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Race, Class, And Power In The Alabama Coalfields, 1908-21
by Brian Kelly
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In this lucid and supremely readable study, Brian Kelly challenges the prevailing notion that white workers were the main source of resistance to racial equality in the Jim Crow South.
Kelly explores the forces that brought the black and white miners of Birmingham, Alabama, together during the hard-fought strikes of 1908 and 1920. He examines the systematic efforts by the region's powerful industrialists to foment racial divisions as a means of splitting the workforce, preventing unionization, and holding wages to the lowest levels in the country. He also details the role played by Birmingham's small but influential black middle class, whose espousal of industrial accommodation outraged black miners and revealed significant tensions within the African-American community.
"Brian Kelly has cut through the tangle of controversy involving Alabama's black and white coal miners. By returning the agency of employers to the analysis of race relations, Kelly has produced a sophisticated and compelling account of race, class, and power that students of all periods of U.S. history need to read." -- Judith Stein, author of Running Steel, Running America: Race, Economic Policy, and the Decline of Liberalism
"A meticulously researched, engaging, and convincing study. Brian Kelly's vivid reconstructions of life in the Alabama coalfields and explorations of black working-class activism and the salience of class divisions in the black community are major contributions to African-American and labor history. His persuasive argument on the decisive role of white coal operators in shaping race and labor relations stands as a challenge to labor historians who have oddly neglected the role of capital in their studies on race and labor." -- Eric Arnesen, author of Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality
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