The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
Jim Crow Stories
A National Struggle
Interactive Maps
Tools and Activities
For Teachers

Jim Crow Stories

Introduction People Narratives Events Organizations

Ned Cobb (1885 - 1973
Ned Cobb Ned Cobb was a tenant farmer living in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, who joined the Sharecroppers Union in 1931 to fight for justice for black people and against exploitation by white landowners. He had been fairly successful as a farmer, an extraordinary achievement for a black man in rural Alabama. In a series of interviews in 1969 conducted by Theodore Rosengarten, a Harvard scholar, Cobb told the remarkable story of his life. Rosengarten's book, ALL GOD'S DANGERS: THE LIFE OF NATE SHAW detailed many of Cobb's life experiences. ("Nate Shaw" was a pseudonym for Cobb.)

"They [whites] don't like to see a nigger with too much ... white people was afraid, afraid the money would make the nigger act too much like his old man." Ned Cobb

His father had been a slave and had been emotionally crippled by it. He took out his frustration on his family, often beating his wife and children. When he was old enough, Cobb started to farm on his own. He worked as a sharecropper and eventually became a tenant farmer. A hard worker with a deep knowledge of crops and animals, Cobb managed to escape the financial traps set for him by local whites. They extended credit to him, hoping he would fail so they could then claim all his possessions and force him to work for them. Cobb stayed out of their debt, as he managed to avoid being destroyed by natural disasters such as the boll weevil epidemic and the collapse of cotton prices. "All God's dangers," he said, "ain't white men."

Media Feature - Watch the Video In 1931, Cobb was profoundly impressed by the arrival of the Communist Party in the cotton fields of Alabama. He was aware that the party was defending the Scottsboro Boys, nine black youths who had been falsely charged with raping two white women. Cobb saw the Communists as the heirs to the abolitionists who came South during the Civil War and Reconstruction to finish the job their predecessors had started. He joined the party's union, the Sharecroppers Union, and distributed leaflets and literature and recruited new members.

In 1952, when a sheriff tried to foreclose on a friend's home and livestock, Cobb defended his friend and became involved in a shootout. Wounded, Cobb was arrested. Offered the opportunity of a lighter sentence if he cooperated with the court and named fellow union members, Cobb refused and was sent to jail for 13 years. He lived long enough to see the triumph of the civil-rights movement.

--Richard Wormser

Choose Another Person

Founded in 1931, the mostly black Share Croppers Union (SCU) was the largest Communist-led mass organization in the South.
Related Pages
Communist Party
Scottsboro Case
print this page
email this page
T1 56K Real Player The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow - home About the Series Pledge Teen Leadership Site Map Resources top