Browse Oral Histories (644 items total)

Thom E. Beasley

Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee: Thom E. Beasley was born in 1949, in East Central Arkansas, between Hughes and Forrest City, Arkansas; his grandfather, father and uncle owned a farming partnership by the name of CJ Beasley and Sons; they had roughly five thousand acres of land, one thousand five hundred of which were dedicated to cotton alone; they hired workers throughout the duration of the bracero program.

Summary of Interview: Mr. Beasley talks about his family as well as the farming partnership owned by his grandfather, father and uncle, by the name of CJ Beasley and Sons; although the bracero program began before Thom was born, he remembers braceros being around as he was growing up, until the program ended in 1964; the braceros came to the farm headquarters, and from there they were taken to tenant houses in school buses; they slept in bunk beds and were supplied with mattresses, blankets, cooking and heating stoves and propane; although there was no indoor plumbing, they did have outhouses; moreover, they stayed in the same places the year-round employees did; oftentimes, the same braceros were hired; Thom recalls that one of their biggest complaints was about the water, because it gave them gas due to the high levels of calcium and iron; if they were ever sick, they were taken to the doctor in town; the braceros’ daily routine consisted of making and eating breakfast very early, and then picking in the fields until 11:00 AM, at which point they made lunch and took a siesta until about 2:30 PM, before returning to pick until dark; there were never any problems with their siesta, because they prepared their food from scratch and still managed to out produce everyone else; braceros often picked an average of five hundred pounds of cotton per day; some picked up to seven hundred pounds; Thom repeatedly mentions how amazed and impressed they all were at the braceros’ work ethic; he also mentions a curious incident in which a few years after the program ended, he found a field of marijuana growing behind the tenant houses where the braceros had lived.