Synopses & Reviews
In 1933 Congress granted American laborers the right of collective bargaining, but farmworkers got no New Deal. Cindy Hahamovitch's pathbreaking account of migrant farmworkers along the Atlantic Coast shows how growers enlisted the aid of the state in an unprecedented effort to keep their fields well stocked with labor.
This is the story of the farmworkersItalian immigrants from northeastern tenements, African American laborers from the South, and imported workers from the Caribbeanwho came to work in the fields of New Jersey, Georgia, and Florida in the decades after 1870. These farmworkers were not powerless, the author argues, for growers became increasingly open to negotiation as their crops ripened in the fields. But farmers fought back with padrone or labor contracting schemes and 'work-or-fight' forced-labor campaigns. Hahamovitch describes how growers' efforts became more effective as federal officials assumed the role of padroni, supplying farmers with foreign workers on demand.
Today's migrants are as desperate as ever, the author concludes, not because poverty is an inevitable feature of modern agricultural work, but because the federal government has intervened on behalf of growers, preventing farmworkers from enjoying the fruits of their labor.
[B]reaks important ground in understanding rural class relations and the role of the federal government.
Journal of Southern History
An important contribution to our understanding of agricultural labor relations.
Labor Studies Journal
Brings together excellent historiography of the understudied East Coast migrant stream.
Industrial and Labor Relations Review
[S]killfully weaves together the strands of agricultural history, immigration history, labor history, southern history, and history of the state.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 205-273) and index.
About the Author
Cindy Hahamovitch is associate professor of history at the College of William and Mary.