Testing the New Deal

Testing the New Deal : The General Textile Strike of 1934 in the American South

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Description

In September 1934 two-thirds of the southern textile labor force walked off their jobs, inspired by Roosevelt's New Deal to protest employer harassment and massive industry restructuring. After three weeks, the union that led the strike called it off in return for government promises that remained unfulfilled. Thousands of workers were blacklisted and conditions in the southern mills deteriorated rapidly. Humiliated and demoralized, strike participants maintained a sixty-year silence that virtually eliminated the event from historical memory.Janet Irons steps into this historical vacuum to explore the community and workplace dynamics of southern mill towns in the years leading up the strike, as well as the links among worker insurgency, organized labor, and governmental policy in the New Deal's crucial first years. Drawing on industry and union records, newspaper sources, oral histories, records of the New Deal bureaucracy, and thousands of letters written by southern laborers to President Roosevelt about their working conditions, Irons reveals the dual nature of the New Deal's impact on the South. While its rhetoric mobilized the poor to challenge local established authority, the New Deal's political structure worked in the opposite direction, reinforcing the power of the South's economic elite. A powerful rendering of a pivotal event, "Testing the New Deal" stands as a major reassessment of southern labor in the 1930s.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 312 pages
  • 151.6 x 225.3 x 20.3mm | 439.99g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252068408
  • 9780252068409

Review quote

"Against the backdrop of the New Deal and the National Industrial Recovery Act and after 60 years of what [Irons] calls 'historical amnesia,' she examines the strike and its consequences." -- Booklist "Irons's book proves yet again that labor history provides a window to view and understand America. The inner workings of American governmental policy, American society (especially in the South), and labor issues that divided and continue to divide management and workers are all considered and treated deftly. Irons probes large questions: what was the nature of the New Deal? What was the nature of the working lives of men and women in southern textile mills before and during the New Deal? And, after more than sixty years of silence, what was the significance of the general textile strike of 1934?" -- James Duane Bolin, American Historical Review "The union boom and the strike of 1934 are the core of Iron's study, the substance of her argument that conflict, power, and repression are the keys to understanding southern labor... Irons has told an important story in a book that should be read by all interested in the development of modern American history and economics." -- Gerald Friedman, H-Net, Economic History "Addresses an important and neglected episode in southern labor history... Well -researched and clearly argued ... it will serve as an important reference point for many historians." -- Tim Minchin, Labor History "Irons has provided us with an important and original study of labor protest during the New Deal. Historians of the 1930s will greatly benefit from a close reading of this excellent book, but so will any reader with an interest in southern history." -- Anthony James Gaughan, South Carolina Historical Magazine "This massive strike ... has been extraordinarily neglected...Irons's study, the first modern account of the 1934 textile strike, is a welcome addition to the literature." -- Robert Justin Goldstein, Journal of American History "Irons rightly skewers the industry for its failure to treat its workers with the dignity that their courageous efforts to gain a larger place in the American South merited." -- Thomas E. Terrill, The Historian "[A] well-crafted, closely argued monograph. It is both an inspiring and depressing story she tells." -- North Carolina Historical Review "After the crushing of resistance of workers in southern textiles, it seemed as if even the memory of the strike had been obliterated... Irons succeeded in breaking through the silence using primary and secondary sources and oral interviews with participants. It is a major and very useful effort." -- Martin Glaberman, Labour/Le Travail ADVANCE PRAISE "Wide-ranging and insightful... No one has approached this crucial moment in American and Southern history from the same angle as Irons." -- Bryant Simon, author of A Fabric of Defeat: The Politics of South Carolina Textile Workers, 1910-1948 "Catches the dramatic sweep of the huge textile strike of '34 ... impeccably researched and vividly written." -- George C. Stoney, producer of The Uprising of '34show more

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3.25 out of 5 stars
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4 0% (0)
3 50% (2)
2 25% (1)
1 0% (0)
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