Skip to content

At noon on Wednesday, February 22, as part of the department’s History Is Lunch series, Fred C. Smith will discuss his book Trouble in Goshen: Plain Folk, Roosevelt, Jesus, and Marx in the Great Depression South.

The Great Depression emboldened Americans to tolerate radical experimentation in search of solutions to seemingly overwhelming economic problems. Among the thorniest of those was rural southern poverty. Smith focuses on three communities designed and implemented to meet that challenge, examining the economic and social theories--and their histories--that resulted in the creation and operation of the most aggressive and radical experiments in the United States.

Trouble in Goshen chronicles three communitarian experiments—the Delta Cooperative Farm and Tupelo Homesteads in Mississippi and the Dyess Colony in Arkansas. The Tupelo Homesteads were created under the aegis of the tiny Division of Subsistence Homesteads, a short-lived, "First New Deal" agency. Dyess Colony was the largest of the Resettlement Administration's efforts to transform failed farmers into Jeffersonian yeoman farmers. The third community, the Delta Cooperative Farm, a product of the active cooperation between the Socialist Party of America and a cadre of liberal churchmen led by Reinhold Niebuhr, attempted to meld the pieties, passions, propaganda, and theories of Jesus and Marx.

The equipment, facilities, and management styles of the projects reveal a clearly delineated class order among the poor. Trouble in Goshen demonstrates the class-conscious angst that enveloped three distinct levels of poverty and the struggles of plain folk to preserve their tenuous status and avoid overt peasantry.

Fred C. Smith is a contributor to Justice and Violence: Political Violence, Pacifism, and Cultural Transformation, and his work has appeared in the Journal of Mississippi History, Agricultural History, Florida Historical Quarterly, Southern Historian, and Mississippi History Now.

The program will take place in the William F. Winter Archives and History Building, 200 North Street, Jackson, MS 39201. There is no charge to attend. Sales and signing to follow. For more information call 601-576-6998 or email


March 1—Howard Bahr, My Civil War Trilogy: The Black Flower, The Year of Jubilo, and The Judas Field. Sales and signing to follow. WFW

March 8—Kim Rushing, Parchman. Sales and signing to follow. WFW

March 15—Sara Wood, From Tamales to Slugburgers: Mississippi's Diverse Foodways. WFW

March 22—Mississippi State University president Mark Keenum, Stephen D. Lee—A Higher-Education Perspective. OCM

March 29—Stephen Cushman, Surrender According to Johnston and Sherman. Sales and signing to follow. WFW

History Is Lunch programs take place in the William F. Winter Archives and History Building (WFW), 200 North Street, Jackson, MS 39201, or the Old Capitol Museum (OCM), 100 South State Street, Jackson, MS 39201.

View All News Releases