Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



In December 1926, a group of Lake Charles, Louisiana, lumbermen purchased sawmills in Quincy and Sloat, California, at the northern end of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Their Louisiana timber supplies exhausted, they saw profitable operations in the largely untouched California forests, with railroad connecting the sawmills with national markets. But that sparsely populated area did not have the labor pool to supply the lumbermen’s operating needs. They had to recruit labor from outside the area.

The lumbermen knew experienced and increasingly unemployed Black and white sawmill workers lived in southwestern Louisiana and elsewhere in the South. During the previous forty years, Southern lumbermen rapidly consumed their forests. By the 1920s operators did not have trees and many sawmills closed leaving thousands of men without jobs. Western sawmills had long paid much higher wages than their Southern counterparts, a strong incentive to migrate for Black “common laborers” who made up the majority of Southern lumber workers.

The introduction of the lumber industry brought new migrants to the tiny California towns but also introduced a new racial population. Towns of less than a thousand people, the mostly white residents wanted the economic activity but not the Black workers. Over time, economic considerations outweighed traditional racial practices resulting in significant integration even as racism persisted.

Personal interviews, local government documents, small town newspapers, and U.S. Forest Service records provided the bulk of the documentation used to reconstruct the events and consequences created by the white Louisiana capital and Black Southern labor that migrated to two sawmills in northern California.



Committee Chair

Roberts, Kodi A.



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