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- “WWI Uprising: Green Corn Rebellion— Dissident farmers marched to protest the draft” by Leigh Woosley Tulsa World (January 28, 2007)
Excerpt: It’s been swept under Oklahoma’s rug somewhat like a family’s embarrassing secret. Many in the state hoped the nation would forget the Green Corn Rebellion.
The skirmish in August 1917 started with some 450 angry tenant farmers — white, black, and American Indian — who gathered on the banks of the South Canadian River with plans to march toward Washington, D.C., in protest of the World War I draft, which passed a few months before.
People criticize the Green Corn Rebellion as a black mark on Oklahoma because it was rebellious and, some say, anti-American.
But that’s not the case, said Nigel Sellars, history professor at Christopher Newport University, who is from Oklahoma and has long studied the rebellion and 20th-century America.
“I think Oklahoma should be proud of this heritage,” he said in a phone conversation from his office in Newport News, Va. “Yes, it’s very, very radical, but it’s more American, more American than what others consider American.”
The farmers were not going to fight the “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.” They gathered with spirit and promised to live on beef and green corn, or roasting ears, on their journey to confront “Big Slick,” President Woodrow Wilson.
- US Green Rebellion: 1917, (author unknown) published by LibCom.org (October 5, 2007)
Excerpt: In the years since 1917, very little has been written about the Green Corn Rebellion. The proponents of the “red state/blue state” line of argument have a hard time explaining why thousands of Oklahoma-born tenant farmers and laborers – most of them white — supported the Socialist Party and wanted to march to Washington to stop the draft. The few articles and books about the rebellion often mocked the rebels, frequently depicting them as country bumpkins because the insurgency was defeated. But despite its failure, the Green Corn Rebellion has much to teach us today. In a time of great turmoil, when the wealth of the country was concentrated in the hands of a tiny group of robber barons, the poor of the South took a stand against economic injustice and a war they felt this country had no business being involved in.
The wisdom of the Green Corn rebels can be seen in the words on one of their posters, found along the country roads in Marshall and Bryan counties: “Now is the time to rebel against the war with Germany, boys. Get together, boys, and don’t go. Rich man’s war. Poor man’s fight. If you don’t go, J.P. Morgan Co. is lost. Speculation is the only cause of war. Rebel now.”
While the world is very different today than in 1917, one thing hasn’t changed: When this country fights wars, it is still the rich who benefit and the poor who do the fighting and dying. The fact that the Green Corn rebels failed does not relieve us of the responsibility of changing that situation. It’s up to us to learn the rebellion’s lessons and finish the job of creating the better world the Oklahoma rebels (and so many others) fought so hard for.