Since I have left LSU, I am not always aware of everything that has been going on among my former colleagues. A co-worker at LSU, Kenny Varner, introduced me to Ann’s latest project. She has written a wonderful book about a remarkable man, Clarence Jordan. I knew next to nothing about the details of the life of Clarence Jordan, but I knew about some of the fruits of his labor. Any summary would be inadequate, but I will attempt to provide an introduction. The title of the book is Cotton Patch Rebel: The Story of Clarence Jordan.
Ann’s book provides an introduction for children, adolescents, and adults to the life of a man whose work was guided by his understanding of Christian charity. In the early 1940s Clarence and his wife along with Martin and Mabel England moved to a farm near Americus, Georgia and founded a Christian farming community that welcomed both white and black farmers, sharing resources and ownership. The book narrates the efforts of an early civil rights project. The members of Koinonia, the name of the community, worked together to withstand the efforts of racial segregation, lack of official government support, and physical threats. You can find a further description of Koinonia Farm here. In the late 1960 the community welcomed Millard and Linda Fuller. While the names might not be immediately recognizable to you, their work is. They are the founders of Habitat for Humanity and The Fuller Center for Housing. In fact, the current President of the Fuller Center for Housing, David Snell provides an introduction to Ann’s book below.
Clarence Jordan spent his life striving to help people lift themselves. His efforts are remarkable. This small volume is not only a wonderful biography, it can also serve as an introduction to the civil rights movement. Reading this book reminded me of the power of one person’s action when they act with conviction. It inspired me to move forward and try more actively to do good work. Any group of students, especially those studying Georgia history, should include Cotton Patch Rebel: The Story of Clarence Jordan as a supplement to understanding the civil rights movement in Georgia, the role of Habitat for Humanity, and how an American President is connected to this legacy. By extension, I wonder what other under recognized, if not unknown, biographies, stories, and events would help us teach more completely a state’s history? I would be interested in other biographies and works of non-fiction that we should include in our school and classroom libraries. If you have suggestions, send them along. We all know students who reluctantly read fiction, but inhale non-fiction. We need to remember to provide them with as many resources as we do for those who love fiction genres such as science fiction, fantasy, and realistic fiction.