in the south where the theatre at best is
a spasmodic affair, they constitute a beginning audience.
1Now what bearing has this on the question? It simply
means that the subtleties of character, the delicate psy-
chology, the indefinable mood and atmosphere, and the
skillful manipulation of plot may be all right for the
Broadway high-brows, but not necessarily for the un-
phisticated theatre-goers far from the main stem.
For a key to what beginning audiences can under-
and and appreciate, it is obvious we cannot go to the
latest success in New York, London, or Moscow but
father to the first plays of Greece and Rome, the miracle
morality plays, and the early experiments in every
and th in
country. Simplicity, clear conflicts, broad characteriza-
tions, and obvious ideas are some of the dramatic elements
noted in the offerings of the playwrights for those early
The other fundamental which should be uppermost
is the fact that the Negro playwright at present is a be-
ginning playwright. Considerable achievement in the
novel, poetry, the essay and other arts serve as a basis for
higher achievement for the Negro in these forms; but
not so in drama. In this field he is almost a complete
novice. Those who are writing plays now are only break-
ing the ground that has been plowed, harrowed, and
planted in the other arts.
The implication of this is clear. The technique of
play construction is the most important lesson for the
Negro playwright to learn at this time. How to tell a
story dramatically so that it will hold the attention of an
audience is much more important in this period of de-
velopment than whether a Broadway success can be
written. This latter will, come soon enough after the
medium of story telling on the stage is thoroughly learned
We can conclude, then, that there will very likely be
no truly great playwrights in our day and generation. If
so, it will be contrary to what we may expect from the
conclusions of dramatic history; for no country and no
race has produced a supreme dramatist during their early
years of experimentation with the theatre arts. At best
the Negro playwrights of today are merely "university
wits" preparing the way for the sepia Shakespeare of to-
morrow. This should not deter us, however, from writ-
ing, producing, and publishing even though we realize
that the best is yet to be.
It follows from all that has been said, that this volume
Makes no claim of being a collection of masterpieces
since this is not to be expected of any Negro playwright
of our time. This book is offered, however, because each
play has been produced and has demonstrated beyond a
doubt its ability to hold the interest of an audience despite
the manifold shortcomings of the usual amateur acting
and production. Is this not reason enough?
("The Land of Cotton" is a long play dealing with the
system of tenant farming in the south. It is brutal and
violent because all too often the system has been marked
by such happenings. A conscious effort has been made to
state the arguments of the landlords as well as those of the
tenants; for the plantation owners do have a viewpoint
that is all too often overlooked. I
The play was begun in the playwriting class in Yale
University in 1935 where I was in attendance on a fellow-
ship granted by the General Education Board. Walter
Prichard Eaton was the instructor. It was later finished
and submitted for credit for the course. During 1938 two
more revisions were made in Dublin, Ireland where I had
gone to study amateur dramatic organizations on a fel-
Slowship granted by the Rosenwald Fund. It won first
_.prize in a national playwriting contest sponsored by the
Foundation of Expressive Arts in Baltimore, Maryland.
It is designed for production more in the social theatres
than in the university theatres.
I "Yellow Death," and "The High Court of Historia"
were written for special Negro History Week productions.
The first was written to point out the fact that the Negro
has played a heroic part, even if it is only a small one, in
Sthe fight against the dreaded scourge of yellow fever. It
is based upon a true historical episode.
i The purpose of the "The High Court of Historia" is
quite obvious. It attacks the prevailing point of view
taken by most Negro historians towards the teaching of
Negro history. The play obviously does not read as well
as it stages. The amateur director should be aware of the
fact, however, that a play based on the court room trial
technique rarely fails completely in the theatre. Costum-
ing assumes an important part in this play as well as
artificial movement and picturization4
l'Gangst rs pyver Harlem" is an obvious melodrama.
It was written largely as an exercise in the technique of
suspense and to illustrate the working of the "law of
hospitality." It has had a wide demand in our Little
Theatres with dozens of productions to its credit.'
'Silas_,trawwn" is a folk play. It is quite effective when
folk characterizations are stressed. U
The collection as a whole represents a contribution,
however humble, to the growing list of plays so needed
for production in Negro Little Theatres.
May, 1942 RANDOLPH EDMONDS
THE LAND OF COTTON
Originally produced by the People's Community
Theatre of New Orleans, Louisiana at the Longshore-
men's Hall on March 20 and 21, 1941 with the following
CALEB MACKLIN ...........................John Nealy
COGGIN LOFTON ..................... Renfred Hughes
GURRY LAMBERT ..................... Eugene Willman
CLINT COLEMAN .............. ..... Harold Young
GLEN WHITE .................. ....... Harrison Jones
EUGENE CHANDLER ............... Raymond Diamond
JEFF STARK ................................Noah Pate
CLAY SHERMAN ....................... James Browne
SHERIFF PARKER ................. Clarence Richardson
MIRIAM JACKSON ..................... Amanda Carter
BEN JACKSON ................... George McDemmond
HILDA LAMBERT ....... ................ Clara Bissant
MARTHA LAMBERT ............ ......... Carrie Shelby
DELLA COLEMAN ...... ................. Mary Macon
LEE COLEMAN ........ ................ Claude Joiner
DEAS GREEN .......................... Arthur Wright
PAL BROWN ....................... Vallery Ferdinand
FLOSSIE WATERS ..................... Juanita Hurel
MINNIE ......................... Geraldine Robinson
STANLEY HARRIS ....................... Claude Joiner
SHELTON DAVIS ........................ Richard West
NEWT THOMPSON ...................... Henry Green
"ANT" SARAH .................... Channie Bell Dixon
"ANT" MAGGIE ...... ..... ........... Odessa Derbigny
DEPUTY ...............................Henry Green
PREACHER RICE ...................... Henry Coleman
COLORED SHARECROPPERS, WHITE SHARECROPPERS, MEM-
BERS OF THE Ku KLUX KLAN, REVELERS AND MOURNERS:
Louis DARENSBOURG, DORIS BLOCK, THETA PLATT, MARIE
-PIERCE, HENRY COLEMAN, SAMUEL JOHNSON, ESTHER
JOHNSON, OLGA DEVALL, HUBBARDINE DANIELS, INEZ
BURKE, A. W. WRIGHT, VALLEY FERDINAND, GERALDINE
ROBINSON, JUANITA HUREL, AND LAURA FORD.
Directed by Thomas Richardson
THE LAND OF COTTON
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Ben Jackson ....................... Plantation Owner
Miriam Jackson .......................His Daughter
Jeff Stark .............................. Riding Boss
Ned Parker ................................. Sheriff
Clay Sherman ...................... Union Organizer
Gurry Lambert ......................Tenant Farmer
Hilda Lambert ............................His W ife
Martha Lambert ........................His Mother
Della Coleman ......................... Clint's Wife
Lee Coleman ..........................Clint's Father
Stanley Harris Shelton Davis
Eugene Chandler Clint Coleman
Glen White Abner Morris
Coggin Lofton Carvey Brown
Caleb Macklin Sam Stith
Deas Green Algie Taylor
Flossie Waters Men
"Pal" Brown Women
"Ant" Sarah Preacher Rice
"Ant" Maggie Ku Klux Klansmen
THE LAND OF COTTON
AND OTHER PLAYS
THE LAND OF COTTON
SCENE: A tobacco plant bed in a clearing in the woods
not far from Ben Jackson's plantation in a county in a
-southern state. It is located at the foot of a hill covered
'with trees which intermingle at the top to form a lacy
,-network of leaves. It is spring; and the tobacco and cot-
?ton planting season is in full swing. It is about ten
o'clock in the morning with the sun shining on the left.
The plant bed, sometimes called plant patch, is usually
?made in the shape of a rectangle by laying good sized
logs around the sides and tacking mosquito netting over
them to keep the insects from laying eggs on the tender
young plants. In this scene, the bed is divided into two
ctangles. They are separated by a narrow aisle in the
enter in which is a large stump about the height of a
hair. Other small stumps push up the mosquito netting
here and there in little peaks. Because of this setting,
he acting areas are confined to the upstage and down-
stage sides of the bed, the narrow aisle in the middle, and
all spaces on the right and left sides of the stage.
he opening curtain shows Caleb Macklin and Coggin
oton, two Negro sharecroppers laughing uproariously.
heir companion, Gurry Lambert is trying not to notice
em, but is forced to glance at them now and then in
he three are on the upstage side of the bed pulling
ung tobacco plants from under the netting and putting
m in large baskets made of splits, called "Hamper
4 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
Baskets". When these are filled with the young plants
they are carried to the fields and transplanted. Caleb an
Coggin are dressed as typical poverty stricken farmers
Their former blue overalls have been washed so many
times that they have almost been bleached white. The
are filled with patches of variegated colors. They are both
of medium height. Coggin is rather stolid, while Caleb
Gurry is a large brown-skinned man. His clothes are
little better than the others; but still there is no sign o
wealth. He is a share tenant rather than a share cropper
Once he was as carefree as Caleb. After his father died
and he had the responsibility of trying to eke out a living
on a small place, he has become somewhat obsessed wit
the injustice of the system. He works away, pulling the
plants, shaking the dirt from the roots, and putting them
into the basket in a kind of mechanical fashion. In their
mirth, Caleb and Coggin are not pulling plants for the
And Charlie Simmons lit out down the road Hawl
(Shaking with laughter)
Hawl Hawl Hawl
They say he was running' so fast his coat tail stood out
straight behind him.
(Holding his sides)
Boy, that must a been funny!
(Talking between laughs)
Doot Williams said he left church at nine o'clock, ran two
miles and got home at nine o'clock. Hawl Hawl Hawl
THE LAND OF COTTON
I knowed Doot ud fix it. Hawl Haw! Haw!
Doot said he made it in nothing flat!
(Slapping his knees)
OHawr Hawl Haw!
(Pausing to catch his breath)
De preacher was moanin', "O Lawd! O Lawdl" when de
shot broke de winder pane. Charlie turned two shades
lighter and ducked for de door.
(Shaking his shoulders with laughter)
Boy, that must a been funny, black as Charlie is!
(Wiping tears from his eyes)
tells you it was de funniest thing Ah ever seed!
(Unable to stand it longer)
Shut up that god-damned cacklin'l
(Looking up with surprise)
at's de matter wid you?
