As towns in northeastern Montana approach their centennials, The Red Corner chronicles the events of the teens and 1920s that left a permanent mark on the region. Sheridan County was the site of an armed robbery of $100,000 from the county treasury, a Young Communist camp, an adolescent's Bolshevik funeral," and surveillance by FBI agents who pursued some radical leaders even into the 1960s. The book profiles several influential Communists including a colorful newspaper editor who was elected state senator and later national chairman of the Farmer Labor Party, as well as his comrade, the county sheriff, who was allegedly involved in graft, prostitution, and bootlegging. In spite of its notoriety, the farmers' movement became one of the nation's most successful rural Communist organizations during the 1920s. By the beginning of the Depression decade, however, Communism in northeastern Montana was crippled. The Red Corner details this strange reversal of fortune by examining newspaper accounts, FBI reports, and internal Communist Party files, offering insights on how movements arise, sustain themselves, and decline.
Verlaine Stoner McDonald is Associate Professor at Berea College in Kentucky. She was born and raised in Sheridan County, Montana.