John Beecher : an activist poet chronicles an American century /

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Smith, Angela
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Middle Tennessee State University
John Beecher's legacy of poetry and non-fiction spans the pivotal social movements in America from 1920--1980. He was a great-great-nephew of the abolitionist Beechers of New England, and his own activism continued that tradition, from his work in the Southern steel mills in the early 1920s to New Deal programs in the Great Depression to civil rights reporting in the 1960s. He constantly surveyed the plight of people that he believed were marginalized by economic and racial injustice, unfair labor practices and anti-left political scrutiny. While some critics have compared him to noted American poets Walt Whitman and Carl Sandburg, he never gained wide critical acclaim or a significant public audience. However, his extensive letters and other papers and a dozen published books contain a record of public concerns in American history from the plight of workers in the steel mills in the 1920s to the sharecroppers' struggles in the Depression to the civil rights marches in the 1960s and their aftermath. The central aspect of my research is to study Beecher's life and work to learn how the culture and politics of the South intersected with the broader American culture at pivotal points in the twentieth-century.
Adviser: Philippa E. Holloway.