Bloody bogalusa and the fight for a bi-racial lumber union: a study in the Burkean rebirth cycle

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University of Alabama Libraries

The Great Southern Lumber Mill (Great Southern Lumber), for which Bogalusa, Louisiana was founded in 1906, was the largest mill of its kind in the world in the early twentieth century (Norwood 591). The mill garnered unrivaled success and fame for the massive amounts of timber that was exported out of the Bogalusa facility. Great Southern Lumber, however, was also responsible for an infamous suppression of a proposed biracial union of mill workers. “Bloody Bogalusa” or “Bogalusa Burning,” to which the incident is often referred, occurred in 1919 when the mill’s police force fired on the black leader of a black unionist group and three white leaders who supported unionization, killing two of the white leaders, mortally wounding the third, and forcing the black unionist to flee from town in order to protect his life (Norwood 592). Through the use of newspaper articles and my personal, family narrative I argue that Great Southern Lumber Company, in order to squelch the efforts of the union leaders, engaged in a rhetorical strategy that might be best examined through Kenneth Burke’s theory of the Rebirth Cycle. In order for the company’s rhetorical strategy to operate within the realm of Burke’s rebirth cycle, the pentadic ratio of Agent: Act was employed in each phase of the cycle in order to define the individual elements that proved pivotal in the success of this drama.

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Communication, Rhetoric