and Keri Leigh Merritt
discuss their new edited volume, Reconsidering Southern Labor History: Race, Class, and Power
(University Press of Florida, 2018), the nexus of race, class and power in the history of labor in the South, and how a new generation of southern labor scholars are changing our understanding of labor's past, present and future in the region.
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.
Beth A. English is director of the Liechtenstein Institute's Project on Gender in the Global Community at Princeton University. She also is a past president of the Southern Labor History Association.