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Southern Labor Archives: Stetson Kennedy: A guide to his papers: Subject: Operation Dixie

Operation Dixie

Operation Dixie

“...the post-war campaign by the Congress of Industrial Organizations to unionize industry in the Southern United States, particularly the textile industry. The campaign ran from 1946 to 1953 in 12 Southern states and was undertaken in order to consolidate gains made by the trade union movement in the Northern United States during the war and block the status of the South as a "non-union" low-wage haven to which businesses could relocate.” (from Wikipedia)

Operation Dixie coincided with Stetson Kennedy’s work against the Ku Klux Klan.  The operation also coincided with the publication of Kennedy’s book, Southern Exposure

The collection on Operation Dixie includes statements from Montgomery Ward, General Motors, and John L. Lewis, the president of the CIO at the time.  Also included are joint statements from Newton County, Griffin, and Coweta County (GA) businesses published in the local newspapers urging textile workers against unionizing, and some clippings by Atlanta Constitution author Ralph McGill favoring organization.  Some of Kennedy’s own notes are also present in these sources. 

The context of many of the earlier, wartime clippings in these folders relates to President Roosevelt’s desire to prevent work stoppages, through the efforts of the National War Labor Board.  Much of the cotton for the war effort was dependent on the textile industry in Georgia.  Many of the petitions and statements urge younger workers to stay out of unions.  Some clippings report violent crimes such as beatings, lynchings, kidnappings, and shootings committed against CIO strikers and organizers. 

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