Labor's Problem: Real Wages
The Labor movement in
America received its initial momentum from leaders who fought
and fought hard for “more, now,” for the workingman.
L. Lewis and even, in a slightly different sense,
Gompers, all were interested primarily in higher money wages for
the men they represented.
can these leaders be censured for the short-term view they held.
In the days before strong union organization, working
conditions for the American laborer, both skilled and unskilled,
cried out to heaven for immediate relief. The long-term good of the community and particularly of the
capitalist system simply ceased to have importance until the
workingman could get enough to eat.
L. Lewis still holds to the
short-range viewpoint. He
has broadened his labor philosophy to include a notable fight
for pensions and compensation for his own men.
He has not broadened it sufficiently to include a
comprehensive understanding of the American economy and the
long-range place of coal in the economy.
As natural gas and various forms of fuel oil displace
King Coal, Lewis and the miners he represents must at least
begin to wonder whether their present stubborn tactics will
benefit the next generation of miners.
So far, even if they have wondered about the future, they
have been concerned with here and now.
however, a new type of labor leader is appearing in the United
intellectual, and often sharply differentiated from the laboring
men he represents. Such a man is
Walter Reuther of the
Workers of America, C.I.O
will not make progress toward the high standard of
living it is able to produce so long as it seeks to
advance its own interests without regard to the
interests of all other workers and of the community of
which it is a part. We shall hold on to our gains only by making progress with
the community—not at the expense of the community.
Walter Reuther, who makes no attempt to hide his contempt
for the old “nickel-in-the-pay envelope philosophy.”
philosophy, obviously, deviates rather sharply from the
bargaining opportunism of old-style labor leaders.
Reuther owes his position as President of the
U.A.W. in part at least to his ability to grasp
opportunities for shrewd bargaining.
He is not completely the idealist the above question
would make him. Is
he then sincere? Is
he really a “new” labor leader, or simply a man with the
ability to write appealingly?
Walter Reuther and how did he become the most
talked-about labor leader, next to Lewis, in the United States
L. Lewis was giving all his support to
the election campaign against
Franklin D. Roosevelt, it would
have been hard to find anyone in Detroit who knew Walter Reuther.
In the early days of the New Deal, when Lewis was busy
Section 7a of the N.R.A., the young and unknown toolmaker
was working at the Gorki auto factory deep in the Soviet Union,
teaching toolmaking to inexperienced Russians. Not until 1935 did Reuther appear on the labor union scene in
the United States. But
a bare 15 years later, he was acknowledged one of the leading
labor spokesmen of his time.
Walter Reuther did not grow up in the coal mines or the
cigar factories, his childhood and early training prepared him
well for his union career.
Young Reuther was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, on September
7, 1907, the second son of Valentine Reuther, a German
father worked in a brewery for $1.50 daily, and was very active
in local union affairs at the time his son was born
of Reuther’s later ideas can be traced back to his father’s
Reuther was an ardent Socialist, and ran for Congress on the
Socialist ticket. He
brought from his native land a strong blend of Lutheranism and
the German Social Democratic tradition.
Although the Reuther family was by no means well off,
they were not subjected to that grinding poverty and fear of
starvation which haunted
L. Lewis and
John Mitchell during
their formative years.
grew up in an atmosphere “intensely serious, politically
self-conscious, socially extroverted,” and this atmosphere
shaped the philosophy of the man he was to become.
Through his father he got an early introduction to the
American labor movement, with an accent on its intellectual and
Reuther family was intellectual, but it could not afford to
keep teen-age sons in school.
At the age of 16
Walter had to leave the Wheeling High
School and become an apprentice toolmaker.
His first job was singularly unsuccessful—he was soon
discharged for labor agitation.
The ceiling on wages in Wheeling was around 40 cents an
hour and Sunday work was required.
So after three years, Reuther left for Detroit and the
fabulous wages of the auto industry there.
working a 13-hour night shift at Briggs for 85 cents an hour,
young Reuther talked his way into a job at the Ford plant as a
tool-and-die man for $1.10 an hour.
The evening hours of the job left him free to pursue high
school studies by day. Reuther
not only completed his high school course, but enrolled in Wayne
University where he studied social sciences for three years.
Reuther arrived in Detroit, the automobile center was definitely
and powerfully an open-shop city.
Automobile management was violently anti-union and in any
case the A.F.L. craft unions were not set up to organize
automobile assembly-line workers.
In 1926, as today, Detroit was almost a
single-industry city—the city devoted to the manufacture of
had and has a large Southern population. This group, relatively ignorant, found work at low rates.
A large part is colored.
Detroit also includes a large Polish population.
