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Brotherhoods of Color
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Table of Contents

Prologue 1. Race in the First Century of American Railroading 2. Promise and Failure in the World War I Era 3. The Black Wedge of Civil Rights Unionism 4. Independent Black Unionism in Depression and War 5. The Rise of the Red Caps 6. The Politics of Fair Employment 7. The Politics of Fair Representation 8. Black Railroaders in the Modern Era Conclusion Notes Acknowledgments Index

About the Author

Eric Arnesen is Professor of History at George Washington University.

Reviews

Since their inception nearly two centuries ago, railroads have provided black men (and some women) with steady employment. Paradoxically, though many track layers, porters, brakemen, firemen, waiters and redcaps were able to make a good living, the railroad industry was one of the most institutionalized forms of racism in the U.S. (e.g., blacks were legally represented by the same unions that forbade them membership), maintains Eric Arnesen, professor of history at the University of Illinois. Brotherhood of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality is Arnesen's exhaustive and illuminating work of scholarship. ( Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

In this superbly written monograph, Arnesen...shows how African American railroad workers combined civil rights and labor union activism in their struggles for racial equality in the workplace...Throughout, black locomotive firemen, porters, yardmen, and other railroaders speak eloquently about the work they performed and their confrontations with racist treatment...This history of the 'aristocrats' of the African American working class is highly recommended. -- Charles L. Lumpkins * Library Journal *
Arnesen provides a fascinating look at U.S. labor and commerce in the arena of the railroads, so much a part of romantic notions about the growth of the nation. The focus of the book is the troubled history of the railroads in the exploitation of black workers from slavery until the civil rights movement, with an insightful analysis of the broader racial integration brought about by labor activism. -- Vanessa Bush * Booklist *
[An] exhaustive and illuminating work of scholarship. * Publishers Weekly *
Arnesen tells a story that should be of interest to a variety of readers, including those who are avid students of this country's railroads. He knows his stuff, and furthermore, reminds us of how dependent American railroads were on the backbreaking labor of racial and ethnic groups whose civil and political status were precarious at best: Irish, Chinese, Mexicans and Italians, as well as African-Americans. But Arnesen's most powerful and provocative argument is that the nature of discrimination not only led black railroad workers to pursue the path of independent unionism, it also propelled them into the larger struggle for civil rights. -- Steven Hahn * Chicago Tribune *

In this superbly written monograph, Arnesen (history, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago; Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics, 1863-1923) shows how African American railroad workers combined civil rights and labor union activism in their struggles for racial equality in the workplace. The author details the historyÄespecially the 1910s through the 1950sÄof black railroaders who developed various strategies to combat the railroad industry's institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination and the violence of employers and white labor unionists. Throughout, black locomotive firemen, porters, yardmen, and other railroaders speak eloquently about the work they performed and their confrontations with racist treatment. Arnesen discusses the significance of the "New Negro," the New Deal, the Fair Employment Practice Committee, the contested role of the federal government, the Red Caps, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and other independent black railroad labor unions. This history of the "aristocrats" of the African American working class is highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.ÄCharles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State College Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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