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For Jobs and Freedom

For Jobs and Freedom: Race and Labor in America since 1865

Robert H. Zieger
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    For Jobs and Freedom
    Book Description:

    Whether as slaves or freedmen, the political and social status of African Americans has always been tied to their ability to participate in the nation's economy. Freedom in the post--Civil War years did not guarantee equality, and African Americans from emancipation to the present have faced the seemingly insurmountable task of erasing pervasive public belief in the inferiority of their race. For Jobs and Freedom: Race and Labor in America since 1865 describes the African American struggle to obtain equal rights in the workplace and organized labor's response to their demands. Award-winning historian Robert H. Zieger asserts that the promise of jobs was similar to the forty-acres-and-a-mule restitution pledged to African Americans during the Reconstruction era. The inconsistencies between rhetoric and action encouraged workers, both men and women, to organize themselves into unions to fight against unfair hiring practices and workplace discrimination. Though the path proved difficult, unions gradually obtained rights for African American workers with prominent leaders at their fore. In 1925, A. Philip Randolph formed the first black union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, to fight against injustices committed by the Pullman Company, an employer of significant numbers of African Americans. The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) emerged in 1935, and its population quickly swelled to include over 500,000 African American workers. The most dramatic success came in the 1960s with the establishment of affirmative action programs, passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title VII enforcement measures prohibiting employer discrimination based on race. Though racism and unfair hiring practices still exist today, motivated individuals and leaders of the labor movement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries laid the groundwork for better conditions and greater opportunities. Unions, with some sixteen million members currently in their ranks, continue to protect workers against discrimination in the expanding economy. For Jobs and Freedom is the first authoritative treatment in more than two decades of the race and labor movement, and Zieger's comprehensive and authoritative book will be standard reading on the subject for years to come.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4663-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    I still have a hard time confessing that I didn’t stay for Dr. King’s speech. As far as I was concerned, civil rights was a matter of politics and morality, not religion. Anyway, I had parked a long way off, it was getting late, and I had to pick up my wife at the Prince Georges County bank, where she worked. As I threaded my way back through the throng lining the Reflecting Pool, across the Washington Monument grounds, up along Pennsylvania Avenue, the speakers’ voices grew fainter. I had parked on one of the side streets off East Capitol...

  5. 1 The First Fruits of Freedom
    (pp. 9-42)

    During the last decades of the nineteenth century, the American people embarked on a vast social experiment. Three and a half million former slaves, previously excluded from the civil economy, now joined a free working class, itself undergoing a dramatic transformation. The formal ending of slavery in December 1865 specified no particular political, legal, or social status for the freedmen. Even the great constitutional amendments of 1865–1870 and the Reconstruction-era civil rights laws left key aspects of blacks’ status and circumstances unclear. Throughout the first postbellum generation, the role that former slaves would play in the nation’s labor force,...

  6. 2 Into the New Century
    (pp. 43-69)

    In the decades before the outbreak of World War I in 1914, race continued to be a major factor in a broad range of labor and workplace contexts. In the South, the disfranchisement of African Americans, the withdrawal of direct federal oversight of race relations, and white elites’ determination to maintain blacks’ subordination helped launch new forms of racially inflected unfree labor. In the cities of the Northeast and the Midwest, in both established black communities and among the growing number of southern migrants, black workers found both new opportunities and old patterns of discrimination in the emerging industrial and...

  7. 3 Great war, Great Migration
    (pp. 70-105)

    Between 1914 and 1932, the ethnic and racial composition and the geographic distribution of the American working class changed dramatically. These were years of war, vast economic reconfiguration and expansion, and bewildering social and cultural change. The migration of over a million rural southern blacks to northern industrial centers and to expanding southern cities, along with the imposition of ethnically defined restrictions on immigration, triggered a complex reshuffling of the demographics of work. During and after World War I, episodes of savage racial violence and intriguing examples of biracial activism punctuated the massive labor turmoil of these years. Throughout the...

  8. 4 Race and Labor in Depression and War
    (pp. 106-138)

    From the onset of the Great Depression to the end of World War II, union membership among African Americans soared from about sixty thousand to around one million. African Americans played key roles in the dramatic expansion of the U.S. labor movement, whose total membership during this period grew by a factor of five to more than fourteen million members. In the 1930s, a combination of favorable federal labor policies, heightened activism among rank-and-file workers, and determined leadership revitalized a hitherto lethargic trade union movement, which now sought to expand into mass production industries. Since the Great Migration had brought...

  9. 5 Race and Labor in the Postwar World
    (pp. 139-174)

    In the decades after the end of World War II, African Americans both made significant advances and suffered disappointing setbacks in the nation’s workplaces. The general prosperity that characterized this period produced rising levels of real income for most workers, black and white. Black men who had found jobs in the central industrial core during World War II were largely able to retain these positions, taking advantage of the rising wages, enhanced job security, and other benefits that potent industrial unions such as the United Automobile Workers (UAW), the steel workers, and the packinghouse workers achieved. African Americans also found...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  11. 6 Affirmative Action and Labor Action
    (pp. 175-207)

    The passage of pioneering civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s held great promise. In particular, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of race in employment, thus inscribing into law a fundamental public commitment that black activists and their allies had been urging for decades. It soon became apparent, however, that the law’s seemingly simple prohibition of racial discrimination was neither self-defining nor self-enforcing. Would the new law’s reliance on individual litigation by those claiming discrimination blunt its impact? In carrying out the law’s mandate to improve the economic situation of African Americans, was the newly...

  12. 7 Back to the Future
    (pp. 208-234)

    Even as thousands of black workers filed complaints of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and began legal action against employers, the economic and social forces that had so powerfully affected black workers in the 1950s and 1960s accelerated, posing still greater challenges to new cohorts, especially in the northern cities. In the 1980s and 1990s, industrial employment at first stagnated and then began to shrink, both proportionately and absolutely. In many cases, this downturn affected industries such as textiles just as African Americans were finally gaining a foothold. From the “creative destruction” of the American industrial regime...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 235-254)
  14. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 255-266)

    The historical literature on African American workers and on the racial policies and practices of the U.S. labor movement is vast and growing. For discussions of some of the major trends in this scholarship, key interpretive controversies, and overviews of the field, see note 2 in the introduction. Readers can also find reviews of a number of recent books at December 16, 2006).

    There are several valuable general histories of race and labor. Particularly useful for both its broad sweep and its detailed examination of organized labor’s record on race is Philip S. Foner,Organized Labor and the...

  15. Index
    (pp. 267-276)