"Foner's careful and detailed scholarship makes this the best one-volume study of blacks and the labor movement currently available."
—The Black Scholar
"The standard of accuracy and reasoned argument maintained in this work should make it the standard on its subject for a long time."
—Professor Davivd Herreshoff, Journal of American History
"This readable and authoritative work represents a significant contribution to the literature of black unionism in the United States."
—Joel Hettger, U.S. Department of Labor History, Library Journal
"Foner's book provides considerable illumination of the an important and often overlooked aspect of American labor history."
—Professor Norman Lederer, American Academy of Political and Social Science.
“Simply the best treatment of the history of the black worker yet to appear and is likely to be the standard work in the field for a long time to come.”
—William K. Tabb, Review, Review of Black Political Economy
"Organized Labor and the Black Worker … documents a very long history of trade union and white working-class intransigence to Black working-class advancement alongside episodes of interracial class unity and the elusive promise of a radical future…. His book is filled with anecdotes of working-class racism undermining genuine workers’ power in favor of the paltry protections of white privilege—from the erection of occupational color bars by unions to the outbreaks of wildcat strikes against the hiring of black workers. But it is also peppered with episodes of anti-racism and interracial unity, from the Knights of Labor and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)…. Foner reminds us that African Americans provided leadership to white workers—or at least they tried. From the Colored National Labor Union to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, from the League of Revolutionary Black Workers to the Coalition of Black Trade Unions, Black labor militants appealed to whites and other workers of color for solidarity. Indeed, solidarity is the book’s central message; when white workers attempt to go it alone or build exclusionary racist unions, they don’t win…. A stunning achievement; it still stands as the most comprehensive treatment to date of African American workers and the labor movement.”
—Robin D. G. Kelley, from the Foreword
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Organized Labor and the Black Worker, 1619-1981 is historian Philip Foner's classic, radical history of Black workers' contribution to the American labor movement. Here, we present an excerpt from scholar Robin D. G. Kelley's foreword to the Haymarket edition.
"...the train of developments that connects changes in social conditions to a changed consciousness is not simple. People, including ordinary people, harbor somewhere in their memories the building blocks of different and contradictory interpretations of what it is that is happening to them, of who should be blamed, and what can be done about it..."