Civil Rights Unionism : Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth-Century South
Drawing on scores of interviews with black and white tobacco workers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Robert Korstad brings to life the forgotten heroes of Local 22 of the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers of America-CIO. These workers confronted a system of racial capitalism that consigned African Americans to the basest jobs in the industry, perpetuated low wages for all southerners, and shored up white supremacy. Galvanized by the emergence of the CIO, African Americans took the lead in a campaign that saw a strong labor movement and the reenfranchisement of the southern poor as keys to reforming the South and a reformed South as central to the survival and expansion of the New Deal. In the window of opportunity opened by World War II, they blurred the boundaries between home and work as they linked civil rights and labor rights in a bid for justice at work and in the public sphere. But civil rights unionism foundered in the maelstrom of the Cold War. Its defeat undermined later efforts by civil rights activists to raise issues of economic equality to the moral high ground occupied by the fight against legalized segregation and, Korstad contends, constrains the prospects for justice and democracy today.
- Paperback | 576 pages
- 156 x 235 x 34.8mm | 811.93g
- 31 May 2003
- The University of North Carolina Press
- Chapel Hill, United States
- New edition
- New edition
The breadth of Korstad's work is impressive and so is his ability to incorporate the broader historical context into the narrative of the Local . . . . One of the many significant aspects of Korstad's book is that he gives voice to the neglected history of African American women in the trade union movement.--Left History This book is exemplary. . . . Korstad's research and writing exhibits all the standards of rigorous scholarship.--Political Affairs An exceptionally rich work of scholarship.--Journal of American History [This] well-researched analysis paints a rich portrait of the struggles of black working-class Americans for respect on and off the job.--Winston-Salem Journal Well-researched and well-written . . . A major contribution to the current scholarship on labor history.--American Communist History To take the measure of Robert Korstad's arguments in Civil Rights Unionism is to cast the civil rights movement in this bright new light.--Industrial and Labor Relations Review At the center of Korstad's expansive but tightly knit narrative is the argument that unions represented the best hope for carrying the New Deal's vision of economic democracy and social justice into the postwar period. The liberal, reformist atmosphere of the New Deal years provided the climate not only for the working-class activism but also for African American civil rights. . . . Provides readers [with] a solid sense of the political and economic exigencies that made African American unionization possible in the Solid South. . . . Korstad is to be applauded for illuminating the struggle of working-class African Americans to build a union movement that expressed their ambitions for so much more than a wage increase.--Reviews in American History Korstad's book sheds light on the decline of New Deal liberalism, the origins of the Civil Rights Movement, the development of interracial labor unions, and the coalescence of the Cold War consensus. . . . Leaves us with a richer understanding of how southern liberals fought back in the face of oppression and poverty. --Southern Historian Piece[s] together a story that is at once compelling and powerful.--North Carolina Historical Review A vitally important contribution to the fields of labor and African American history.--New Labor Forum
About Robert Rogers Korstad
Robert Korstad is associate professor of public policy studies and history at Duke University. He is a coauthor of Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World and a coeditor of Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Talk about Life In the Segregated South.