Martial Law in Georgia

Textile Strike of 1934

"I hope that there will not be a skin scratched in the whole state of Georgia."

“When the national guards are ordered out, they are to protect the lives and property of all of the citizens of this state. This means strikers, union members, non-union members, laborers, executives, and all. I hope that there will not be a skin scratched in the whole state of Georgia. I hope that the citizens of the state will realize the necessity of preserving order. I do not want any interference from parties outside of the state of Georgia. I do not want any imported officers or imported strikers. Peaceful picketing that does not interfere with the rights of any citizen or business will also be protected.”

Editor's Note: In September of 1934, textile workers across the nation walked out of mills and began a weekslong strike for better working conditions. The General Textile Strike of 1934 came on the heels of the ever longer workdays, lower pay, and higher unemployment of the Great Depression.

When the U.S. Congress passed the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, textile workers became hopeful that their daily working conditions would improve. Under the NIRA, the federal government required employers to limit employees’ workdays, raise wages, and allow workers to unionize. Textile workers’ hopes were dashed when textile mill owners around the country ignored federal codes and regulations protecting workers’ rights.  

To protest violations of the NIRA, textile workers called a strike on September 1st, 1934. This strike quickly became the largest labor protest in the history of the South with 170,000 southern workers and 44,000 workers in Georgia participating. Governor Talmadge at first promised he would not call on the Georgia National Guard to put down the strike unless absolutely necessary.  

Talmadge would declare martial law, however, following the reports of several deaths at mills in Trion and Augusta. National Guard troops were sent to mills across Georgia where they rounded up and arrested textile strikers who were then held at Fort McPherson. When the strike ended, textile workers returned to poor working conditions and many workers who had participated in the strike were not allowed to return to work in the mills.