334 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI supplied by local USDA offices. In a region where planters held the vast majority of the political and economic power, USDA checks went directly to landowners or, in some cases, the merchants who held liens on the cotton crop. Sharecroppers rarely saw these payments from the federal government, as white planters controlled the making of policy and distribution of resources under the AAA. The AAA helped revolutionize agriculture in the Delta. With millions of dollars flowing directly into planters’ hands and acreage reduction becoming a fact of life, cotton prices rose during the 1930s. A faltering cotton economy had been redeemed. The AAA enabled landowners to invest more of their money into farm equipment. Over the next several decades, machines replaced mules and humans in the cotton fields of the Delta. This change did not take place overnight, but by the 1950s, the system of sharecropping was living on borrowed time. Delta planters began to move toward a program where they paid wages to workers. Adopting a system of wage labor meant that planters no longer had any responsibility to provide food, clothing, and housing to their workers, as was part of the sharecropping arrangement. More significantly, planters did not have to share the crop with the laborer. From the 1930s through the 1960s, the turn to mechanization and away from sharecropping pushed many African Americans off the Delta land and into towns and cities across the North and South. Population decline became a dilemma, one the Delta is facing even today. The New Deal, quite simply, brought about the demise of sharecropping and the end of a traditional labor system that relied on hands, muscle, and the hooves of draft animals to do the hard work in the fields. The New Deal touched the lives of Delta residents in other ways. Federal surplus commodity programs helped feed poor Deltans during the Great Depression and for years after. The Works ProgressAdministration (WPA) and the Public WorksAdministration (PWA) also helped provide jobs to struggling people in the Delta. The town of Clarksdale, for instance, got a new civic auditorium in 1939 thanks to the WPA. Founded in 1924, Delta State Teachers’College (now Delta State University) benefited handsomely from the New Deal. The PWAand the WPAprovided the young Cleveland campus with a new library, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a building annex, and a forest tract for roads and general improvements. The PWAbuilt post offices in Cleveland, Indianola, and Leland. In these post offices, new murals gave regional artists much-needed work during the Depression. In a precursor to the civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU) formed in 1934 to help sharecroppers and tenant farmers appeal for AAA benefits. The STFU organized poor African American and white tenants in the Arkansas and Mississippi deltas. In its early days, the organization had better luck gaining followers on the Arkansas side of the river than they did in the Magnolia State. Near the end of the 1930s, STFU activists garnered some support from Mississippi Delta sharecroppers, particularly in Coahoma County. In 1945, African American STFU members from Coahoma held a brief work stoppage. They used this strike to protest against white planters’attempt to lower the wages of cotton pickers. In the midst of these labor tensions, a 1944 report from the USDA revealed that “beneath the surface among the Negroes an important change is going on; even down to the sharecropper there is a feeling of discontent and a growing consciousness of exclusion from social, economic, and political participation.” Focusing specifically on Coahoma County, the USDA analysis concluded that African American leaders were “becoming more fearless” and more assertive in speaking out for the protection of their civil and human rights. At the state level, new policies were poised to change the Mississippi economy. During the Depression, Mississippi’s small industrial sector took a huge hit. The economic calamity of the 1930s cut Mississippi’s industrial workforce in half. Political and business leaders such as Columbia’s Hugh White, a businessman in the timber industry and governor during the 1930s, realized that Mississippi could no longer remain an overwhelmingly agricultural economy. White and other business leaders advocated for “Balanc[ing] Agriculture with Industry (BAWI),” a program later implemented by White. In 1936, the state legislature approved the Mississippi Industrial Act, a measure allowing city and county governments to issue municipal bonds to facilitate the purchase of land for factory con-struction. These bonds served as a method of luring industry to the state. The BAWI legislation created a commission that worked with industries interested in moving to the state. Opponents of BAWI charged that the use of public dollars to attract business amounted to socialism and excessive government intervention in the private sector. Supporters of the bill argued that it would World War II was a transformative experience for African Americans in the Delta. Military service made African American Deltans more confident, courageous, and conscious of their rights as Americans.