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.
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"Written in riveting prose, Civil Rights Unionism is a breathtaking account of how black tobacco workers joined forces with the organized left to create an amazingly resilient labor movement in one of the most powerful companies in the South. At the heart of the movement were black women who believed labor unions ought to do more than demand higher wages and better working conditions; they fought to eliminate racism and fight for dignity and social justice. Korstad not only forces us to rethink the origins of the 'modern' civil rights movement, but he demonstrates how Cold War repression redirected what might have been a very different civil rights movement had these visionary workers remained at the forefront."--Robin D. G. Kelley, New York University
Robert Rodgers 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.
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Book Description The University of North Caroli, 2003. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110807827819