Owen-Zella Whitfield Foundation
Community Sharecroppers

Community Sharecroppers


We believe that descendants should never forget the rich history of sharecroppers and the honor of their struggle against oppression of the planters, farmers and the desperate conditions of their lives.



         Owen-Zella Whitfield Foundation

One of Missouri's most significant yet neglected events of recent American labor history called

"The SharecropperStrike of 1939"



During the month of January year 1939 in Southeast Missouri, more than one thousand sharecropper families with their meager belongings appeared alongside two state highways,    These sharecroppers had left the Missouri Bootheel Cotton plantations where they lived and worked to stage a dramatic demonstration.

They were protesting a new farm policy, the Agricultural Adjustment Act that had come from the New Deal Administration of President Franklin Roosevelt.  Plantation owners found a loophole in this policy which allowed them to keep government money they owed the sharecroppers – if they fired their current sharecroppers and hired new ones to take their place.

The sharecroppers braved the harsh winter weather of January for several days.   This caught the attention of the national press and the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.  It caused such a stir that Rev and Mrs. Whitfield were invited to the White House to discuss the situation with the President.

Activist Fannie Cook organized a committee of citizens to send relief to the protesters. Cook’s committee along with the Lincoln University students donated money so that the sharecroppers, led by Owen Whitfield could buy a parcel of land: 93 acres near Poplar Bluff, Missouri.   Several hundred both black and white sharecroppers moved to the site, which came to be known as Cropperville.






The organizer of protest was an African Amercan                    Zella Whitfield felt a great love and 

Minister, Reverend Owen H. Whitfield.                                      responsibility not just for her own children

                                                                                                                                     but also those of all the children at the

Reverend Owen H. Whitfield                                                      Cropperville Camp. She was instrumental

also known as                                                                             into the development of the children who

"Cotton Patch Moses"                                                                 learned at an early age how to help with

                                                                                                    their siblings, work in the fields and to be

                                                                                                    and to be part of a productive society.