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Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Clarence Sharp
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Clarence Sharp was born on July 26, 1891, near Bristol, South Dakota. From German immigrant farmers and migratory workers he learned socialist ideas, and joined the Socialist Party in 1910. He attended the South Dakota School of Agriculture at Brookings and persistently opposed U.S. involvement in World War I, true to the position taken by the Socialist Party. He worked a dairy and hog farm near Lily until 1921, when the collapse of farm prices drove him off the land. He became an organizer for A.C. Townley's National Producer Alliance, which later merged into the Farmers Union. He also joined the Communist Party. In 1923 he moved to Torrington, Wyoming, where he sold farm implements until the bottom dropped out of the wheat market in 1931. Bankrupt once again, he went to Chicago and became an organizer of the Unemployed Councils on the north side. He rose to be a district organizer rapidly. His heart remained in the country, though, and in 1932 he returned to South Dakota as the state secretary of the Communist Party. As such, he led "penny sales" against farm foreclosures, organized branches of the United Farmers League, and led demonstrations which eventually resulted in passage of the Frazier-Lemke Debt Adjustment and Refinancing Act, the corn-hog program, rural electrification, and the Agriculture Stabilization Act. During the 1940s Mr. Sharp worked for the Minnesota-Dakota Communist Party as an itinerant organizer and farm representative. He participated in the 1944 senatorial campaign in North Dakota, helping to defeat Gerald P. Nye. In the Joseph McCarthy period, he continued to anchor the Minnesota-Dakotas CP while some of the other leaders went underground, and to defend the economic security and civil rights of those accused of communist sympathies. In his retirement, he wrote widely for the progressive press, and travelled to the USSR. He was among the founders of the Minnesota Council of American-Soviet Friendship. Mr. Sharp married twice and had one daughter. At the time of the interview he was living in Minneapolis. He died on April 21, 1989. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Farm Holiday Association in South Dakota, 1930s. Assessment of the mistakes of the Communist Party, and reasons for its decline. Harassment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Commentary on the political scene and the situation of farmers, 1977. Expulsion from the CP. Memories of Samuel K. Davis. Assessment of the presidential campaign of Henry A. Wallace, 1948. Commentary on the situation in the Middle East, 1977. Description of an unemployed demonstration in Chicago, 1930s. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: The transcript is only partially edited and the spelling of many names is approximate. RESTRICTIONS ON USE: Interview cannot be quoted directly for publication.
1 hour sound cassette
14 pages transcript
Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
01:01:21 running time
Interviewee: Sharp, Clarence
Interviewer: O'Connell, Tom
Interviewer: Trimble, Steve
|Holding Type||Oral History - Interview|
OH 30.61 (Library Call Number)
AV1990.228.77 (Accession Number)
MNHS Library Catalog
Collection Finding Aid
Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project'