Book

Boll Weevil Blues

James C. Giesen

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780226292878
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226292854 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226292854.001.0001
Boll Weevil Blues

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Between the 1890s and the early 1920s, the boll weevil slowly ate its way across the Cotton South from Texas to the Atlantic Ocean. At the turn of the century, some Texas counties were reporting crop losses of over 70 percent, as were areas of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. By the time the boll weevil reached the limits of the cotton belt, it had destroyed much of the region's chief cash crop: tens of billions of pounds of cotton, worth nearly a trillion dollars. As staggering as these numbers may seem, this book demonstrates that it was the very idea of the boll weevil and the struggle over its meanings that most profoundly changed the South—as different groups, from policymakers to blues singers, projected onto this natural disaster the consequences they feared and the outcomes they sought. The author asks how the myth of the boll weevil's lasting impact helped obscure the real problems of the region—those caused not by insects, but by landowning patterns, antiquated credit systems, white supremacist ideology, and declining soil fertility. The book brings together these cultural, environmental, and agricultural narratives.

Keywords: cotton; landowning patterns; credit systems; white supremacy; soil fertility

Book.  237 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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