Divided We Stand - American Workers and the Struggle for Black Equality

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2001-12-26
  • Publisher: Princeton Univ Pr

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Divided We Standis a study of how class and race have intersected in American society--above all, in the "making" and remaking of the American working class in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Focusing mainly on longshoremen in the ports of New York, New Orleans, and Los Angeles, and on steelworkers in many of the nation's steel towns, it examines how European immigrants became American and "white" in the crucible of the industrial workplace and the ethnic and working-class neighborhood. As workers organized on the job, especially during the overlapping CIO and civil rights eras in the middle third of the twentieth century, trade unions became a vital arena in which "old" and "new" immigrants and black migrants forged new alliances and identities and tested the limits not only of class solidarity but of American democracy. The most volatile force in this regard was the civil rights movement. As it crested in the 1950s and '60s, "the Movement" confronted unions anew with the question, "Which side are you on?" This book demonstrates the complex ways in which labor organizations answered that question and the complex relationships between union leaders and diverse rank-and-file constituencies in addressing it. Divided We Standincludes vivid examples of white working-class "agency" in the construction of racially discriminatory employment structures. But Nelson is less concerned with racism as such than with the concrete historical circumstances in which racialized class identities emerged and developed. This leads him to a detailed and often fascinating consideration of white, working-class ethnicity but also to a careful analysis of black workers--their conditions of work, their aspirations and identities, their struggles for equality. Making its case with passion and clarity,Divided We Standwill be a compelling and controversial book.

Author Biography

Bruce Nelson is Professor of History at Dartmouth College. His first book, Workers on the Waterfront, was awarded the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize by the Organization of American Historians

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Permissions xvii
Introduction ``Something in the `Atmosphere' of America'' xix
The Logic and Limits of Solidarity, 1850s---1920s
New York: ``They...Helped to Create Themselves Out of What They Found Around Them''
Waterfront Unionism and ``Race Solidarity'': From the Crescent City to the City of Angels
Ethnicity and Race in Steel's Nonunion Era
``Regardless of Creed, Color or Nationality'': Steelworkers and Civil Rights (I)
``We Are Determined to Secure Justice Now'': Steelworkers and Civil Rights (II)
``The Steel Was Hot, the Jobs Were Dirty, and It Was War'': Class, Race, and Working-Class Agency in Youngstown
Epilogue ``Other Energies, Other Dreams'': Toward a New Labor Movement 287(10)
Notes 297(80)
Index 377

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