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University of South Carolina Press

The Cigar Factory

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Two women kept apart by segregation at a Southern cigar factory forge a powerful alliance in the labor rights movement in this historical novel.

With evocative dialect and remarkable prose, 
The Cigar Factory tells the story of two entwined families—the white McGonegals and the African American Ravenels—in the storied port city of Charleston, South Carolina, during the World Wars. Moore’s novel follows the parallel lives of family matriarchs working on segregated floors of the massive Charleston cigar factory, where white and black workers remain divided and misinformed about the duties and treatment received by each other.

Cassie McGonegal and her niece Brigid work upstairs in the factory rolling cigars by hand. Meliah Amey Ravenel works in the basement, where she stems the tobacco. While both suffer in the harsh working conditions of the factory and endure the sexual harassment of the foremen, segregation keeps them from recognizing their common plight until the Tobacco Workers Strike of 1945.

Through the experience of a brutal picket line, the two women discover how much they stand to gain by joining forces, creating a powerful moment in labor history that gives rise to the Civil Rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.” Moore’s historical research includes interviews with family members who worked at the cigar factory, adding nuance and authenticity to her empowering story of struggle, loss, and redemption.

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