Stories from Summer Vacation: Anne Gessler on Cooperatives in New Orleans

Photo from Gathering Tree Growers Collective

This post comes to use from UT AMS doctoral student Anne Gessler, who is doing research this summer in New Orleans, Louisiana:

For the past two months I have been conducting archival research and compiling oral history interviews with cooperative and collective members in New Orleans.  Digging through the Louisiana State University Special Collections, Amistad Research Center, and Tulane’s Louisiana Research Collection, I have discovered a wealth of Louisianan cooperatives representing a broad range of political and economic ideologies.  For example, during the 1930s and into the 1950s, a New Orleans man unionized his fellow barbers, joined the local chapter of the Socialist Party, and then organized a successful credit union and cooperative grocery store, serving mostly other barbers and residents of Freret Street.  In the mid 1960s, Catholic priest Father McKnight and CORE field worker John Zippert organized a largely low-income African American sweet potato growers co-op and other cooperative ventures in rural Southwestern Louisiana.  Their connections to the civil rights and anti-poverty movement so threatened local and state officials that the Louisiana Joint Legislative Committee on Un-American Activities accused the cooperative organizers of being Communists.  Louisiana’s interest in cooperative organizing continues; I have interviewed eleven cooperative members representing bike collectives, collective gardens, child care co-ops, and more.  You can see the oral history interviews (as they are transcribed) online at http://coophistories.wordpress.com.

Photo from Plan B: New Orleans Community Bike Project

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