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The lumber industry employed more African American men than any southern economic sector outside agriculture, yet those worker have been almost completely ignored by scholars. Drawing on a substantial number of oral history interviews as well as on manuscript sources, local newspapers, and government documents, "The Tribe of Black Ulysses explores black men and women's changing relationship to industrial work in three sawmill communities (Elizabethtown, South Carolina, Chapman, Alabama, and Bogalusa, Louisiana). By restoring black lumber workers to the history of southern industrialization, William P. Jones reveals that industrial employment was not incompatible--"as previous historians have assume--"with the racial segregation and political disfranchisement that defined African American life in the Jim Crow South. At the same time, he complicates an older tradition of southern sociology that viewed industrialization as socially disruptive and morally corrupting to African American social and cultural traditions rooted in agriculture.
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