Syou had two grains of sense inside your thick skulls,
u'd know damned' well what I mean.
6 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
De matter wid him is he can't fugit he was in de army-
trying to boss us around .
Numb skulls like you make me sick
What's eatin' you?
You can't kill us for laffin'.
(Sitting back on his heels and talking forcefully)
It ain't that I mind you laffin'; but it's what you wer
laffin' at. Poor, honest, hard working Negroes can't hav
a prayer meeting in their own church without a mob o
sheeted scoundrels shooting out the window panes. And
you know as well as I do, they did it because some white
folk's Nigger told them that we would discuss conditions
on the plantations in the county after the meeting. The
whole thing is so funny that you cackle away like a dom-
inecker hen finished layin' a egg.
We was laffin' at Charlie Simmons.
And Ah don't see no harm in dat.
Naw, 'cepting Charlie Simmons was like the rest of you
THE LAND OF COTTON
Too god-damned much rabbit in him to fight!
And Ah s'pose you wouldn't a sold out?
You ain't never noticed me buck jumpin' from nobody.
I didn't learn dat in no army in France.
(Trying to be funny)
Well, Ah ain't running from dem Ku Kluxers neither-
het yo joke making, Caleb. Gurry's right. We should
showed more spunk and not run off lak dat.
w, you jes' taking up for Gurry 'cause he's lettin' you
yat his house. But Ah don't live at Gurry's and Ah
talk. Ef de Kluxers git arter him, he'll sell out same's
hey know better'n to try anything like dat.
body don't cross Gurry's path, Caleb, and you know it.
at's why you can't tell what he'll do.
*en Ben Jackson and de Ridin' Boss gives him plenty o'
8 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS|
Aw, you and Gurry neither can't fool me. Gurry used to
be able to take a joke and laff lak de rest of us, but since
he's been reading' dem papers and talking' bout some Share
cropper union, he's got batty as a bull frog.
(Looking around to see if anyone heard him)
If you don't stop yelling my name out about a union
I'll ram my fist down your throat. You know what's
happen to me if the Riding Boss heard you. If you
haven't sense enough to see the need for one in thi
county you can keep your trap shut.
Jes' Clint and de res'.
Lemme 'lone will you!
All I say is you hadn't ought to hit him, Clint.
(Coming in followed by Eugene)
He made me so mad I could see fire. I found my fist in
his mouth before I knew it.
(Clint, Glen, and Eugene are white sharecroppers
They are dried up and leathery looking. They arn
'' dressed about the same as the Negroes. Glen has sun;
ken jaws and a crafty appearance. Clint is very imI
petuous, but this doesn't hide the worry lines in hiS
face. Eugene is very short and weakened. He is sc
emaciated he looks as if he is going into consumption
THE LAND OF COTTON
He continually looks around as if somebody is watch-
ing him. They bring "hamper baskets" with them and
Start pulling plants.)
What's Clint been doin'? Fighting agen?
He took a poke at Si Berry.
lint's lak a bantam rooster, always hoppin' on somebody.
home of dese days somebody'll run through him lak a dose
ifeah, an when I git through with him, he'll think he's
~een in a thrashing machine.
ut I done warned you about your temper. Riding Boss
in't a goin' to stand for it one these days you ketch him
don't give a good god-damn for Ridin' Boss. He wears
ts, don't he?
eah, and he totes a pistol, too.
est to stay out his way.
eah! Ridin' Boss turn you out o' house and home too
y; and he 'joys doin' it.
u wouldn't have to worry if you was like Gurry here,
either a hired han' nor a cropper.
o1 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
(Who has payed little attention to the group before)
Makes no difference, Glen. Can't make enough on them
few acres Pa left me when he died. So I'm down here
pulling tobacco slips, and helping to plant Ben Jackson's
private field of tobacco like the rest.
'T'ain't no use'n argufying. Ef Ben Jackson say plant
his tobacco befo' you plant your'n, we gotta do it.
(Looking towards a noise offstage)
Who's dat coming ?
Sh! Sh! Heah come de Ridin' Boss.
(Jeff says, "whoa," outside and comes in. He is a large
swaggering man with an exceedingly red face and
A neck. He is dressed in khaki trousers with brown
leather leggings that have seen considerable wear. A
brown army shirt, a checkered vest, and a wide brim
hat complete his attire. He carries a riding whip in hi
hand. He looks into each basket to see how many
plants are in them. He carries a gun in a holster)
(Looking in baskets)
What in the hell you boys been doing? Sleep? I though
you'd a had more plants pulled by this time.
We been wurkin' right along, Cap.
Yes; but you're as slow as cold molasses in the winter
time. All right, you fellows carry them slips up th
THE LAND OF COTTON
(The men stop pulling and get the "hamper baskets"
of plants preparatory to leaving)
;Did you bring them guano bags, Eugene?
Naw sir. I forgot and left them up thar under them dog-
wood trees at the fork of the road.
.You can't remember a damn thing, can you, Eugene?
I'll git them right away.
KNaw. You'd better let somebody else do it. You might
o up there and come back empty handed again.
aw. That's all right, I said.
(To the men)
low the rest of you take them baskets right up to the
eld and don't let no grass grow under your feet coming
urry, give your basket to Coggin and Caleb and step up
the fork and git them guano bags.
ou wait here, Eugene, I want a talk with you.
(With trembling voice)
ou want me to stay here?
12 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
That's what I said.
(Going up to the stump in the center and putting one
foot on it. He then drags his whip around the roots
in an aimless manner)
Go on and pull them plants, Eugene. I can talk to you
while you work. Been laying off to see you all morning.
What you want to see me for?
(Playing around with the whip)
You were the last one to have that smokehouse key, yis-
tiddy. Ain't that right?
I gave the key back to you.
I know you did. I believe I sent you to the smokehouse
to git some meat for the commissary.
I dumped it all in the wagon lak you told me.
Ain't worried about that you put in the wagon.
(Suddenly with the force of a lawyer)
I want to know what came of that middling you kept out.
I-I don't know nothing 'bout no middling.
(Wheeling on Eugene)
That's a damn lie! You know you stole that piece of meat.
THE LAND OF COTTON
[-I didn't- -
(Cutting him off)
Shut up! You know god damned well you stole it, and I
do, too. And that ain't the first time you been light hand-
ed either. Last week you took that half bushel of meal
we had in the crib for the fattening hogs. I knew it all
the time; but I thought I would give you enough rope to
hang yourself. Now since you're getting so goddamn
thievish, you'd better look around and see if some other
plantation won't suit your health better. First thing I
know a whole cow'll show up missing.
S(Breaking down and pleading)
Don't send me off the place. It's too late for me to git a
rop with somebody else. I'll bring the middling back;
mnd I won't take nothing else. I swear!
io know what Ben Jackson think 'bout sich things; and
I reported you to the Sheriff, you'd git six months on
e county road. You knowed that when you stole that
eal and meat, didn't you?
knew it! I knew it all right; but I just couldn't keep
aring the chilluns cry for something t' eat. Night before
t little Bessie cried all night. I had to do something.
can't git no credit 'till my crop agreementt git straight-
ed out. But if you let me go, I swear I'll never touch
14 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
Wal, maybe me and you can talk some business with each
other-that is if you can cut out taking things don't be-
long to you.
I won't do it never no more.
I guess we can talk then; but you got to keep what I say
under your hat.
I ain't a goin' to tell nothing you don't want me to.
(Sitting on the stump)
Wal, let's see if we can come to terms then. You know
Ben Jackson is coming down here shortly. All the crop.
pers on this section of the farm'll be here. Now Ben
Jackson is a goin' to tell them something I don't expect
to set so well on their gizzards. They might go home and
some crank put them up to gittin' a little unruly. They'd
been crazy as hell in this county lately; but I can handle(
things on this plantation all right. Ben Jackson a got me
to run this farm, and I'm a goin' to do it or bust hell
trying. You understand!
I won't tell nothing.
(Taking a twist of tobacco from his pocket and biting
off a chew. He then sends a stream of tobacco juic
down the aisle)
But that ain't all I want you to do. I want you to sort
mix around the men. Talk to the Niggers and mix around
the white hands. Then you come back and let me kno
what they's a saying.
THE LAND OF COTTON
(In an uncertain tone)
That wouldn't be right. I sorta hate to do dat.
(Jumping up and shouting)
Well, what the hell is right in this world? I guess you
think it's right to go on the county road for stealing that
meat and meal.. Come to think of it, that's what you'd
better do. I can git along without you anyway.
t.give in. I can't do nothing else.
Now you're being sensible. You just mix in and tell me
ihat they's a saying. I ain't a goin' to do nothing to them
-just warn them to keep their damn mouths shut, that's
11 do it. I've got to do it.
Now that's sensible. That's just plain hoss sense.
['ll do any-
1!b Sh! There's Gurry!
. (Gurry can be heard far off singing, "Keep your hands
Son the Plow." Jeff talks in an undertone)
pon't forgit now. You kinda see what you can hear from
Oerybody. If you do well you can keep that middling
meal. I'll see that you git credit at the commissary,
16 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
(Coming in with some fertilizer bags)
Here're the guano bags.
Good! Fill them up next time so everybody can take a
bag and a "hamper basket" up to the fields so they won't
have to make so many trips.
I get you.
Eugene, you go up to the stable and git that single tree
off that harrow. The one George is using is liable to
break any minute.
I'll go git it right away.
(Calling after him)
Hurry up and git back here before Ben Jackson come.
I'll git back in time.
(Clint, Glen, Coggin and Caleb enter with the empty
baskets. They put them down and start pulling plants
You men keep pulling away at them plants. If anybody
ask you whar I'm a goin, tell 'em up to the field by the
gully to see 'bout those extra rows being thrown up.
(They pull plants. Gurry sings a part of "Water Boy".
Clay Sherman comes in from the left)
I THE LAND OF COTTON 17
Good Morning! How are you! Howdy!
Is Glen White around?
Yes, I'm Glen White.
And where is Gurry Lambert?
'Here I am!
,Well, I'm Clay Sherman.
(Looking around to make sure no one's in sight.)
Ain't you afraid to be coming down here?
Is it safe to talk?
Yes, as far as these men here is concerned. They won't say
nothing. But is it time to talk?
