Thursday, 25 September 2008

Re an excellent adventure (3). (Historical note about "Sugar Country")

NAN FREEMAN (1953 - 1972)

On the morning of January 25, 1972, at about 3:00 a.m., UFW pickets were positioned at the entrance to the Talisman Sugar Plant on US HWY 27, about 20 miles north of Belle Glade, Florida.
The Farm Workers strike had been in progress at Talisman for two weeks
The plant is situated about 300 feet off the main highway with a side road leading to the main gate. Trucks hauling the sugar cane from the fields made a turn off the main road onto the side road and then pass through the plant gates. The trucks are large semis pulling two "cages" of cane - a double trailer. Loaded, the trucks weigh about 70,000 pounds.

The trucks had been a source of concern to pickets because most of the drivers were dangerously inexperienced scabs, who weren't used to handling the 70,000 pound loads.
And the Company was overloading the trucks in an effort to make as few trips as possible because the regular drivers were among the strikers.

For several days pickets had complained to the police about the scab drivers because they would speed by the picket lines in a deliberate effort to splash rain and mud on the workers. They went through stop signs at the plant gates and committed other violations of traffic laws, but local police took no action.

Nan Freeman and Pam Albright were two of the five young New College students who responded to the UFW strikers' call for help by going down to Belle Glade on Monday. They had both been doing volunteer work for the UFW at their college in Sarasota as part of the REAL program, a research program into Florida agriculture.

This morning at 3:00 a.m., Nan and Pam were helping Jose Romero at the plant gate. They were posted about 30 feet from the highway on the road leading to the plant gate. They had leaflets and their job was to talk with the drivers of the trucks to encourage them to join the strike.

At 3:15 a.m. a cane truck pulled off the highway onto the road leading to the plant gate. The driver stopped to talk with the pickets. Romero climbed up on the running board to talk with the driver while the two young women stood behind him on the ground.

As he was talking with the driver, Romero noticed a second truck coming down the highway about to turn into the entrance road. Since pickets were continually being told by the police not to block the entrance, Romero told the driver to move on, out of the way.
He jumped down off the truck and with Nan & Pam stepped back toward a guard rail, to the side of the truck. But as the truck started up, Romero noticed that the rear trailer would cut back toward them, too sharply and too close to the guard rail, because the truck and trailer had not been property aligned.
Romero turned and pushed Pam out of the way. As he turned to Nan, he saw the side of the trailer loaded with cane hit her and knock her into the guard railing. She lay on the ground, unconscious.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies, parked a few hundred feet away maintaining a 24-hour watch on the plant, came quickly over, covered Nan with a blanket, and called an ambulance.

They commented they could get no reflex responses and that her pulse seemed to be fading. About 25 minutes later, at 3:50 am, the ambulance arrived to take her to the Glades General Hospital in Belle Glade. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital at 4:19 a.m.


On Tuesday, January 25, 1972, Nan Freeman, a young Jewish woman from Boston, gave her life for Farm Workers. She was 18 years old when she died.

To some she is a young girl who lost her life in a tragic accident.
To us she is a sister who picketed with farm workers in the middle of the night because of her love for justice. She is a young woman who fulfilled the commandments by loving her neighbors even to the point of sacrificing her own life.

To us, Nan Freemen is Kadosha in the Hebrew tradition, "a holy person," to be honored and remembered for as long as farm workers struggle for justice.

How can we measure the gift she has given to our cause?
Will God give her another life to live?...God has given Nan Freeman just one life and now that life is ended.
Think of that, all who cherish our farm workers' union: Nan Freeman, our young sister has poured out her one life so that farm workers everywhere might be more free.

There is no way to repay her immeasurable gift. There are no words to thank her for what she's done. Some things we can do: our whole movement is declaring a period of mourning that will correspond to the traditional 7-day period of mourning.

We can remember Nan Freeman. We can honor her life and express our thoughts to her family.
We can give more of ourselves just because she has given everything. We must work together to build a farm workers' union that is worthy of her love and her sacrifice.

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