Interracial and international tensions were and still are
frictions did not make it easier to organize a labor-union
movement in the automobile industry.
But young enthusiasts like Reuther were inspired by the
depression and the New Deal to agitate for unionization at Ford
and at other big plants. The
outcome of such projects was inevitable.
In 1933, when unemployment gripped the entire nation,
Reuther was fired from Ford for union agitation.
Travels to Europe
is significant that
Reuther and his brother Victor decided to
seize this opportunity to take the grand tour of the world!
In England, they visited coal pits and textile mills as
well as auto plants; they were shaken by the Nazi hold on their
father’s native Germany; they went to work with enthusiasm in
Reuther, like so many others, was to lose all his enthusiasm for
the Russian “experiment” and become violently anti-Soviet.)
Reuther’s education was considerably broadened by his travels
abroad. Now he
returned to Detroit with a purpose:
to make unionization his life-time work.
He found a job with General Motors and threw his whole
strength into the campaign to organize the auto workers.
In 1935, he collected several small and struggling locals
into Local 174 and became its president by election.
In 1936, when he represented this local at the South Bend
Convention, his natural ability made him a logical choice for
the United Automobile Workers’ Executive Board.
did not fail to take his share of the tough and dirty work of
union organization in Detroit.
In the 1937 struggle to organize the Ford plant, Reuther
took part in the famous “battle of the overpass,” where he
was severely beaten by Ford Service Men.
This beating he described later in some detail:
They picked me up about eight different
times and threw me down on my back on the concrete.
I was on the ground they kicked me in the face,
head and other parts of my body. …
I never raised a hand.
After they kicked me down the stairs, then they
started to hit me at the bottom of the stairs, hit me
and slugged, driving me before them but never letting me
Reuther, this brutal experience seems to have been suffered in
the line of duty, and made him no more nor less bitter against
his industrial antagonists.
But when he was again beaten by toughs in his home in
1938 Reuther claimed that the men were part of the Ford Service
such as this, at any rate, were by no means isolated in Detroit
in the thirties.
Growth & Success of the UAW
exceptional ability was, meantime, becoming even more evident.
His local grew in membership from 78 to 30,000 in the
space of one year. As
a full-time labor organizer, Reuther helped organize strike
after strike for union recognition.
He was prominent in the sit-down strike at the
Kelsey-Hayes wheel factory, an amazing success, and participated
in the General Motors sit-down strikes of 1936–37
May, 1936, the U.A.W. had decided to reject the A.F.L.
The president of the auto workers’ union was
Martin, a former Missouri Baptist minister and a gifted
agitator, but a leader of limited ability.
Wyndham Mortimer was vice-president,
George Addes, secretary-treasurer, and
Walter Reuther was a member of
the executive board.
U.A.W. has always maintained an interest in the relationship
between auto profits and wages.
Before the major General Motors sit-down strike began,
organizers had been arguing that: “The
year in which G.M.’s profits were $228,000,000, the workers’
average wage was slightly over $1,100.
Between January, 1934, and July, 1936, the corporation
spent close to $1,000,000 for plant espionage.
Speedups again and again. . . . ”
success of the General Motors strike, thanks partly to
L. Lewis and partly to the then Governor,
strengthened the automobile union immeasurably.
In a few short weeks its membership doubled, reaching
200,000. By 1937,
union membership had increased to 350,000 (from a 1935 roll of
factional rifts in the rapidly growing union were probably
was a poor leader and anti-Martin groups were gaining strength.
Among these groups were the Communist Party section and,
a smaller unit, the socialist segment led by
Martin finally tried to split the union in 1939 and take
his group out of the C.I.O.
But most of the membership stuck to the C.I.O. and
elected another chief of uncertain ability,
R. J. Thomas, who
had been proposed by the
Congress of Industrial Organizations.
election, unfortunately, and the elimination of
did not solve the underlying conflicts within the union, which
remained to haunt the auto workers.
The Stalinists proved themselves a major thorn in the
side of the U.A.W. until Reuther finally defeated them in 1947.
the period of U.A.W. conflict,
Walter Reuther was proving
himself a man of exceptional ability.
As a union organizer and a strike strategist he was
clearly a master opportunist.
His approach to everyday union problems was pragmatic.
U.A.W. members were able to credit him with very concrete
wage and other gains in the late thirties and during the war
Reuther matches his opportunism with a rather idealistic social
recent years, the U.A.W. has seen fit to minimize the
socialistic trend of Reuther’s thinking and his onetime
membership in the Socialist Party is seldom mentioned.
Those interested in his philosophy, however, can hardly
miss some of the socialistic influences which underlie it.