Well, what's the matter? You don't mean that you've pre-
pared for my coming by telling Ben Jackson and the
'sheriff that I'm here to help organize a sharecropper's
To be sure we ain't done nothing like that. But you don't
know this county. They've started breaking up meetings
18 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
if anybody mentions the plantations. Every stranger comr
ing into the county is watched. Riding Boss told every
body here to tell him about any stranger coming on th(
place. If anybody saw you come down here, they'll gel
the sheriff and run you out the county.
In that case we've got to work fast and get everything
lined up before the sheriff gets wise. Have you and Glen
made any plans?
Oh, yes. We ain't been asleep.
What have you done?
I been meeting lodges, and prayer meetings throughout
the county for the last few months. Gurry's been a doing
the same with the colored. We ain't mentioned it to but
a few here because we wanted to see how the rest of the
county felt. Now since none of us can raise a crop, I
think we're ready to organize and fight these planters foi
turning us off. What do you think?
Yeahl We's ready! Surely Let's organize now!
You see the way they feel.
I'm mighty glad to see you all so ready to be organized
We had slow work over in Arkansas. Croppers there suf-
i' V- fearedd from the same thing you did. Plantation owners
S were short weighting their cotton, keeping them in debt
S by crooked bookkeeping, keeping government money from
them under the old farm agreement, and running them
THE LAND OF COTTON 19
tf he farm as tenants and turning farms into factory run
plants with day labor. But let me warn you. This is no
ild's play. The owners over there used every kind of
flirty method to break up the union. They flogged some;
hey tried others for treason, they even killed some. Do
you think these men are ready to go through that to make
things better here?
Yes, I think so.
We'd rather do that than starve.
if they can do that in Arkansas, we can here!
e'll try to move carefully and organize branches in those
dge meetings and prayer meetings Glen spoke about.
11 we're asking you men before we have a meeting for
lose on this plantation, is not to squeal to the landlords.
or God's sake, don't tell even your wives about it.
e'll stick! You can count on us! We won't do nothing
here do you think we should start first, Gurry?
Think we can safely start- -
(Looking off right)
ere come Sheriff Parker and the Riding Boss!
20 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
You'd better hurry up and hide!
(Clay darts behind a bush off left)
I sure hope they didn't see Clay.
Dat Ridin' Boss got eyes lak a hawk.
(Jeff and Sheriff Parker enter. Sheriff Parker is a hard
flinty type of man. He wears high laced shoes, browt
riding trousers, a brown shirt, a checkered vest, and i
wide hat. A cartridge belt is around his waist and i
gun hangs in a holster. A shining star is pinned on hi,
Did you boys see anything of a stranger 'round here?
Shut up, Calebl You're the first one to speak, and yot
never know a damn thing.
You're sure none of you saw a stranger all morning.
(Caleb starts to answer again; but a look from Je[
(To the men)
What's the matter? Cat got your tongues? Can't yot
answer the sheriff?
(In a surly manner)
We ain't seen nobody.
THE LAND OF COTTON
(To Glen, Coggin, and Caleb)
I was told that a stranger was seen a coming down this
way. Funny nobody saw him.
They just lying. Somebody saw him all right.
S(Walking nonchalantly to the left)
Val, we'll git on back up to the field if nobody ain't
I (He suddenly whips out his gun and points it at the
i bush shielding Clay)
Come out in the name of the law!
\ (Coming out with his hands held up)
. K., Sheriff.
Search him, Jeff.
H (After searching him)
e ain't got nothing.
Ian I take my hands down now?
aou can; but don't try no monkey business, or I'll let
ru have it.
ou needn't worry.
S(To the men)
thought you hadn't seen nobody!
22 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAY
(Looking at Clay as
if he is seeing him for the fir
Oh, well, you see-You mean him?
I'll see you later about this.
Who are you?
Do I have to tell?
If you know what's good for you. You might be a thief
Come, now, Sheriff, do I look like a thief?
What was you doin' in them thar bushes?
I'd hesitate to say, Sheriff. You know people go into the
bushes to do a lot of things around a plant patch.
Don't try any jokes on mel Why was you a hiding?
Believe it or not, I went to cut a sweet gum twig to make
a tooth brush.
THE LAND OF COTTON
don't you joke with me! Why was
1hy should I hide from you?
you a hiding?
s that so?
Vhat is your business in this county?
lo I have to tell you that?
thingss ain't healthy in this county for strangers without
business. You'd better talk. If you don't, we have a way
E making people talk. You're under arrest!
i that so?
lo any of you know this man? Keep quiet, Caleb!
as, suh. I ain't gwine to say nothing.
)o you know this man, Coggin?
24 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
Wal, I can't say I know him.
You had your orders to report any stranger you saw on
the plantation, didn't you?
I reckon so.
Why are you persecuting these men? Who said I was
stranger? You don't know anything about me.
Well, who the hell are you?
I'd rather tell that to the judge.
You ain't a goin' to see no judge. I'm getting you across
the county line. Then if I ever see you here again, I'm
goin' to shoot.
I'd rather- -
Snap them handcuffs on, Jeff!
(Jeff moves to obey. Miriam comes in and recognize
Clay. She is a fine looking young southern girl and i
dressed in a riding habit)
Clay, what on earth is the matter?
I don't know. Ask the Sheriff.
THE LAND OF COTTON
Vhat's the matter, Sheriff? What's the matter, Jeff?
We caught this stranger here a trespassing on your pa's
Slay trespassing? How could you be so stupid, Sheriff?
ho is he, Miss Miriam?
'lay and I are old schoolmates.
(Confused and embarrassed)
excuse me, Miss Miriam. Excuse me.
don't see how you could make such a mistake.
I (Breaking in)
ou see we had no way of knowing, Miss Miriam. He
Couldn't tell us nothing and we found him down here a
fixing with the hands.
were you, my good man. If they're good enough for
u, they're good enough for me. Maybe you and the
eriff would like to have a more formal introduction.
SMiss Miriam. I'll see you later.
S(He glares at Clay and Exits)
26 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
You see we thought he mout want to s'prise Miss Miriam.
Why in the hell didn't you say so?
(He walks off after the Sheriff)
I'm sorry this had to happen, Clay.
That's all right, Miriam. I don't mind.
You're the last one I expected to see in this county.
What've you been doing for yourself?
Just hoboing around I suppose.
But that doesn't explain your presence at our plant bedj
I suppose it doesn't. Well, I'm here to see Glen White
about a small matter.
It seems such a short time since we were in college to,
gether. By the way, have you changed your mind about
farmers, laborers, and the working class since the dear
old college days?
Not much, I'm afraid.
I thought being out in life would teach you better.
THE LAND OF COTTON 27
it has taught me a lot of things for worse if not for better.
You talked a good radicalism in college, didn't you?
suppose I did.
ell, they had an awful mess over in Arkansas, didn't
t's according to how you look at it, Miriam.
hat do you mean?
ell, it's useless for me to argue with you anymore since
Iou are a plantation owner's daughter. You could never
ee the side of the croppers.
Ad I suppose you'd never see the worry and hardships
of the owners.
ou may be right. So let's change the subject. What've
ou been doing for yourself since leaving college?
nothing much really. In the summer time I sit mostly
n the front porch and read.
Sthe front porch, eh?
28 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
It's the coolest place. By the way, you must come by to
see me before you leave.
Can't promise, Miriam. Must get into town right away.
Don't be silly. You wouldn't come to our place without
stopping by the house. Let me see-I'll be home in an
hour at least.
Don't look for me, Miriam.
I most certainly shall, Mr. Radical. Remember in an
S(To Gurry who has been busy pulling plants)
If father comes here before I see him, tell him I'm look.
ing for him. I'll see if he is up by the barn.
I will, Miss Miriam.
Good bye! See you later.
(Pointing to the left)
I think you'd better go down there and hide besides thai
spring. Ben Jackson will be here soon.
What's the matter? You aren't afraid, are you?
I THE LAND OF COTTON 29
Listen, get this straight; people say many things 'bout me;
but that ain't one.
,Calm down. I just wanted to know that's all. I'll hide
around the spring for a while.
Wonder what Ben Jackson want this mawning?
)unno; but it must be mighty important.
Vhole damn thing seem funny to me.
something 'bout the crops for this year most likely.
hopes he don't comes wid nothing funny. Eff'n Ah
don't raise a good crop this year, ma debts'll eat me up
(Noise offstage to the right. It is men's voices in a
eah dey come.
e won't have to wonder what the old son-of-a-gun a
in' to do very long now.
(A group of white and colored sharecroppers enter)
30 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
Hi, Fellarst Good mawnin'! Howdy boys!
(A rawboned white sharecropper with shifting eyes)
Hi, Glenl What's a goin' on here?
Don't know, Abner, 'cepting Ben Jackson is a coming.
(Shifting his eyes)
Things seems mighty mysterious.
Sure look that way.
If Ben Jackson wanted to have a meeting of the croppers,
why in hell didn't he have it back of the wagon shed like
he always done.
Somebody said he's meeting them in small bunches this
(A large group of sharecroppers enter. They exchange
Ben Jackson sure is a slick one. He's got something up;
his sleeve, that's what.
He must be 'fraid of something.
Ben Jackson ain't afraid of nothing. It must be some-
thing from the government.
(An extra large group comes in. Among them is
Eugene with the single tree.)
THE LAND OF COTTON
Seen Ben Jackson, Eugene?
Coming right behind.
(Looking off right)
Thar he is a coming riding old Nellie.
Yeah, and Riding Boss right behind him a setting' on his
hoss like he was bigger'n Ben Jackson hissef.
$omebody'll take him off his high hoss one of these days.
bid then we'll cry our eye balls out.
eah, lak hell.
(Outside two "whoas" are heard. Ben Jackson comes
in followed by Jeff. Ben Jackson is a large man and
is inclined to be stout. He has on a wide hat under
which can be seen his hair greying at the edges. His
large moustache is also greying. He wears corduroy
trousers stuffed down in high laced shoes, and a khaki
hunting jacket. His voice is nasal and drawling. He,
too, carries a riding whip in his hand.)
ood Morning! Howdy Colonel! Morning! etc.
es' see! Everybody here!
32 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
Yeah, we's all heah.
Shut your fly trap, Caleb. I didn't ask nobody to speak.
Well, boys, how's the planting a going on?
Just fine! All right! etc.
Jeff here tells me you'll about plant out by tonight.
