Synopses & Reviews
This is history at its best--the epic, often tragic story of success and failure on the uneven playing fields of American labor, rooted in painstaking research and passionately alive to its present-day implications for a just society. Jacqueline Jones shows unmistakably how nearly every significant social transformation in American history (from bound to free labor, from farm work to factory work, from a blue-collar to a white-collar economy) rolled back the hard-won advances of those African Americans who had managed to gain footholds in various jobs and industries. This is a story not of simple ideological "racism" but of politics and economics interacting to determine what kind of work was "suitable" for which groups. Here is a "useful and sobering" (Kirkus Reviews) account of why the connection between success and the work ethic was severed long ago for a substantial number of Americans. American Work goes far beyond the easy sloganeering of the current debates on affirmative action and welfare versus workfare to inform those debates with rich historical context and compelling insight.
"[Jones's] painstakingly researched volume is an invaluable antidote to those who argue that our shameful past has no relevance to our perplexing present." --David Kusnet,
Includes bibliographical references (p. 489-528) and index.
Table of Contents
Part I: Insubordinates: servants and slaves in a militarized age. Places of labor's "hard usage" in the South before slavery -- Memory and misery: white servants and the origins of slavery in the South -- The work of insurrection: black and white labor in the eighteenth-century South -- "Domestik enemies": bound laborers in New England and the Middle Colonies, 1620-1776 -- The emergence of free labor, fettered, in the North -- American work: a photo essay -- Part II: Workers and overworkers: black and white labor in the era of slavery. Black and white hands in a slaveholders' republic, 1790-1860 -- The racial politics of Southern labor in peacetime and war, 1820-1870 -- White men "in a tight place": black poverty and black protest in the antebellum North -- White citizens and black denizens: workers in the North during the era of the Civil War.