Walter Reuther undoubtedly learned much from his Socialist father and
from his father’s friends.
He was at one time an ardent supporter of
Irving Howe and
B. J. Widick quote from a dialogue
between Reuther and G. M. leader
Harry Coen during the 1946 wage
Reuther: I think when
monopolies like the aluminum industry, owned 85 per cent
nowadays, and magnesium, when the monopolies jeopardize the
safety of the country, they can no longer be trusted in private
hands to use them for a profit.
That is my private philosophy. . . .
Coen: It colors all your
thinking. . . . You
can’t talk about this thing without exposing your socialistic
Reuther: If fighting for a
more equal and equitable distribution of the wealth of this
country is socialistic, I stand guilty of being a socialist.”
the economic crisis of World War II, Reuther had ample
opportunity to display the more intellectual side of his
union leaders deplored his “fancy economics” and U.A.W.
Thomas contented himself with restating “pork-chop
Reuther Plan: Joint Management
Reuther was busy working out a coherent approach to the role of
labor in a war economy. One of his first propels was the plan for manufacturing
“500 planes a day” with idle auto manufacturing equipment. Reuther called attention to the fact that the auto industry
was running at only half its capacity.
He assembled figures on unused tools, on available space,
on idle manpower.
some of Reuther’s supporters were skeptical of the production
goal he set. But
the social implications of the plan were far-reaching for labor.
Equipment and manpower were to be pooled and labor was to
participate jointly with management and government in the
executive direction of the setup
was a foregone conclusion that former G.M. president
Knudsen would not take to a plan which called for union
participation in the functions of management.
Although the basic concept of utilizing idle auto plants
for war production was subsequently adopted by the auto
industry, the Reuther plan was dropped with little comment.
the war, Reuther made every effort to keep the union from
threatening strikes and from demanding pay rises which would add
to inflationary pressures.
At the same time, he took a firm, and highly popular
stand, on the Communist proposal to offer “incentive pay” as
a substitute for straight wage increases.
The incentive pay plan was simply a refined version of
piecework proposals and would have led to a brutal speedup in
Detroit. Reuther regarded this as a backward step, despite
pressure brought on the U.A.W. to accept the plan.
Unionism: Labor Studies Economy
end of the war saw Reuther hard at work on his famous plan to
date—the plan to force General Motors to grant a 30 per cent
wage increase without price increases in General Motors cars.
For one thing Reuther was able to show that in 1941,
during the war, General Motors employees produced $1.07 for
themselves and $1.09 for General Motors for every hour they
corporation had made a profit that year of $510,836,000.
June 30, 1945, Reuther laid his project before the
Office of War
Mobilization and Reconversion, and the
War Labor Board.
Here, at last, was a suggested solution to the
inflationary problem. Labor
was pressing hard for wage increases to match rising prices.
If Reuther was right, such increases could be granted
without permitting further price rises in industry.
Reuther had made a careful study of the situation:
that the economic facts of life prove that wages can be
increased without increasing prices.
Increased production must be supported by increased
consumption, and increased consumption will be possible only
through increased wages. . . . Industry can afford to pay higher wages out of the high
profits it is making. It
will not have to charge higher prices.
August 18 of the same year Reuther asked General Motors for a 30
per cent wage increase without an increase in the price of their
cars. He outlined
his position with some care:
We are convinced,” he declared, “as a result of our arithmetic,
based on published facts about the auto industry, about General
Motors’ past performance, about costs, prices, profits and the
certainty of a market for capacity production for the next three
years, that General Motors should and can pay 30 per cent higher
wage rates without increasing prices and at the same time make
profits higher than the prewar level.
General Motors’ immediate protest that Reuther was misinformed
and mistaken, the U.A.W. President replied simply:
“Open the books.”
intimation first of all that a labor union could negotiate a
wage increase with a proviso prohibiting price increases was
bitterly contested by auto industrialists.
Price fixing, it was maintained, was a distinct and
independent function of management and of no concern to the
outright demand that General Motors should open its books to
union representatives was viewed with even more alarm. The U.A.W., according to General Motors, was trying to “pry
its way into the whole field of management..”
Reuther explained to a government fact-find board that:
We have made the
fight . . . to get the company’s books and records not because
we want to indulge in the pleasure of going through their books.