Hope so. That's right. Etc.
(Going over to the stump)
I know you boys been wondering what I got you to meet,
down here for, so I'll come right to the point. I had Jeff
get you together in small bunches this year because the:
plantation is so large it takes too much time to get you,
all to meet in one place. I wanted you to plant out while
we got a good wet season so we can get on to planting
cotton. Been good weather for planting tobacco, ain't it?
Yes, sir. Sho 'tis. Etc.
I know you boys been wondering what we're a goin' to
do on the plantation this year. It's been giving me right
smart worry, too, and what I've got to do, I don't like
any more'n you do. Some of you think it's the finest
thing in the world to own a large farm and have men
THE LAND OF COTTON 33
working for you. It's all right when times are good; but
it's been hell these last few years of depression. I didn't
earn enough from what you men raised last year to finish
paying taxes; and the banks been a squeezing me for
money. That part don't concern you; but I thought I'd
;let you know how matters stand. The main point is, with
tis gov'ment policy and all, I've got to do something to
rto make this farm pay. And I'm obliged to tell you I
just can't back nobody this year on a tenant basis.
(There is consternation at this announcement)
od God! We sho hates to heah datl What can be done!
know how you feel, boys. I'd like to continue on as we
ave; but I just can't get the credit at the bank to ad-
ance the money to pay for teams, fertilizer and rations.
rom now on this farm'll just hire day labor. I'll give as
any of you work as I can.
ut where's we a goin' to git money to eat?
don't know. I wish I did. Everything in the commis-
'11 have to be paid for in cash, however.
w does that affect me, Mr. Jackson. I still can rent
e land, can't I?
rry, Gurry. If I let you have some land, I'd have to let
e others have some, too.
34 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYi
But I can't raise enough on the few acres I own to maki
But I offered several times to buy you out, didn't I?
But I don't want to sell my home. Surely you can rent m
a small piece of land, can't you?
I've told you I can't rent any land. I hope to put all mi
open land under cultivation.
But it ain't fair-
(Cutting him off)
Listen, Nigger, you ain't a goin' to tell me what's fair ii
running my own farm, are you?
(Not cowering as he expects)
I don't mean to tell you how to run your own farm, Mr
Jackson; but clearly-
(Hysterically breaking in)
Well, I ain't swallowing all this stuff, neither. I'll say i
ain't fair turning everybody off at a minute's notice.
ain't et nothing all day, and plenty more here besides me
But what're we doin'? We're standing here like a bund
of sheep listening to a pack of lies. I don't believe hi
tried to git any money from the bank. Why couldn't hi
tell us all this before we sweated our hearts out planting
his crop of tobacco.
THE LAND OF COTTON
(Reaching for his gun in his holster)
Shut your damn mouth, Clintl
fou want me to shut my mouth when I ain't got a piece
)f meat nor a dust of meal in the barrel. If you want to
mnow, it's hunger making me talk. And I'll say to Ben
fackson's face that he ain't treating' us fair. All he want
s for us to work our life out so he can turn us off with
nothing to do. It ain't fair, I say! It ain't-
1 said shut up, Clint!
Hold on, Jeff. You talk about fairness, Clint. Well, do
rou think it fair for me to be responsible for your eating
md you a grown man with a family? I'm not your daddy.
Pf course I don't want to see nobody starve. If you
haven't anything to eat, come by the house, and I'll see
Ohat you get a meal or two. Any the rest of you boys can
to the same thing. You boys been good to me; and I'll
tick by you as long as I can.
Smeal or two won't do no good. How're we a goin' to
|ve when we can't raise no crop. You plantation owners
ust got together to starve us out, that's all.
S(Knocking Clint into the tobacco bed)
Now, will you shut your damn mouth.
. (Springing up and rushing at him)
tou red faced son- -
36 THE LAND' OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
(Knocking him down again)
Get up again and I'll knock your teeth out.
(Clint jumps up again to rush at Jeff. Gurry grab
him and holds him)
You hadn't ought to hit him, Mr. Jeff. He didn't meat
(Red with anger)
Who told you to butt in, Nigger? I've a good mind. t
haul off and let you have one, too.
(Flinging Clint aside and squaring away for a fight)
I don't want to give nobody no trouble; but you ain
goin' to hit me, white man-and nobody in this count
(The men back away fearful at the audacity of Gur
challenging the Riding Boss. Jeff realizes if he bac
down, he'll never control the men again. So he a
vances with his hand on his pistol. Ben Jackson spring.
Hold on there! Both of you! Jeff, I don't want you to
hitting these boys.
(His face red with anger)
One day you're a goin' jes' a little too far, and then you'
find yourself dangling from a white oak limb.
Hold on, Jeff. Let me attend to this.
(Turning to Gurry and Clint)
F THE LAND OF COTTON 37
Gurry, both you and Clint been shooting your mouths off
too much here lately. You wouldn't get off so light,
Gurry, if it won't for your pa. Uncle Jim was just as good
a darkey friend as I ever saw. Now they tell me you have
gone so far as to hold meetings to discuss what we shall
do with our farms.
Pa was good to you 'cause he never spoke up for his rights.
You'd better be warned before it's too late. Don't you
Ever stand up to a white man like this any more as long
as you live. Now get off my plantation; and don't you let
,me hear no more about meetings, nor see you on my
S(Gurry opens his mouth as if to speak, controls himself
and picks up his overall jumper and goes out left.
Jeff then turns to Clint.)
int, you been entirely too foolish with your talk. I tried
treat you right by offering you a few meals. That didn't
em to suit you; so I'll give you till tomorrow morning
;o get off my place. If I find you in my house tomorrow
homing, I'll get a team of mules and dump every damn
ing you own in that nest of pines by the county road.
ow get off my place.
S(Clint realizes it is no use to fight further so he goes
off after Gurry. Ben Jackson turns to the others)
anybody else got anything to say? Speak up if you want
(Nobody says anything. Ben Jackson goes to the right-
11 you white boys come over here.
(They follow him)
38 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
You know your poll tax is due next week. How man)
I tell you what I'll do. I'll pay them for you so you boys
can vote next fall. We got a good sheriff in office. You
boys might want to vote to keep him there. Understand
(Nobody says a word to this. They are too disturbed
inwardly to talk. Ben Jackson walks out to his horse
Come on, Jeff.
(Turning to the men)
You boys git on back up to the field and start planting
We still got a little time left before dinner.
(He walks out. Soon you can hear him and Ben Jack
son riding away. Some of the timid ones leave. Mosi
of them remain, too stunned to do anything for thl
present. Eugene goes with them.)
Wal, Ben Jackson is a said his say.
And what a moufful.
Good God! I dunno whar I'll git the next meal from.
(Hanging his head)
What we poor folks a goin' to do God only knows!
Ah wonder what's gwine to happen to the union?
Wish I knowed.
THE LAND OF COTTON
(Turning around facetiously)
Ladees and gentlemen- dis is how de battle shapes up
at present. Over in dis condor sits Battlin' G61iah- -dat
means Ben Jackson, de shurf, and de county gov'mint.
iNow in dis condor- -Lemme see ef Ah can see him.
Naw, but it belong to Little David. Dat mean de union
%we's gwine to form. Now Little David ain't even in his
condor. He ain't even in his dressing room. So Ah'm
Putting ma money on Big Battlin' Goliah.
Don't fugit David socked hell outta Goliah.
>I reckon your jokes would be funny as hell, Caleb, if so
many bellies won't empty.
S'pose you's right, Glen. 'Tain't no time to make jokes.
iKinda glad you see that, Caleb. These plantation owners
.been had everything their way since slavery time 'cause
,they ain't had no opposition. But by God they's a goin'
to git it now, believe me. They might lick us in the end;
'but I'll be damned if they won't have to scrap like hell!
Stay here boys. I'm a goin' down to the spring to git
40 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
THE LAND OF COTTON
Gurry's home three week's later. This dilapidated cot,
tage is so arranged that the front of the house faces the
audience. The room is a little wider than the stage'j
proscenium arch thereby shutting off the exterior view
on the right and left. The house itself makes a second
proscenium arch just back of the natural one of the stage,
The rotting shingle roof forms the top of this innel
proscenium. There is a rock chimney sticking up abbvi
on the left and an extension of roof which gives the imt
pression of covering another room which turns out to b,
the kitchen. The chimney is thus in the middle of thE
house between two rooms. A lacy network of leaves car
be seen above the roof.
The right and left sides of the house come down n na
row widths of unpainted weather boarding which fork
the two sides of the inner arch formed by the ho
Since the room is larger than the natural stage opening'
the right strip contains the door, only half of which ca
be seen from the audience. The left strip contains a wi
dow, only half of which is visible. The other half is
the section cut out to give a view into the interior.
The room gives the impression of refinement amid abje!
poverty. The house is not plastered on the inside, hence
the walls are the interior view of the weather boarding
with the studding rising here and there. The ceiling which
once has been papered, is now peeling. Yellow rings at
here and there where it has had leaks when raining.
In addition to the half window over in the left fror
strip, there are two others. One is in center back and th
THE LAND OF COTTON
bther is on the right. Clean figured curtains hang before
these. On the left is the fireplace. On the downstage side
of this is a door which leads into the kitchen, and the
attic over the kitchen.
For amateur productions this description of the set can
e changed to a typical cabin interior with doors on the
eight and left and a window on the right and in the back.)
The furniture is arranged for a "feast". This is a kind
f bazaar where food and refreshments are sold for charit-
ble purposes. All the furniture is arranged around the
des of the room, leaving the center clear for dancing.
addition to the regular furniture, extra benches and
hairs are added.
n the right side, under the window, is a long home made
bench. Chairs are pushed back against the wall on the
stage and downstage sides of it. Before the window in
e back is a long table covered with a red table cloth.
ruits, candies, roast meats, cakes, and other things to sell
e arranged on it. It is pushed out from the wall far
ough to allow a person to stand behind it to do the
Ailing. On the right of the table is an old fashioned
ettee. On the left is a square table, a chair, and an old
hioned whatnot in the upper left corner. This is filled
ith cheap bric-a-brac. On each side of the fireplace is a
air to match the settee. A home made bench is placed
fore the fire. Other chairs and tables are placed con-
iently about. The seats of these chairs are made of
iite oak splits, elm bark, or corn shucks.
here is a lamp on the table and one on the mantlepiece.
these are already lighted because it is twilight. The dy-
g rays of the sun light up the sky above the roof, and
back of the window. It gradually grows darker as the
ne progresses. In addition to the lamp, an alarm clock,
d other miscellaneous pieces are on the mantlepiece;
d pictures of dead relatives in huge bronze frames hang
e and there on the walls.
