The Story: Overview

Young girl spinning in Lancaster Cotton Mills in South Carolina

This site tells the story of those child workers. Listen to the words of former child laborers of the Carolinas as you learn about life for a child or young teen working in a cotton mill. The mill workers remember working long hours each day surrounded by dangerous equipment, spinning thread or sweeping cotton lint in a crowded and noisy mill. They also tell about the excitement of earning wages, the fun of dances and get-togethers with other workers, and the sense of community the mill village provided. Contrast their experiences with your own: could you have worked in the mill as they did? How did the mill shape their lives?

Boys taking a break from working in the cotton mill near Charlotte, NC

The oral histories you will hear were recorded by historians and sociologists from the University of North Carolina during the late 1970's and early 1980's for the Southern Oral History Program. They were interested in the experiences of the "regular" person, the mill worker, and wanted to preserve their stories so we can better understand life in the mills. The complete oral histories are available online from the digital collection Documenting the American South, sponsored by the University Libraryat the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.