Southern Tenant Farmers Union Marks 75th Anniversary


Kimberly J. Williams

In 1934, a movement of change was born in the small Delta town of Tyronza. Eighteen tenant farmers, both black and white, met and decided to confront the widespread unethical practices of landowners. At that meeting, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union was formed. The organization would break racial barriers throughout its existence, most notably the inclusion of women and blacks in the organization and administration of the union. 

Today, the building that housed H.L. Mitchell’s dry cleaner and the service station owned by Clay East, two of the original organizers of the Union, is home to the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, an Arkansas State University Delta Heritage site. The building became the unofficial headquarters of the STFU, due mainly to the fact that two of the founders of the organization worked from the location.

The museum offers visitors the opportunity to explore the history of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union and includes exhibits focusing on the story of tenant farming and sharecropping and the movement to remove abuses from the widely used system. 



In honor of the organization’s 75th anniversary, Arkansas State University is hosting Eye Openin’ Time: Southern Tenant Farmers Union 75th Anniversary Symposium on Friday, Oct. 30. Speakers include author and Arkansas native Grif Stockley; Dr. Jeannie Whayne, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville; Dr. Samuel Mitchell, son of STFU founder H.L. Mitchell; Dr. Vernon Burton, Coastal Carolina University; and Dr. Elizabeth Payne, University of Mississippi. The event will be held in the Mockingbird Room in the Student Union on the campus of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Following the event, participants will travel to Tyronza for tours of the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum.

To learn more about Eye Openin’ Time: Southern Tenant Farmers Union 75th Anniversary Symposium, contact the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum at 870-487-2909 or visit for more information.


Join the Conversation