November 10, 2023
Elizabeth Henson, author of Agrarian Revolt in the Sierra of Chihuahua, 1959–1965, writes about the Sojourner Truth Organization in The Brooklyn Rail. In her essay titled “When We Win, We Lose: The Story of a Run-Away Shop,” Henson details a critical event during her years as an activist and member of the Sojourner Truth Organization from the early 1970s to 1983. Similar to her book about the history of revolt and activism in Chihuahua, Mexico, the essay reveals her personal history of activism in the labor movement in Chicago.
In the spring of 1976, Val Klink and I formed a legal collective downtown with Kingsley Clarke from the Sojourner Truth Organization (STO), the revolutionary communist group that we were close to. . . . South Chicago was grimy, with blocks of bungalows, menudo on weekends, and a thrift store opposite the bank. It was an espresso-free zone, but the train connected it to Hyde Park and downtown. In segregated Chicago, South Chicago was the one working-class district where Black, Mexican, and white folks lived more or less together. Our clients had real estate problems, contract disputes, and custody battles, a litany of tedious and intractable difficulties, exacerbated by the massive layoffs of the mid-1970s. Many had been employed by local steel mills.Read the entire essay here.
About Agrarian Revolt in the Sierra of Chihuahua, 1959–1965:
The early 1960s are remembered for the emergence of new radical movements influenced by the Cuban Revolution. One such protest movement rose in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. With large timber companies moving in on the forested sierra highlands, campesinos and rancheros did not sit by as their lands and livelihoods were threatened. Continuing a long history of agrarian movements and local traditions of armed self-defense, they organized and demanded agrarian rights.
Thousands of students joined the campesino protests in long-distance marches, land invasions, and direct actions that transcended political parties and marked the participants’ emergence as political subjects.