John L. Handcox: Songs, Poems, and Stories of the Southern Tenant Farmers

John L. Handcox

John L. Handcox
CD  978-0-937058-90-9


In Depression-era Arkansas, tenant farmers came together to fight for better pay, favorable legislation, and better working conditions. They formed a multi-racial, desegragated union called the Southern Tenant Farmer Union. A Tenant farmer himself, John Handcox recognized the injustices of the life of sharecroppers and embraced the union. Becoming involved in union activities, Handcox composed songs and poems that were sung at union meetings and used to raise spirits. In 1937, Handcox made a recording at the Library of Congress. The songs were so popular that some have become standard folksongs themselves, recorded by musicians such as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. This CD represents the work of John Handcox from the 1937 material as well as more recent material that was recorded by the Smithsonian's Center for Folk Life and Cultural Heritage in the 1980s. The CD not ony spans Handcox's entire career, but also includes an interview with Joe Glazer recorded at the Library of Congress in 1985. Selections for this CD include ten songs (tracks 1-10), two poems (tracks 11-12), and an interview with Handcox by folksinger Joe Glazer and labor historian Micheal Honey.


  1. There Are Mean Things Happening in This Land
  2. Raggedy; Raggedy Are We
  3. Join the Union Tonight
  4. Roll the Union On
  5. In My Heart
  6. No More Mourning
  7. Strike in Arkansas
  8. Oh No, We Don't Want Reagan Anymore
  9. Let's Get Reagan Out
10. I Live On
11. Planter and the Sharecropper Landlord
12. What in the Heaven Is the Matter with You?


John L. Handcox was a union organizer and writer of songs that steeled the resolve of the American labor movement.


"During his brief life as an organizer and songwriter, John Handcox played a vital role in bettering the lives of sharecroppers and energizing labor union organizers and members. His songs stimulated action at the time and have come down through the decades as stirring anthems of the Depression years... These recordings are highly recommended for both students and scholars."
Ronald D. Cohen, Journal of American Folklore

" enlightening [CD] that honors this important folk hero."
Lee Blackstone, RootsWorld

"[Those] who derive inspiration from the vision of such great American figures as Mother Jones and Woody Guthrie will definitely want this exemplary release."
Duck BakerDirty Linen