October 3, 2023 – Marta Cieslak (UA Little Rock Downtown)
“I Give This Mural Back to the Working Class of the Entire South”: Joe Jones, Commonwealth College, and a History of Leftist Traditions in the South
In 1935, Joe Jones painted a mural on the walls of the dining hall of Commonwealth College in Mena, Arkansas. The mural, titled The Struggle in the South, depicted what Jones considered the most urgent problems facing southerners in the midst of the Great Depression: labor exploitation, racial violence, and daily struggles of sharecroppers. Commonwealth College was a natural site for such a socially engaged piece. Not only did it aim to train labor leaders, but it also openly embraced Marxism and communism. This talk will explore the history of Commonwealth College through the prism of Jones’s mural. In more general terms, it will investigate the place and meaning of leftist traditions in the history of Arkansas and the South.
NOTE: The October lecture will take place at UA Little Rock Downtown, located at 333 President Clinton Avenue, where The Struggle in the South is on view. Parking will be available in the adjacent CALS “Library Square” parking garage, accessible from Rock Street.