September 8, 2007

Old Havana

In the "metro" area of Tallahassee in the 1950s and 40s--Leon, Gadsden, and Jefferson counties especially--tobacco had replaced cotton as a big cash crop. The tobacco fields supplied labor for many black women and were good pay if you stayed long enough to rise up the ranks. They were of course paid less than their white counterparts.

In 1942, Lucille Love of Quincy began working in a tobacco plantation at the age of 13. For 15 cents a day she pulled weeds and worked as a "toter," carrying tobacco leaves. In 1944, she moved on to pushing down tobacco loops for 75 cents a day:

Yeah, pushing the [loops of string] down from around the stalk so that the tobacco could grow up and you could wrap that string around that tobacco so it wouldn't fall down as it growed up. You know the wind blow against it and would blow it down. But you see, if you had it wrapped when the wind and rain would fall that string what we had wrapped around it would help support it and Lord Have Mercy in looping tobacco those that wrapped and pushed down that loop went behind the person that was wrapping. Now that's up and down, up and down looping all day handling the person what's on a bench above you looping that stalk with that string bring it up to thte fellow up there he tie it and you go back down the loop, that's all day.

I don't understand this process at all, but I get dizzy just reading about it. This way of life dominated Havana in that era as well as Quincy. Amazing to think of all the work done just so somebody could chomp on a cigar.

This was Old Gadsden County, and nothing much seems to have replaced what is gone. They kept sending their votes to Chiles, that's for sure.

(Credit to Florida State Archives for the photo and Maxine Jones's article "Black Women in Florida 1920-1950" in The African American Heritage of Florida, edited by David Colburn and Jane Landers for the excerpt)

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