One mission of the Living Newspaper that we discussed in the introduction was to give voice to diverse and myriad segments of the population. The following four scenes illustrate how the Living Newspaper formulated the opinions of women and African-Americans concerning the effects of AAA legislation. The first two scenes, in which a black cotton farmer loses his mule afforded to him by AAA payments and sharecroppers discuss unifying against the greedy farmers who have kept their AAA payments without sharing them, are footnoted as “creative,” perhaps due to a dearth of news documentation on the subject. Farmers would receive their payments for not planting their crops, displace the sharecroppers on their land, and then reinvest it on less acreage to increase their income. Sharecroppers, therefore, experienced the failure of AAA in the harshest of ways.

(scenes 18-22) --click to hear re-enactment

Scene 18: WHEAT PIT

wheat pricesThough the Wheat Pit Scene consists of mere numbers shouted across the stage in succession, it provides the fulcrum for the following scene group. The audience may not understand the complexities of the stock market, nor the economic implications of the processing tax; but they could understand quite clearly the relationship between the weather and the steady increase in wheat prices. The Living Newspaper, therefore, presents the economic trend and then delivers a series of scenes to show its effect on various groups of people. Ironically, the article from The New York Times of August 1st, 1934 from which they extracted the price of wheat at the height of the drought was actually an article reporting not a rise, but a fall in the price of wheat due to profiteering. As we saw in scene 15, middlemen were making tremendous profits off the buying of wheat. The article entitled "Grains sent Down By Profit-Taking" reports a "downward tendency" of wheat "due to a disposition of recent buyers to glean profits." When people realized how much middlemen were making off the wheat market, they refused to buy, sending the price downward. In this scene, however, the price of wheat is on a steady yet gradual rise. Choosing to maintain dramatic continuity over precise documentation, the Living Newspaper simplifies the economic trend rather than explicate the details.


SharecroppersScenes 19 and 20 illustrate the bind in which many African American farmers and sharecroppers found themselves when and if they were able to secure payments from the government. Already deeply in debt, payments did little to rectify the situation. In scene 19, Sam the black farmer hopes that the farm loan he received from the government will help him to get out of debt; however his means are annihilated when the sheriff takes his newly-bought mule as payment for back taxes. Many sharecroppers were helpless in the face of farmers who kept their AAA payments without sharing them with those who worked their land. With the policy of acreage reduction, many of these sharecroppers were evicted.


New York Times, July 8, 1935Back to back are two scenes that demonstrate contrasting feminine reactions to AAA legislation. Scene 21, Meat Strike, depicts housewives anger at high meat prices (a result of the AAA's reduction of supply strategy—paying farmers not to produce--and the processing tax). The furious mob of women actually injured some people attempting to buy meat, as the newspaper article quoted by the play reports (New York Times, July 28, 1935). The lines spoken by the "lead woman striker" are actually taken verbatim from the article: "Maybe Roosevelt started by killing all the little pigs and cattle. We don't know and we don't care. We aren't going to pay such high prices for meat and that's all there is to it." Since the Living Newspaper took care not to defame specific governmental personalities, the staff changed "Roosevelt" to the more non-descript "Washington."


scene 22: Dorothy SherwoodContrasting strength with weakness, the Living Newspaper staff then included a tragic scene involving an actual woman named Dorothy Sherwood who decided to drown her starving child because she could not feed him. She is depicted as resigned and enervated: the final image of horror before the Supreme Court invalidates AAA in the next scene. This dramatically intense scene was meant to persuade the audience of the overwhelming necessity for rectifying the ineffective legislation. The narrative is based almost word for word on an account told in the Daily News on August 21, 1935 .