. . . But the company
wouldn’t take up the challenge and wouldn’t argue the facts,
so the only way we could meet that problem is to say “Open the
books” because we knew that if they did open the books the
figures and the arithmetic would confirm the union’s economic
mere demand for a look at the books was not nearly so
revolutionary in actual fact as the basic assumption Reuther
made that prices should be included as a logical subject for
collective bargaining. Reuther
himself had no illusions that his proposal would have
far-reaching effects. In
the course of the negotiations he had declared that:
The grim fact is
that if free enterprise in America is to survive, it has got to
work . . . it must demonstrate more than an ability to create
earnings for providing full employment at a high standard of living,
rising year by year to keep pace with the annual increase in
technological efficiency. . . .
The fight of the General Motors workers is a fight to
save truly free enterprise from death at the hands of its
unfortunately, neither the rest of the C.I.O. nor the
Administration was willing to back up the Reuther program.
A fact-finding board appointed by President Truman to
investigate the General Motors dispute declared that General
Motors could pay a 19½ cent hourly wage increase without
raising car prices. Yet the Administration did not stand on this policy.
When the steel industry put pressure on the
price increases in conjunction with wage increases these were
steel wage gain of 18½ cents led to a price increase of $5 per
ton. Then the
inflationary spiral began to whirl once more.
Union after union abandoned the Reuther formula and
settled for wage increases irrespective of price plans.
on February 12, the
United Electric Workers, C.I.O., signed a
contract with General Motors, accepting a wage rise of 18½
cents hourly for 30,000 workers.
Phil Murray continued to urge Reuther to abandon his
finally forced the U.A.W. to take a wage increase and forget
about prices. But
Reuther did not change his mind about the basic necessity of
tying prices to wages. When
L. Lewis termed his position “stupid,” Reuther is said
to have replied:
We don’t agree
with John L. Lewis’ wage-price theory.
His theory is that we will soak the public a dollar more
per ton of coal, and you get fifty cents of it and the operator
fifty cents. We
don’t think that is the way to increase purchasing power.
We want to increase purchasing power by holding down
prices and raising wages so that people can buy more things.
for Reuther, the American union movement was not willing or not
yet ready to accept the implications of his new unionism.
Although Reuther won the presidency of the U.A.W. at the
1946 convention, the margin was narrow (104 votes) and the
executive board was packed with Reuther’s union opponents.
Reuther was confronted with bitter factionalism, based more on
disagreement with the Communists than on broad social
objectives. Finally, at the 1947 Convention, Reuther won a complete
victory and his supporters controlled the executive board as
triumph was hailed widely as a victory for conservatism against
communism within the union.
To some extent this was correct.
But this appraisal leaves out of account the Reuther
social program. As
Reuther himself remarked, as the convention closed:
If the editorial
writers . . . write that the U.A.W. and the leadership in this
convention are drifting toward a more conservative policy, I say
to those editorial writers that they are wrong, because this
convention and its leadership is committed to the kind of
militant, fighting trade union program that will mobilize not
only our union but the people in America in support of an
aggressive overall economic, social and political program. …
1949, Reuther again had ample opportunity to demonstrate his
practical nature and his social idealism.
In October of that year he won an agreement from the Ford
Motor Company for non-contributory pensions for union members.
The terms of the new contract were greeted as the “most
important C.I.O. victory of 1949.”
Approximately 112,000 workers at the age of 65 and after
30 years of service with the Ford company were to be eligible
for the $100 monthly pensions, which included Social Security.
The company assumed all expenses of the plan.
These were estimated at around $20,000,000 yearly—eight
and three quarters cents an hour per worker covered by the
practical achievements of this nature account for most of
Reuther’s popularity within the labor movement.
Unlike many other leaders, Reuther is by no means a
typical automobile worker.
It has become fashionable in recent years to
“explain” John L. Lewis by labeling him a typical product of
the American mining industry.
In this sense, Reuther is not Lewis’ counterpart.
Between himself and the rank and file membership of the
U.A.W. lies a wide gulf. Reuther
depends for the support on his ability to lead the rank and file
rather than to seem one of them.
appearance, in personality, Reuther would seem to be more
typical of the educated managerial group.
His interest in economic theory supports this appraisal.
Far from fading out after the G.M. rebuff, his interests
remain as strong as ever.
In 1949 Reuther was busy promoting a new project—this
time the production of prefabricated houses in idle aircraft
plan Reuther had been working on since the war ended.
In a pamphlet he wrote in 1945, “The Challenge of Peace,”
Reuther argued that the idle aircraft factories could be
retooled to build 20,000,000 prefabricated dwellings in a 10
project which Reuther outlined in great detail before the Senate
Banking Committee on February, 1949, called for the expenditure
of $120,000,000,000 over a 60-year period.
According to his estimates, a two-bedroom house with all
functional equipment could be built to sell for about $6,000.