42 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
At the opening of the curtain, Gurry is reading a book.
Hilda, his wife, is taking lemon and peppermint sticks of
candy from boxes and arranging them on the table. Cog-
gin, who has come early, is busy moving the chairs out,
of the center of the room. Gurry is dressed in a faded
blue suit which has seen constant wear. Coggin is dressed
in a scorpion colored suit with extreme peg top trousers
with large silver buckles on the side. Hilda is a young
woman grown prematurely old from worry and hardships.
She is a motherly type. Although she does not talk very
much, she expresses her concern for things more by her
looks and actions. She is dressed in a cheap figured calico
dress with her hair done up into a knot on her neck.
(Looking at Gurry)
Why don't you put that book down for a few minutes and
help Coggin move these chairs back, Gurry?
Can't stop right now. Got to finish this passage in order
to be ready for the meeting.
That old Sharecropper Union's goin' to be the death of
you yet. The whole thing's crazy, ain't I right, Coggin?
Ah don't mind moving de chairs back; but Ah'd better
keep ma dime outa Union business.
You can't make Coggin tell a lie.
Well, he knows it ain't a lie that you're staying out nigh
after night killing yourself until almost daybreak. Yo
ought to give it up.
THE LAND OF COTTON
Talk sense. You know we've gone too far now.
I'm worried to death. I'm so afraid something will hap-
(Putting the book on the mantlepiece and getting up)
Something going to happen all right; but it ain't what
you think. We got this whole county organized like an
army now. We set up the last branch here tonight after
What you going to do then?
We're going to talk turkey to Ben Jackson and the planta-
ion owners, that's what. We're going to stop this busi-
ess of running sharecroppers off the place with nothing
ou might think so; but I don't. The plantation owners
I't going to stand for nobody telling them what to do,
t alone a union where white and colored are mixed up.
hat's what everybody's been saying all the time, so no-
dy ain't had nerve to do anything and see if it's the
th. The plantation owners here are the same as the
ers in the factories up north. They'll talk if we get
union with enough power.
hat's a mighty big "if".
44 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
'Tain't as big as it used to be. We've at least got the:
(An old brown-skinned woman hobbles in from the-
left. She is dressed in an old fashioned black dress)
Union! Union! Union! That's all you hear in this house!
What are you saying, Mother?
(Sitting in the chair on the upstage side of the fire-.
Come heah, son.
Ah'll go out in de kitchen and squeeze de lemons for de,
Thank you, Coggin. You're so helpful.
(Coggin exits. Gurry sits on the bench near his
What is it, Mother?
You's grieving yo poor old mammy's heart out.
But what am I doing, Mother?
Hit's this union, son. Hit's a hard luck devil driver rush-
ing you over de drink o' ruin. De white folks got de power
down heah, and no laborin' folks kin do nothing 'bou
THE LAND OF COTTON
I was just telling him the same thing.
But what white folks? You don't mean Clint, and Eugene,
and Glen. They're just as bad off as we. That's why we
formed the union.
Ah don't mean dem. I mean de rulin' white folks. Dey's
de ones dat run things, and dey don't want all dis mixing
of races. Hit's all right and Christian to do so; but all de
same you's headin' straight for trouble on de main line
track. Ah knows dat.
You go upstairs, mother, until the feast is over. We'll talk
about it after we get through.
(Getting up wearily)
You've always listened to your mammy 'cause you knows
she's right. You won't listen now. You don't want me
around Ah'll go. Ah'll go.
EMother, don't be foolish. You know better than that.
Al scuffled and skimped to help yo pa buy dese few acres,
Spin' Ah'd have somewhere to spend ma last days and
ie in peace. Now all dis turmoil and trouble. Ah al-
ays wanted a sto'bought coffin and a big funeral at de
st Baptist church; but if you keep messin' wid dis
ion, Ah won't git dat. Ah knows Ah'd rise up outer
Grave if Ah was put away in a home made coffin in a
auper's grave. Ah wants to rest in peace when Ah goes.
46 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
Oh, stop talking about dying, mother. You'll live to see
many more of us pushing up daisies. But you must re-
member times have changed, mother. The old ways don't
seem to work no more.
But dese new ways ain't working' neither. Dey shortly ain't
making ma end any happier.
You go along upstairs and rest yourself, mother. I'll
promise you one thing if it'll make you feel easier. What-
ever happens, you'll not be buried in a home made coffin.
I'll see to that if it's the last thing I do.
(Relieved, she looks up and prays)
0 God! Make him do de right thing. Make him do de
(She hobbles out)
Poor mother. This is the first time I've realized she's
She told you to give up this union because she knows that
at the first sign of trouble these poor whites'll leave you
to the mobs and the lynchers.
I uster think so, too; but I've changed my mine. These
poor whites are beginning to learn that color is used to
keep both groups down more than anything else.
All that might be true; but you ought to let somebody
else do it.
THE LAND OF COTTON
We've been doing that too long now, and nobody never
did. We can't leave these things to somebody else no
longer. We've got to do it.
(Changing her mood)
I know; but I'm afraid.
(Going over and putting his arms around her)
There! There! You ain't got nothing to worry about.
I was in more- danger than this in France. Come on let's
go out and freeze the egg custard. We're organizing the
last branch tonight, and all will be over.
(Wiping her eyes with her apron)
I hope so. The Lord knows I hope so. I guess I'm just
plain silly to worry; but I just can't help it.
(Lifting up her chin and looking into her eyes)
You've got to be brave, honey. Remember the worst is
(A knock on the door leading to the kitchen)
(Clint, and his wife, Della, and his father, Lee, come
in. Della is a dried up white woman. She wears a
faded blue dress so old that her slip shows through the
holes here and there. Lee is a bent, weazened man of
medium height. His overalls have been patched many
times. They still show holes, however. He has a pasty,
clayish color. Both he and Della seem on the verge of
48 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLA'
The children are asleep so we all came down to see
we can help, Hilda.
Well, we's about through now. We's finished everythi-
except the egg custard; and I think Coggin's started th
Sure there ain't something? We don't mind turning
I'll go out and see. If anything turns up, I'll call you
We hated to hafta come on you like this, Gurry.
Think no more about it, Clint. Sorry we got only th
attic; but you're welcome to stay there as long as you like
That's better'n living in the bushes. I tried all over th,
county to git a house. Everybody must a heard 'bout Bel
Jackson running me off.
That's sure tough, Clint, but you can stay in here as lonI
as you like. I've got to go in here and help Coggin tun
that ice cream freezer.
(Going towards the kitchen door)
Tell Hilda to be sure and let me know if she needs me.
O. K. (Exits)
THE LAND OF COTTON
(In a high, rasping voice)
.es' go on up to the attic and go to bed. Whacha staying
in't in no hurry, pa.
iad nuff coming here without setting around where every-
iody can see you.
het up, pa.
don't know 'bout you; but I'd rather stayed down in de
bushes and starved to death like a hound dawg than to
ome to a Nigger fer food and shelter.
Ihet up, pa! Gurry'll hear you.
Don't kere if he do. Whar's yo pride? When I was your
ge, Clint, I'd never thought 'bout going to no Nigger
(Trying to keep him quiet)
Things done changed a whole lot since you was my age,
5a. In your day white men didn't drive white men off'n
plantations and wouldn't give them a house to stay in-
cepting, of course, they was Yankees.
We fout them Yankees like men, and suffered a dern
iight, too; but we didn't go to Niggers fer help. We was
White men and had pride.
50 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAY-
But what good is your pride when you's starving to death"
What's the use'n being white less'n you can take care ol
your family? You old folks figgered out your problem|
the way you thought best and by God we's got to do th.
If this what you call figgering them out, you ain't c\ei
learned to add much less'n cipher.
What's the matter wid Gurry? I see you set down and
et as much sorghum and streak-o'-lean as we did. I didn't
see you refuse no corn pone and clabber milk neitheri
And if you ask me, it's much better'n going down in the
gully and eating clay. I ain't a going to live off'n no pride
and stay in no bushes like a hound.
'Twon't no use'n me refusing nothing and the rest o0
you gobbling up everything like a shoat.
You ought'n complain so much then. You can do \wha
you like; but me and Della is a staying here until we can
git something to do. No white man ain't even asked mi
to do that much in this county.
Things bound to git better, pa. They can't git no worse
They's bound to git better now since de union's formed
(Eugene comes from the right outside and knocks on
THE LAND OF COTTON
See who 'tis knocking, Clint, so Hilda won't have to come
from the other room.
(Opening the door)
Howdey, Clint, Mis' Della, Mr. Lee!
What's up, Eugene?
Nothing in particular. Jes' dropped by to see if I could
help you out any. Thought you'd a been able to git a
place by now.
Ain't found nothing to do yit!
You see where we aire- -
L (Cutting him off)
het up, pa. Eugene said he came to see me.
thought t I'd let you know we could let you have a bit of
neat and meal and a few black-eyed peas if you ain't got
hank's, Eugene! I'll git them rations tomorrow.
that's all right. Glad to do it.
52 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAY
But how come you to be having meat and meal to be
Got my "doodlem" book t'other day. Git ma rations or
time now at de commissary.
And Clint would a been doing the same if he hadn't a
flew off'n de handle at Ben Jackson that day.
(Not paying any attention to him)
You and Jeff stand shoulder to shoulder dese days, don'i
Aw naw. We ain't pulling in no double harness. He je
gimme some day's work, dat's all. What you a going to d,
He ain't a gwine to do nothing. He's a waiting fer d
union to do everything fer him.
I said shet up, pal
You know 'tis true. You jes' a moved up here today 'caui
you know dat infernal union is meeting here tonight.
Sh! Shl Shl Pal
THE LAND OF COTTON
nobody asked you for that.
lut I'm a telling you jes' de same. You white men ought
) have better sense than to jine a union wid Niggers.
