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The Blues in Poetry of The Textile Mills

Updated on October 23, 2017
Tim Truzy info4u profile image

Tim Truzy is a rehabilitation counselor, educator, and former dispatcher from North Carolina.

Cone White Oak Mill, which has made denim for blue jeans for 110 years, is slated to close in December 2017.
Cone White Oak Mill, which has made denim for blue jeans for 110 years, is slated to close in December 2017. | Source

A Brief History of Textile Mills in North Carolina

The first textile mill was built in North Carolina decades before the American Civil War in the western part of the state. In fact, the textile industry began to relocate from New England to North Carolina between the 1880’s and 1940’s. Cotton mills produced substantial amounts of goods and employed thousands of workers, making the Old North State second only to Massachusetts in importance in the industry. At the height of the industry’s presence in the state, there were over three hundred mills in operation. However, unforeseen changes drove the industry in a different direction by the end of the 20th-century.

Several factors combined over time to gradually reduce the number of mills in the state. Starting in the 1930’s, child labor problems were addressed by the federal government for all mills. Unionization put pressure on the textile industry in the state. Steep competition from overseas caused many of the companies to close by the 21st century. Indeed, in certain specialty areas, a few North Carolina mills still lead the globe, but the legacy of “mill towns” remain.

As a resident of the state, I have had many opportunities to visit and learn about the history and economic impact of these businesses. I wrote this poem with the mill worker of those days in mind. This poem is a snapshot of what such employees may have felt then and now. Enjoy: The Blues Ain’t Always Blue.”

Cone Revolution Mill was the second cotton mill built in Greensboro NC. It was built in the early 1890s and closed in the 1990s.
Cone Revolution Mill was the second cotton mill built in Greensboro NC. It was built in the early 1890s and closed in the 1990s. | Source

The Blues Ain't Always Blue

The blues ain’t always blue,

Sometimes they are white and brown,

Bread taken from fields,

Baking shantytowns


The blues ain’t always blue,

Grieving with evergreen,

Window close to the roof

Holes worn on faded jeans.

Part of a North Carolina mill village. These larger homes would have been rented to supervisors in the mill.
Part of a North Carolina mill village. These larger homes would have been rented to supervisors in the mill. | Source

No, the blues ain’t always blue,

Blackjack don stitched face,

Rivers red pouring,

Erosion weaving my place.


Looms spin the blues,

Around across the border,

Bluest sky fading fast,

Azure tears eyes’ my daughters.


The former Glencoe Mills, located in Alamance County, NC
The former Glencoe Mills, located in Alamance County, NC | Source

Blue ocean to Asia,

Linen foam washed dreams,

Tattered cotton textile,

Silent mills scream.


Indigo dogs swimming,

India reaches rebound,

Massachusetts to Carolina,

Spreading the gospel mill towns.

Formerly booming mill towns are now ghost towns.
Formerly booming mill towns are now ghost towns. | Source

Poverty no words hum,

Wealth waltz opera choruses,

No, the blues ain’t always blue,

Toxins dyed our voices.

Do you think the textile industry should be a source of economic strength for the country?

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    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image
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      Tim Truzy 4 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Today, I have a little more time - less demands. I wrote this poem after reading about an event in India recently. Apparently, dogs were swimming in a river and turned blue from dyes related to the textile industry. I also was thinking about how textiles helped to shape my state and others when I composed this poem. It is a work of love and labor.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image
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      Tim Truzy 4 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Abwilliams, my wife's grandmother worked for Revolution mill and White Oak Mill. We both had relatives at one time working in those places. You are right - no glamor there.

      I'm trying to catch up with reading your writing, my friend, I feel a bit behind on that - but you and I agree on so much as Christians and southerners. I'm looking forward to catching up.

      If more Americans could realize how much we share, the country would be greater than ever before.

      Donald is one very important man, but hearing from you - reading your articles - and sharing similar beliefs about our country - That's what our nation is about and meant to be.

      Thank you so much.

    • abwilliams profile image

      A B Williams 4 weeks ago from Central Florida

      My Grandparents worked in Textile mills when they were young, before child labor laws were enforced. They went back to work in them, as adults. They also worked cotton fields and any place else that was hiring, they weren't picky!

      Those that worked in the mills lived close by in what many refer to as the Mill Hill. Many of these places still remain in many small towns throughout the Carolinas and house those that work in the remaining Mills. Several family members found employment in the Mills.

      These people that do these jobs definitely weren't born into a life of privilege, no silver spoons in their mouths. They'll never be wealthy, but they believe in hard work, family, Serving the Lord and serving others. They are rich!

      Well done Tim!