The Corn Belt Liberty League, incorporated in 1938, was a grass roots organization founded by Macomb, Ill., farmers to protest the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 (AAA). The main provisions of the AAA established acreage allotments, government payments to farmers who took land out of production, and market quotas and penalty taxes for overproduction. The goal of the AAA was to reduce farm surpluses and raise market prices. Libertarian farmers felt that the Act granted the federal government too much power over their livelihoods and, in effect, suppressed their individual rights.
The Corn Belt Liberty League organized to voice the concerns of these farmers, with the hope that Congress would yield to its demands and repeal the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Beginning in the spring of 1938, the League held rallies and published a magazine, American Liberty, to gain supporters throughout the Midwest. It garnered a great deal of media attention, and by the end of 1939 there were active memberships in over two dozen states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio. The League was particularly opposed by the American Farm Bureau, which had worked with legislators to enact the AAA. As a result of the groups' strained relations, many League members cancelled their memberships in the Farm Bureau.
Although the League continued to grow in 1940-41, its leaders lacked time for the organization as well as for their individual farms. With the United States' entry into World War II, their activities ended, without repeal of the Agricultural Adjustment Act. The League officially dissolved in 1946.
This collection consists of two parts. Part I includes photocopies of contemporary documents related to the League, such as administrative files, correspondence, and agricultural legislation and publications. These materials were collected in 1990 from the home of Finley Foster, a League founder, by Lynnita Sommer, for a paper in Mark Leff's seminar at the University of Illinois. Foster had received a portion of the materials from G. Conn James, Secretary of the League. Sommer's work was later published as "Illinois Farmers in Revolt: The Corn Belt Liberty League," Illinois Historical Journal, 88:4 (Winter 1995). Part II of the collection consists of Sommer's writings and research files.
Lynnita Sommer (Brown) , director of the Douglas County Museum in Tuscola, Ill., donated the collection to the Library in 1995.