[ain't a gwine to 'mount to nothing. I'll tell all them
at come here tonight.
ou ain't a going to tell nothing 'cause you ain't a com-
ag in whar the union's at. Nobody can tell what's a go-
ig to 'mount to something less'n they try it.
(Fidgeting towards the door)
think I'd better hit de grit, Clint. Don't fergit to stop
y fer that meat and meal, and peas.
til h obliged to you, Eugene, Good bye!
;ood bye, Eugene!
(Eugene comes slowly out of the door. Just as soon as
he closes it, however, he darts out right.)
(Turning back from the door)
'on hadn't ought a said what you did before Eugene, Pa.
/al, what I said was true, ain't it?
ut you can't never tell 'bout Eugene. I don't trust him.
0mething quar the way he got his "doodlem" book to
t rations on time from the commissary and nobody else
.It ain't like Jeff to do nothing like that.
54 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAY
It sure ain't.
Yeah, and it ain't fer white men-
Aw, cut it out, pa. Come on git in bed.
(Going towards the kitchen door)
Come on, Della.
(She follows Clint and Lee through the door. Before
she can get out of the room, however, there are mu\
fled sounds of talking in the back of the theatre
Several people burst out laughing. Deas Green star
playing his guitar and singing as they march down th,
center aisle and up through the entrance door.)
(Playing and singing)
Fair Brown, oh, Fair Brown,
Who may your regular be?
Fair Brown, oh, Fair Brown,
Who may your regular be?
The reason I ask you,
Might be a chance for me.
(Coming in from the kitchen and calling out as De
approaches the door)
Come on in, Deas, I hear you picking that box.
(They enter the house. This is the only group to ent
down the center aisle. The others enter from t
right. Deas is somewhat inclined to be stout. He,
wearing a blue overall jacket, blue peg legged trouse
a light blue shirt, and a red tie. Caleb, Minnie, an
several other men and women comprise the group
Hilda comes from the kitchen wiping her hands on h
apron. Minnie is an earnest kind of country girl. S
THE LAND OF COTTON
is dressed in a blue flowered dress. Caleb has on a
light green suit with an extreme cut of the "peg top"
trousers. The other people are dressed in country
What! Ain't nobody heah?
Plenty more will be along presently. 'Rest your things.
Dey'd better hurry up and come. If I's gwine to play dis
ox tonight, plenty wimmen must be heah to shake by
(Taking some of the hats and coats)
Don't worry. They'll be here all right.
Minnie will you help sell for a few minutes?
Ssho will, Mis' Lambert.
(She goes behind the table. Some of the men and
women in the group give their hats and coats to Gurry
and Hilda. Others just go back into the kitchen and
(Going up to the table)
now anybody coming, Minnie?
at new gal, Flossie Waters dat lives over by de crick,
dd me she'd be heah. She's jes' got back home.
(Jumping up and down with the delight of a child)
eat-day-in-the-mawningl Ah'll play ma fingers to de
56 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAY
I'm leaving on dat 'fo day train.
I'm leaving on dat 'fo day train.
I done got masef in trouble in dis town,
And I'm leaving on dat 'fo day train.
How's dat, Caleb?
Dat's a bo-didly! Dey sho can stomp by dat.
(Another group enters. Those inside go up to thi
table and start buying the things. In the new groupi
are some older farmers and their wives, some youngi
ones including "Pal" Brown, who is dressed in a flash
style. They take off their hats and coats)
(Running up to "Pal" Brown and kissing him)
Why heah is "Pal" Brown! What you say dere, "Pal"?
(Following her and shouting loudly)
Look what de cat done drug in! Whar in de debbil di
you come from, "Pal"?
Been boozin' 'round Harlem for awhile. Blew in on thl
Great-balls-of-firel You knows Ah'm gwine to play ml
fingers to de bone. "Pal" Brown is heah.
Any new broads 'round, Deas?
Few. Ah believe Minnie said a new glad mommer, Flo
sie Waters, is coming.
THE LAND OF COTTON
(Turning from the table)
he sho is. All de gals'll go crazy 'bout you when dey see
(Standing off and looking in an admiring manner)
Dey will dat. Yo hair is suttingly got straight and good
joking since you went up no'th. Hit's purty and slick.
ou is a dude now, ain't you, "Pal"?
ad de kinks took out befo' I left Harlem; but 'tain't
nothing. to me. 'Tain't nothing to me!
ut you sho looks good, boy. Don't he, Caleb?
ooks like a new thin dime.
don't shoot dat bull to me, Deas. I'se been up no'th and
kows a thing or two. 'Tain't nothing to me!
;ou jes' wait 'till Flossie Waters gits heah. She'll set
losses wid you.
ou know I'se a rooster's baby when it comes to wimmen.
I'1 smoke huh over, and ef she suits me- well you
ows yo little "Pal."
(Slapping "Pal" on the back)
oy, you'se all right wid me. Heah, Minnie, give "Pal"
drink on me.
't seed nothing yit.
58 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAY|
(Calling to Hilda who is coming in with a water pail
Any licker, Hilda?
(Putting the pail on the table and taking her place be
hind the table)
Nothing but lemonade, Deas.
Well, Ah'll be John-Brown! Whoever heard of a feasi
without licker? Why dat stuff'll sell when all dis pep'mini
candy and ginger snaps won't. Wal, "Pal" Ah guess we'I
have to take some of this sissy water.
(Hilda pours two glasses of pink lemonade. As the)
drink it, there is noise of more people arriving)
Heah dey come!
Help them take their things off, Minnie. Then you car
go. Thank you for helping me.
(Minnie goes and takes some of the coats. Gurry help,
her. There are various greetings as the new arrival
see old friends. Among the newcomers is Flossil
Waters. She is a vampish creature and is just a
flashily dressed as "Pal")
(Catching Deas by the arm)
Is dat Flossie?
Yeah, man, dat's huh.
Boy she's ready! She's purty as a speckled pup! Knoc
me down to huh.
THE LAND OF COTTON 59
(Pulling "Pal" over to meet her)
Ais' Waters, 'low me to make you 'quainted wid ma
(Casting a roguish eye at him)
'se sho glad to meet you, "Pal."
t ain't you dat's glad, Brown Sugar!
)h, I see. You got a line, eh? A long line?
4ight be long, sweet mommer; but hit's true sometimes.
knd hit's sho de Gawd's truth when Ah tell you, you's
ot de worl' in a jug.
h take dat flattery off'n you.
(Coming in from the kitchen with a large donkey
drawn on a cloth and a piece of red string in his hand)
anybodyy want to pin de donkey's tail. Five cents!
(Grabbing Caleb around the neck and bending him
Veah! Come on pin dis donkey's tail.
(Snatching the red cloth from Coggin and pinning it
behind on Caleb's coat)
Yeah, boy! Ah done pinned a red tail on de donkey
\ (Snatching aloose from Deas and bristling up)
'urn me loose, you bald headed turkey buzzard. Is you
60 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLA
losing every bit o' sense you inherited. De next time y
do dat, I swar 'fore Gawd Ah'll full yo' mouf full
(Bristling up too)
Aw shut up, black spasm. You can't bull me. Jes' ma
(Holding up his arm so his muscle stands out)
\ Ah'll take ma African soup bone and separate yo min
From yo understanding.
De boys am off!
What you say to dat, Caleb?
(Underneath this exaggerated bravado, there is a spirit
of fun. Each one tries to out do each other in calling
names. The others press around to see how it is com
Listen, Plug Ugly:
Ah don't want tuh start no ruckus, but Ah ain't d
kind to let nobody shoe shine on ma behind.
(Everybody laughs heartily)
Ah g'wan and talk, you muffle jawed buzzard. Ah'm yo
match. Strike me and Ah'll light on you.
(Coggin holds Deas)
De man ain't bawn, and his grandpappy's dead dat'll light
on Caleb, much less'n an onion headed skunk lak you,
Turn him loose. Ah'll take ma frog sticker and cut his
goozle string! Ah ain't scared of no bloated up wind bag
THE LAND OF COTTON
(Trying to calm things)
Lw stop all dis racket. You both is crazy as a bed bug.
Turn him loose!
(He dances around shadow boxing. They turn Deas
loose. He darts at Caleb with his guitar raised)
nobody gwine to put me in no dozens.
(Caleb takes one look and darts into the kitchen.
Everybody laughs heartedly)
)e boys sho did do a mean piece of woofin'.
Pey sho did.
.es' dance. Les' dance de eight han' set!
Ih's ready to pick de box.
who'll call figgers?
)ne time Gurry'd call figgers all night. But Ah s'pose
We's too busy wid de union dese days to call figgers at a
leah, Gurry's too serious.
(Running over to Gurry who has been talking to some
li, Gurry; did you heah dat?
62 THE LAND OF
What dat, Deas?
De boys said you
COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
was too old and
serious to call figgers
Who said it?
If they think that, you tell three of them to get their
pardners. I'll take Minnie. I'll show them.
Gurry is gwine to call de figgers! Git yo pawdners fuh de
eight hand' set!
Jeruselem! Lemme git in dis.
(He runs over and snatches a little girl from the crowd.
Instead of resenting this, she smiles sweetly)
Go on and dance wid Mis' Waters, "Pal."
hosses wid you.
All right, Brown Sugar?
Anything you say, Honey.
Don't say dat. Anything is a big, large word, Baby Chile.
When Ah says anything to you, Big Boy, Ah means
THE LAND OF COTTON
You all heard de man de fust time! Git yo pawdners.
Strike up dat box, Deas, you lopsided beetle hound. We
want music, and we don't mean maybe.
You do de dancing, and I'll do de pickin' on dis box,
you buck-tooth hippopotamus.
(Running up to Flossie)
Can Ah hab dis dance?
Sorry but dis one is gagedd.
Don't feel sorry for dat Buzzard. You'se wid "Pal" Brown
And what does dat mean?
"Hit means you is wid de lovingest papa in de New Ninted
Make me know it, big he man. Make me know it.
Gimme time, Brown Sugar, gimme time.
e's ready, Gurry.
(Gurry and Minnie get into position. Caleb and his
girl are next, then a young man, Carvey and his girl
and finally "Pal" Brown and Minnie.)
Slil' music, Deas, a lil' music!
64 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
(Striking up "When Hannah Left Savannah" on his
guitar and singing in a loud raucous tone.)
When Hannah was in Savannah
She knew how to pass that lovin' 'round
She vamped all the men, even preachers, too.
