Ned Cobb lived as a tenant farmer in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. He left his father’s home at the age of 19; married and started a family of his own. He later joined the Sharecroppers Union in 1931 to fight for justice for black people and against the exploitation by white landowners. Cobb worked hard and was determined not to let the white race run his life; he organized groups and fought against the unfair treatment of tenant farmers. He climbed the ladder of success and started the tenant farmers union. He eventually was able to own his own crops and land.
In December 1932, a sheriff tried to take the home and livestock of one of Cobb’s friends. Cobb defended his friend and in turn was involved in a shootout in which he was wounded and arrested. Cobb was sentenced to thirteen years in jail. He was later offered parole if he would agree to surrender his farm and move to Birmingham. Cobb refused and served his full sentence after being released in 1945 he returned to his farm. Cobb continued to gain recognition and praise for being a black man making a name for himself, even during natural disasters such as the boll weevil epidemic and the collapse of cotton prices.
Cobb became one of the most successful black sharecroppers in the rural Jim Crow regulated county. Within a few years, he owned his own mules, a truck, and a car all which were paid for in full. He also had electricity and plumbing in his house which only the wealthy could afford during those times in the South. All of those distinctions distanced him from most black men and many poor white farmers in his vicinity. Although uneducated and illiterate, Cobb was extremely intelligent and avoided the sharecroppers’ commonly hopeless cycle of debt and poverty by his abilities to innovate in agriculture and to avoid many of the mistakes of others.