Ken Burns Overlooks the Secret of FDR’s Success: The Power of the People

29 Sep

Political Scientist Peter Dreier has some interesting critiques to make of the recent The Roosevelt series on PBS. While his critiques are not major, and while he overstates his case that “none of these incidents can be found in Burns’ series” (I recall seeing something on Eleanor and A. Philip Randolph and a threatened civil rights march), they do serve to remind us that even the Burns’ narrative magic is not the whole story.

An excerpt from Dreier’s piece gets close to home here in Siouxland:

Between 1929 and 1932, farm income fell by two-thirds. Farm foreclosures were occurring at a record pace. As Adam Cohen recounts in his 2009 book Nothing to Fear, these experiences radicalized many farmers throughout the farm belt. For example, in May 1932 – while FDR was campaigning for president against incumbent Herbert Hoover – 2,000 farmers attended a rally at the Iowa state fairgrounds and urged fellow farmers to declare a “holiday” from farming, under the slogan “Stay at Home – Buy Nothing Sell Nothing.” In effect, they were urging farmers to go on strike – to withhold their corn, beef, pork and milk until the government addressed their problems. They threatened to call a national farmers strike if Congress did not provide farmers with “legislative justice.” In Sioux City, Iowa, farmers put wooden planks with nails on the highways to block agricultural deliveries. In Nebraska, one group of farmers showed up at a foreclosure sale and saw to it that every item that had been seized from a farmer’s widow sold for five cents, leaving the bank with a total settlement of just $5.35. In Le Mars, Iowa, a group of farmers kidnapped Judge Charles Bradley off the bench while he was hearing foreclosure cases and threatened to lynch him if he did not agree to stop foreclosures.

You can find the entire Dreier piece at History News Network here: History News Network | Ken Burns Overlooks the Secret of FDR’s Success: The Power of the People.

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