They had to make her leave that town.
Play dat thing, Deas, you old simlin-headed baboon, play
Well, you asked for it, didn't you!
Let 'er ride, Gurry, let 'er ride!
(Barking like an army officer giving orders)
Gentlemen in the center ... back and swing .. promen-
ade around ...
(Others in the crowd form a semi-circle around the
dancers. They clap their hands, shout commands la
them, and frequently get inside the square and do a
few impromptu steps themselves.)
Call 'em, Gurry! Call 'em!
Fall back one fall back two fall back three ...
swing when you get home.
THE LAND OF COTTON
S When Hannah left Savannah,
The preacher had nowhere to get his brew.
Said "Look a here deacon, you must get her back.
Or doggone I'm leaving, too."
Swing huh, Gurry! Swing huh!
SAh sees you, Flossie!
Swing your opposite pardner swing your own again
S. fourth gentleman of the head, sweep the floor...
(When this number is called, the person goes into the
center of the ring and does a specialty number. Since
"Pal" is the fourth, he starts off. The other persons
in the dance join in with the crowd and clap hands as
this is being done.)
Strut your stuff, "Pal" Brown!
Showt dem how dey do it in Harlem!
("Pal" does some intricate steps and then goes into
Ah, do it, Mr. "Pal"I
"Pal" Brown kin mortally do dat Charleston!
Sw\ing your pardners...promenade around...fall back
ne.... two.. three.. .swing when you get home...
top squeezin' dat gal, Calebl
66 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER P
Swing dat jelly roll, papa!
When Hannah left Savannah,
The whole town began to moan.
All the stores closed;
There was weeping "galosed."
That's nothing when a good gal's gone.
Gentlemen in the center...ladies join hands and cir
'round... back... gentlemen bend your heads and la
make the fruit basket .. circle 'round. ..back ... break
swing your opposite pardners...swing your own...
Oh, play dat box, Mr. Deas!
Call 'em, Gurryl Call 'em!
Fourth lady of the head, sweep the floor...
Great God "Ant" Suzyl
(Flossie comes out. She does a combination of th
shimmy, snake hips, and Hawaiian Hula)
Shake dat thing, Flossiel
Roll it, mama, lak de waves roll in de seal
Shake dat Jelly roll!
She's sho switching a mean fannyl
THE LAND OF COTTON 67
ing your opposite pardners...swing your own and
cle right... Swing at the home plate...
Sgot ma eyes on you, Caleb!
Don't know who dis is Ah got; but boy she sho got
urth couple, sweep the floor second third .
ossie and "Pal" is sho Gawd doin' dat Lindyl
great Gawd from Zion!
ook at dem bumpin'!
Now dey's truckin'.
Boy he's a bitch on wheels
Back and swing... promenade around... fall back one...
wo.... three.. swing when you get home. ..
Call dem decimals, Gurryl Call 'em!
(Some white farmers come in from the right. They
knock on the door. Someone opens it.)
Lawd hit's de white folks!
(The dance suddenly stops)
68 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAY
(Pushing his way through the crowd)
That's all right! Let them in!
(Several white sharecroppers come in. Some are lea
and hungry looking. Some are dressed about as th
Negroes, others are in their overalls.)
Ain't Glen got here yit?
Not yet. Expecting him any minute though.
(Turning to the group)
All the men, stay in the room for a meeting. The women
will please go to the kitchen. We won't be long.
(Hilda leads the women out)
Go on wid dem, Caleb. He mean you, too.
You bandy-legged toad frog, don't you incenerate I'#
You boys sho lak to beat yo gums, don't you?
We's got to have a meeting You two set down and sto1
jawin' befo' you cut a hawg.
(Shouting after Hilda)
Tell Clint to come in.
Whut kind of a meeting is dis wid de white folks?
Ain't you heard? We's formin' a union.
THE LAND OF COTTON
ad to have a feast to throw off de shurf.
ot a chaw, Bud?
lievee I got one.
(He fumbles in his pocket and gives a twist of tobacco
to the sharecropper. He takes a bite, walks over to
the fireplace and sends a stream of juice into it. He
then wipes his mouth with the back of his hand)
ANOTHER WHITE CROPPER
(Pulling Gurry aside)
Come here, Gurry!
What you want?
J really hates to ask you; but can't you gimme a chicken
bone or something. To tell the truf, I ain't et nothing in
(Uncovering the food on the table)
S(He gets a piece of chicken and gives it to him. The
Sman eats like a half starved dog.)
(Coming in from the kitchen)
Heard you boys when you came in.
(Glen and several more come in and knock at the door)
Come in, Glen. Been waiting for you.
70 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER P
Where is Clay Sherman?
Be on directly.
A man useter could farm; but he can't do that no m
Naw, the bottom done dropped plumb outa it.
(A knock. Clay and a few more enter)
Come in. We're waiting for you.
Hi Fellows! How are you, Glen?
I guess we's ready to start now, Gurry.
(Putting the square table and a chair for Glen
You can start when you get ready.
(Knocking on the table)
Order! Order! We's now ready to begin the meet
First we'll listen to Clay Sherman.
You know all the conditions here as well as I do.
know that you were cheated out of practically all
money due you under the AAA when you plowed up yo
THE LAND OF COTTON 71
ton. You know you're not making enough to educate
ur children. You know of the evictions and starvations.
ld now has come this recent trouble, the turning of the
rms into a system of day labor. I'll tell you what's back
That. Well, the landlords have found that they can
se a crop in 125 days. They intend to pay you, that is
ose of you fortunate enough to get a job, from fifty to
enty five cents a day for these 125 days, and after that
t you starve or get relief from the government. In other
words they intend to introduce new machinery like the
rtton picker, turn the farms into a factory and pay you
ir the time you work like they do in the factories up
ood God! You don't mean it!
.hat's what they're doing, all right!
es. That is what they're doing, and the only way we can
op them is to do what they did up north; form a union,
strong union, to fight these evictions, the crooked book-
eeping, the inadequate relief, the poor education, and all
ie other troubles here on the farms. With a strong union
e can draw up a model contract and make the planta-
on owners live up to it. We can petition the govern-
Lent to help by spending some of its millions in helping
)u and your families to buy land yourselves. This can
aly be done, however, by having one big union of all
ie sharecroppers, both white and black. We can either
5 this or keep on starving.
(He sits down)
ranches of the union's been formed over the rest of the
)unty. The real question now is whether we want to
>rm a branch here and join with the others.
72 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAY
Ef it's good enough for the rest of the county, it's gooI
enough for me.
You mean us!
Let's have the union.
We's all agreed!
One of the first things all them other branches did was
to agree to go on a strike the first minute the shur'f 'rested
anybody belonging to the union. Will you 'gree to that
Show me your hands!
(All hands go up)
Sure! If others can we can, too! That goes without talk
Wal, that's done. Let's get it clar, however, that meanr
nobody in the union will work for no plantation ownei
if we go on a strike...
We know that!
The next thing to do is to 'lect our officers. But before
we go into that I want Gurry here to read you some of thi
other agreementss the other branches 'greed to.
(He goes to the whatnot and gets a cheap composition
book. While he is turning the pages looking for th
information, the sheriff followed by Jeff and som
deputies march down the center aisle and surround
the house. The sheriff whispers something to the twi
THE LAND OF COTTON
men. They go around the side of the house.)
4ow this is what we all adopted- -
(A shot breaks the window pane in the back of the
rear wall. There is consternation among the men.
The sheriff hammers on the door.)
)pen up in the name of the lawl
(The women crowd into the room screaming)
kh knowed something would happen!
That is'we gwine to do?
?pen that door or we'll break it down!
better open the door!
(Gurry opens the door. The sheriff and Jeff and the
deputies enter with drawn guns)
lo you're having a meeting instead of a feast?
,ood evening, Sheriff! What do you want?
o it's you, eh? Wal, you'll know what I want soon
enough. You put one over on us the other week. I
Inowed all the time you won't what you pretended to be.
$ut nobody'll save you this time.
m not trying to get away.
74 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
Got wind of what you was doing two days ago. Hopping
'round the county trying to organize Niggers and white
folks into a union and start trouble. We got you nowl
We'll show you how we handle reds in this here county.
Who're the other leaders in this here mess?
Who're the others I say?
I know this bunch. I'll find out for you, Sheriff.
All right, Jeff. Go ahead.
(Walking around nonchalantly at first. He suddenly
whips out his gun and points it at Caleb) '
Who're the other leaders here, Caleb?
I-I-I-that is we was having a feast- -
Don't want to know a damn thing about no feast. Who'
I-I-I, now this feast was-
(Jeff hits him in the mouth and knocks him down.
woman screams. The men surge forward but are m
with drawn revolvers. Another woman gives a mu
Take them screaming wenches out of here.
(The women are herded back into the kitchen by t
deputies. Caleb is still on the floor rubbing his jaw
THE LAND OF COTTON 75
Git up off the floor, Nigger, and tell me who the leaders
is here, or I'll kick your teeth down your throat. Who're
the leaders, I say?
(Pushing through the crowd)
,Don't hit him no more. I'm one.
Is you all beside this Clay?
'Any you darkeys mixed up in this?
INo, we're to blame. Just Glen and me.
If any of them was, they'd be too god damned scared to
That ain't true. I'm one.
Why in hell didn't you keep your mouth shut, Gurry?
We're all in this together.
Whar you staying at, Clint?
'm staying here for the present.
76 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
You mean your family is staying here.
(To the sheriff)
Can you imagine that? Staying in the house with a Nig-
ger. We ought to hang him for that.
You'd rather me to stay out doors where you put me,
None of that sassy talk. Get over there with the others.
We'll learn you some manners.
Take Caleb along, too. He wants to learn to answer
questions when a white man talks to him.
Take the five outside. Guard them closely. If they try
to get away, shoot to kill.
(They are pushed roughly out by the deputies and off
to the right. The sheriff follows and pauses at the
door.) Now the rest of you scatter to home damn
quick. You ain't to meet in this county for nothing
no more. If I hear of any meeting at all for anything,
I'll lock the whole bunch up.
(He exits. The women push into the room in con-
fusion. Hilda, Della and Martha push their way
through the crowd.)
They got Gurryl They got Gurry!
