Who were the Fugitives?

Friday, July 12, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 28

Jim Massey’s love of Southern literature and his deep family roots led him to choose the name Fugitives for his company.

“The Fugitive’’ was a literary journal published by students and faculty at Vanderbilt University 1922-1925. Watching the growth of urban centers and industrialization with concern, these poets hewed toward traditional values and poetic structure while celebrating the South’s agrarian past.

In 1930, some members of that group went on to publish “I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition,’’ a collection of essays that became a manifesto for what became called the Agrarian movement.

The Agrarians included such noteworthy writers and literary critics as John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, Allen Tate, and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Penn Warren. Ransom and Davidson were colleagues of Felix Massey, Jim Massey’s great uncle, a Vanderbilt graduate who led the Massey School for Boys and later became Dean at the University of Tennessee.

While the Agrarian movement came to be criticized as a racist paean to the Old South and plantation life, much of it well-justified, many of the laments and social concerns about how industrialization withered the dignity of laborers were prescient.

The Agrarian philosophy also proved important as a counterpunch to the industrialization of modern agriculture and a return call to more traditional and sustainable practices to protect the integrity of the soil and the dignity of the farmer.

– Jim Myers