“This collection impresses with its chronological sweep, diverse subject matter, and fresh perspectives on southern labor history. It not only affirms the relevance of the southern working-class experience but also enhances our understanding of the broader contours of labor and working-class history.”—Robert Bussel, author of Fighting for Total Person Unionism: Harold Gibbons, Ernest Calloway, and Working-Class Citizenship
“An outstanding collection of essays that promises to help solve America’s labor history illiteracy problem and that offers much to learn about the history of capitalism, management, labor, and the struggles of ordinary people in the South.”—Chad Pearson, coeditor of Against Labor: How U.S. Employers Organized to Defeat Union Activism
The American Dream of reaching success through sheer sweat and determination rings false for countless members of the working classes. This volume shows that many of the difficulties facing workers today have deep roots in the history of the exploitation of labor in the South. Contributors make the case that the problems that have long beset southern labor, including the legacy of slavery, low wages, lack of collective bargaining rights, and repression of organized unions, have become the problems of workers across the country.
Spanning nearly all of U.S. history, the essays in this collection range from West Virginia to Florida to Texas. They examine vagrancy laws in the early republic, inmate labor at state penitentiaries, mine workers and union membership, and strikes and the often-violent strikebreaking that followed. They also look at pesticide exposure among farmworkers, labor activism during the civil rights movement, and foreign-owned auto factories in the rural South. They distinguish between different struggles experienced by women and men, as well as by African American, Latino, and white workers.
The broad chronological sweep and comprehensive nature of Reconsidering Southern Labor History: Race, Class, and Power set this volume apart from any other collection on the topic in the past forty years. Presenting the latest trends in the study of the working-class South by a new generation of scholars, this volume is a surprising revelation of the historical forces behind the labor inequalities inherent today.
Matthew Hild is lecturer in the School of History and Sociology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and instructor in the Department of History at the University of West Georgia. He is the author of Greenbackers, Knights of Labor, and Populists: Farmer-Labor Insurgency in the Late-Nineteenth-Century South. Keri Leigh Merritt, an independent scholar in Atlanta, Georgia, is the author of Masterless Men: Poor Whites and Slavery in the Antebellum South.