(Sitting down and rocking in grief)
Lawd a mucy! Lawd a mucyl
THE LAND OF COTTON 77
What're they going to do to Clint? What're they going
Ah knowed no union would work!
I told you so!
What're we going to do?
(Standing up on a bench)
Quiet! Some of you asking what's we
|'rested our leaders, ain't dey?
,What does that mean?
'What we gonna do?
gwine to do? Dey've
(All join in shouting)
,TRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!
S(Above the shouts can be heard
Martha and Hilda)
the wailing of Della,
78 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS!
THE LAND OF COTTON
Sheriff Parker's office a week later. This is a dingy room
with a high ceiling. On the right, downstage, is a large
oak door which leads to the outside. Further up along
the wall are two dilapidated chairs made of oak. On the:
left, a large old fashioned fireplace is in the center with'
the same type of dilapidated oak chairs on each side. In-
the back are two large windows with a space of wall!
between them. An old fashioned filing case is in this
space. Two dingy pictures of former sheriffs hang on the
right wall, one over the filing case. Three others are on
the left, one being over the mantlepiece.
An oak desk, which has seen considerable wear, is in the.
middle of the room. There is a rickety desk chair behind.
it and a chair on each side. There is a battered telephone
on the desk, and it is littered with letters and papers. An
old fashioned chandelier hangs over the desk and lights
up the room. It is early evening, and the dying rays of
the sun can be seen through the two windows. The skyN
gradually fades to black as the scene progresses.
At the opening of the curtain, Jeff is sitting in the chair,
on the left of the desk smoking a cigar. Sheriff Parker is
pacing backwards and forwards in the back on the right.
(Blowing out a cloud of smoke)
'Tain't no use'n carrying on so, Sheriff. Set down and
take a load off your feet. Things ain't all that bad.
Wish I thought so. But this damn strike got me worried
Wa-al 'tain't no more'n your fault than nobody else's.
THE LAND OF COTTON
You know it, and I know it; but the trouble is, these
damn planters don't know it.
What do you mean?
I mean they're blaming this whole strike business on me.
IDudley Short stopped me on Main Street this evening and
cussed me out. Said if I had been on the job, that union
never would a organized and struck.
'Oh, Dudley's just shooting' off his mouth. I wouldn't pay
no 'tention to him.
It's all right for you to set there and say that; but if this
trouble don't blow over pretty quick, it'll mean my job,
and with electionn coming up in the fall.
kYou ain't a goin' to lose no job.
|All the same, I got to tell them planters something when
they come here in a few minutes, ain't I?
I reckon they'll give you a lead.
I hope's to hell they do. If it hadn't a been for Ben
Jackson's daughter that day, we'd a had that trouble
maker, Clay, 'cross the county line before he could a done
1l this mischief.
S(Rising and spitting into the fire)
don't do no good to worry 'bout spilt milk, Sheriff. We's
ot to put our heads together on what to do now.
80 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
I thought and I thought; but nothing ain't come to me.
Anything occurred to you?
(Blowing out a cloud of smoke)
Been turning something over in my mind. Ain't nothing
definite yet; but when I starts thinking, something usually
(Looking at his watch)
I'll tell you what. It's time for them planters to come in
now. Wait 'till they go, then come back. I don't know
what they's a goin' to say, and I might need your help.
If I'm not electedd sheriff next time, I'll lose my home and
everything. You know 'tain't nothing else I can git to
do in this town.
(Going to the door)
I'll be back. In the meantime, I'll see what turns up in
I'll look for you, Jeff. By God, I need somebody to stick
(Shelton Davis and Stanley Harris come in. Both are
southern planters. Shelton is large and portly with a
high whining voice. Stanley is tall with a heavy bass
voice. Stanley is opposed to any compromise with the
the agreeing kind.)
(In his high, whining voice)
Ben Jackson ain't come here yet?
THE LAND OF COTTON
Not yet, Mr. Davis!
Howdy, Ned, Howdy, Jeff.
(Both speak to him)
Where's your boss, Jeff?
I reckon he ought to turn up any minute now. If I see
him, I'll tell him you're here and a waiting.
(He opens the door to exit)
Don't forget I want to see you, Jeff.
Q. K. Sheriff.
Hope Ben Jackson won't keep us waiting' long.
He'll be here soon. He's usually on time.
This here strike is a disgrace to the whole county, by
Jesus. Can't get nobody to do a lick of work.
you're sure right, Stanley. If this keeps up, we won't be
ible to raise no crops.
(Biting off a chew of tobacco. He goes over to the
fireplace, spits and turns to the sheriff)
n't you found some way of breaking this here strike,
82 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS.
Not yet, Mr. Harris.
(Sending another stream into the fire)
By Jesus, you'd better get up off your hind parts and d
something, or no telling--
(A knock. Ben Jackson and Newt Thompson coml
in. Newt is small, nervous, and fidgety)
So you beat us to it, Stanley?
By a few minutes.
Things any better over your way, Shelton. Can't get a,
furrow turned on my place.
About the same everywhere in this county, I guess.
Let's get down to business, Ned. I ain't got all night to
help you run your office.
Guess you want to talk about this here strike situation,
ain't that right, Ned?
Wa-al, you see since we had so many Yankee newspaper
men in town, I'd kinda like to get the opinion of the
leading planters as to how to handle this here situation.
Yes, and if them damn Yankee reporters don't stop mis,
representing the south, they'll wake up one of these days
and find some dynamite up thar in their newspaper plants.
Let's not get off on that, Stanley. What is it you want us
to do, Ned?
THE LAND OF COTTON
Wa-al, you know. Kinda give me a idea what you want
y God, we didn't have to come here to tell you that.
W\e want you to break the strike so we can get the hands
back to work. That's what we want! That's what we
,expect, by God!
SThat's right, Stanley. They never should organized in
'the first place.
Wa-al I done the best I could.
By God, you call this the best you could do and we can't
|get our crops in the ground! What the hell would a hap-
pened if you had a done your worse?
Well, if some of you would give me a idea-
All the idea we want is to get our crops in the ground,
'Tain't no use' keep on talking like that, Stanley. This
here thing ain't as easy as that to settle. You know if we
'have too much violence down here now, it won't help our
boys up thar in the senate fighting that thar anti-lynching
hat's right, Ben.
84 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
If you want to know the truth, the banks got us in the
palm of their hands just as we got the sharecroppers. We,
can't do nothing against the banks, and the 'croppers can't
do nothing against us.
The hell you say! They're striking and we're a sitting
here gabbing like old hens.
We can't strike against the banks, that's certain.
Well, before I go any further, I might as well lay my cards'
on the table. I ain't a goin' to let no trashy tenants tell
me what to do. They just ain't a goin' to dictate to'
That's easily said; but how you going to get your crops
in the ground? Anybody got any ideas?
How about you, Sheriff?
I can't think of nothing right now.
You ought to, you're. getting paid to run this office. Ain
I reckon so.
You got any ideas, Shelton?
I think the sheriff ought to put all these here strikers
THE LAND OF COTTON 85
He's already got the leaders in jail and got to turn them
South because they raised bail.
We made it awfully steep, too, but that Clay Sherman
fellow found the money somewhere.
What do you think, Stanley?
I was talking to Alvin Powell today.
What'd he say?
He said as a lawyer he thought all these meetings the
union been having was illegal and against the peace. He
Said it was anarchy, and if we petitioned to the Governor,
he'd send troops of militia down here to put a stop to this
Anarchy. By God, that's what we oughtta do, too.
SWhy then, all we need to do is to tell Ed. to send the
militia down right away. I'll run up to the capitol to see
That might work; but I'm a thinking we might see some
of these here union leaders first. An idea might come to
us how to handle it without bothering Ed.
Well, if the rest of you want to crawl on your knees to
a lot of god damned trashy tenants, you can count me out.
What the hell do they expect? We never could satisfy
them anyway. When we was a furnishing them a home,
86 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS
a garden, stock to work the land with, and all the food
and clothes they needed for the summer, and took only
half of what they raised for our risk, they grumbled. Now
when we want to take our own property and hire people
to work it by the day, we get this here strike. I say not
to say a damn word to any of them.
Just the same, I think we ought to see them. Can you get
Yes. They've raised their bail, and I've got to turn them
The rest of you can talk to them, I'm a goin'.
Hold on, Stanley. Don't get so head strong about it.
Yes, Stanley, you might as well stay on here with the rest
of us. You don't have to talk to them unless you want to.
(Turning back from the door)
I'll stay; but I won't say a damn word. Not a damn word,
do you hear?
The best thing to do is to see them.
I've been reading about these here strikes for years, but
I always looked upon it as Yankee trouble. If anybody
had a told me as short as a month ago that they could a
formed a union down here and struck, I'll be durned if I
wouldn't a called him a liar.
THE LAND OF COTTON
I never thought they'd work on farms either. Farmers
live too far apart. But, by Jesus, they're working all right.
One thing is certain, if something don't happen mighty
quick, I'm going right on up to the capitol and see Ed.
(The door opens and Glen, Gurry, Clint, and Caleb
come in followed by the Sheriff. All are unkempt
from their stay in jail. They are sullen. They stare
at the planters.)
That Clay fellow'll be long in a minute. I let him out
awhile ago. I sent for him.
That's all right, Sheriff. We'd rather talk to our own boys
(Trying to be friendly)
Guess you boys kinda glad to get out of jail.
The sheriff said you want to talk to us.
Sure we want to talk over a few things.
Take the Niggers out, Ned. If we're going to talk, it'll
be with white men.
Oh no you won't. They're a part of the union. If you
want to talk, you'll have to talk to all.
(Who has had his back to them all the time. He turns
88 THE LAND OF COTTON AND OTHER PLAYS!
See what did I tell you? I told you it'd do no good talk-I
ing to a bunch of trash.
I'm surprised to find you mixed up in this, Glen. I al-
ways thought you was more level headed than that.
What did you expect me to do when you turned us off?
Well, what is it you boys want?
Clay Sherman said you know our demands.
We want you to tell us.
We can do that. We want you to recognize the union,.
stop running sharecroppers off the farms, draw up a fair:
contract for sharecroppers, and help the gov'mint work.
out some way we can buy our farms. We think that's fair
We want to eat, live, and work, that's what.
Aren't you ashamed to be mixed up in all this mess
You ought to be. Why your father never would a be
mixed up in something like this.