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date: 21 September 2019

Hall, William Covingtonlocked

(25 August 1871–21 February 1952)
  • Steven A. Reich

Extract

Hall, William Covington (25 August 1871–21 February 1952), labor organizer, newspaper editor, and educator, was born in Woodville, Mississippi, the son of William A. Hall, a Presbyterian minister and educator, and Mary Elizabeth Pierce. When his parents separated, Hall—who went by his middle name Covington—moved to Rural Retreat Plantation, a family estate located in the sugarcane district of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, to live with his uncle Dr. A. V. “Ami” Woods. Although Hall was raised and educated for a life of privilege among the southern planter elite, he grew up in a household that teetered on the brink of financial ruin. In the fall of 1887 some 10,000 of the region’s mostly African American plantation workers organized under the auspices of the Knights of Labor and went on strike. The only planter to concede to the workers’ wage demands was Hall’s uncle, who did so not out of sympathy with the union but to prevent the loss of his crop and to preserve the solvency of his estate. Unsympathetic to the Hall family’s circumstances, the region’s wealthiest planters accused Hall’s uncle of disloyalty to his class interests and broke the union. The restoration of labor order did little to promote the Halls’ financial recovery. By 1891 the bank foreclosed on Rural Retreat Plantation, forcing its sale at a sheriff’s auction....

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