Recent New Content – Bertha Hale White (1922) and Howard Zinn (1980) on the Green Corn Rebellion

Posted on the page: 1920-2016 Responses and Reflections on the GCR

  • Photo: Bertha Hale White
    Bertha Hale White, cir. 1913

    “The Green Corn Rebellion in Oklahoma: events of Aug. 3, 1917” – by Bertha Hale White, Published in The New Day (Milwaukee), v. 4, no. 9, whole no. 91 (March 4, 1922), pg. 68, reprinted by (PDF Download)Editor’s note: This article is especially interesting as it was written only 4-1/2 years after the rebellion, and while some of the rebels were likely still in prison. The author was Bertha Hale White, who at the time was the Assistant National Secretary of the Socialist Party of America.

    Excerpt: News of conscription roused the spirit of rebellion and the Working Class Union began to hold secret meetings to discuss what they should do. They did not believe the people of the country would tamely submit to the violation of the pledges which had resulted in the re-election of President Wilson. And they decided they would not accept that violation. They agreed to hide their boys from the draft officers and to prevent troops from coming into the Seminole country. On Aug. 3 [1917], nearly 4 months after the declaration of war with Germany, about 150 men were camped on a hilltop near the little town of Sasakwa. They were there with the definite intention of offering resistance to any attempt to take their boys and induct them into the military service. An alarm was sent out through the community, and about 50 men gathered to oppose this demonstration, which is now known throughout the section as the “Green Corn Rebellion.”

    The “WCUs,” as they were called, had the advantage of position and numbers. They were armed — pistols and squirrel rifles and ancient shotguns in the main, it is true. But they could have annihilated the opposing forces. The men had to climb the hill. They were without protection and had to make their advance in the open. But those men were not the men who had brought war and the draft to America. The rebels knew these men — they were the postmaster, the storekeeper, the druggist — people they had known for years and against whom they had no personal grudges. They could not fire upon their friends and neighbors — so they threw down their arms and quietly submitted to arrest.

    All of those who had participated in the uprising were soon under arrest, and the net swept in others who had belonged to the organization, but had had no part in the rebellion. In all, nearly 300 men were involved, and when the case came to trial at Ardmore the following October 175 men received sentences ranging from 30 days in jail to 10 years at Leavenworth prison.

  • Photo: Howard Zinn
    Howard Zinn

    “War is the Health of the State,” chapter 14 of A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn – Editor’s Note: The book can be purchased from several books sellers but is also available in an online-only version that was said to be authorized by the author (but not the publishing company) before his death.

    Excerpt: In Oklahoma, the Socialist party and the IWW had been active among tenant farmers -and sharecroppers who formed a “Working Class Union.” At a mass meeting of the Union, plans were made to destroy a railroad bridge and cut telegraph wires in order to block military enlistments. A march on Washington was planned for draft objectors throughout the country. (This was called the Green Corn Rebellion because they planned to eat green corn on their march.) Before the Union could carry out its plans, its members were rounded up and arrested, and soon 450 individuals accused of rebellion were in the state penitentiary. Leaders were given three to ten years in jail, others sixty days to two years.