Private enterprise, supported by government expenditures,
would be asked to carry out the scheme.
is no space here to discuss the technical and practical
manufacturing difficulties of the program.
At the present time, there is more than one prefabricated
house on the market selling for under $10,000; this probably
means that Reuther’s $6,000 figure is not too far from reality.
Whether idle aircraft machinery could be utilized is
the plan, regardless of its practical merits, interests us
because of its possible social implications.
It is extremely likely that private industry would not be
able to cope with so large a project, and that private
competition would not be practical.
This objection, for Reuther, seems inconsequential; his
socialistic philosophy is appearing here in a slightly new garb.
more interesting, from the standpoint of these articles, is
Reuther’s assumption that housing is the concern of the labor
union. This is a
far cry indeed from the “nickel in-the-pay-envelope”
philosophy, from pork-chop unionism.
Here, indeed, is a new development in C.I.O. unionism.
Gompers, an intellectual something like Reuther (see
Current History, March, 1950), the union was to be something
more than a bargaining instrument for wages and hours.
Gompers had very real interests in the education of the
workers and the betterment of their cultural environment.
Such an attitude, however, has by no means been typical
of the industrial unionism of America.
United Mine Workers, for example, has made little or
no effort in the direction of better education or housing for
Under the leadership of
the union has
watched coal operators price themselves right out of some of
their old-time markets. Nor
has Lewis ever shown any interest in restraining spiraling
hostility to the
O.P.A. during World War II may have sprung from
his hostility to Frank D. Roosevelt, but his attitude toward
coal prices at all times, and toward the Reuther price-wage
projects shows that he is not concerned with the problem.
than any union leader of this series,
Walter Reuther is
grappling with the basic problem of raising labor real
wage, and of finding a more equitable position for labor within
the framework of the national economy.
It is clear to Reuther, and to most disinterested
observers of the economic scene, that higher wages coupled with
rising prices offer little hope of bettering the position of the
workingman. It is
equally to Reuther that the long-term union philosophy must
accept some responsibility for the national economic well-being,
in war and in peace.
Reuther plans for utilizing idle equipment, whether
such equipment is to be used to manufacture aircraft in war-time
or housing in peace-time. A
healthy national economy, which is probably the only guarantee
of improving working conditions for the union members,
presupposes a minimum of idle equipment and a minimum of idle
Walter Reuther is regarded by many as the
outstanding new-type labor leader.
Yet Reuther has his enemies.
Since his rise to prominence, three acts of criminal
violence has been perpetrated against him, his family, or his
union. On April 20,
1948, an assassin shot him through a window of his home from a
distance of 15 feet.
a seeming miracle, Reuther escaped death, but suffered a badly
mauled arm which kept him hospitalized for some time.
In May, 1949, a similar attempt cost Victor Reuther one
eye. Again, the
assassin shot through a house window at short range, again the
same type shotgun was used.
Victor Reuther, Walter’s brother, is educational
director of the United Automobile Workers.
A third attempted crime occurred in December, 1949, when
someone attempted to dynamite the U.A.W. building in Detroit.
Every labor leader has enemies—few seem as ruthless and
relentless as these.
Walter Reuther has commented that his shooting could be the
work of “Communists, die-hard employers, or a screw-ball.” In truth, the crimes could be laid to almost anyone.
They remain unsolved at this writing.
has his enemies, indeed. He
also has his faults. In
his drive against the Communists in the U.A.W., Reuther revealed
that opposition irritates him.
The anti-Communist drive in 1949 is a case in point.
So was Reuther’s reaction to the supporters of
Wallace in 1948.
most public leaders, Reuther seems to have a liking for power.
And the leadership of one of the most powerful unions in
the United States undoubtedly humors this liking.In
addition, Reuther probably has had difficulty reconciling his
economic and social philosophy with practical union tactics. In such tactics he excels.
But his resignation from the Socialist Party did not free
him from a basic dilemma faced by every good, practical leader. Reuther so far has been governed by practical opportunism.
No other course would enable him to maintain his position
and his influence in the labor movement. But there can be no doubt that Reuther recognizes the broader
aspects of labor’s struggle for economic betterment.
More than that, Reuther believes wholeheartedly that these
broader aspects have a more permanent importance than the mere
struggle for another nickel an hour.
He is willing to go on record time and again with
projects for the improvement of the national economy, with
little regard for their popularity.
And, more significant, he seems to be trying
to educate the labor movement to a realization of its new role
in the American industrial scene.
Source: Current History, May, 1950
* * *
Putting the World Together
My Father Walter Reuther, The Liberal Warrior
By Elisabeth Reuther
A memoir about growing up with
labor legend and social visionary, Walter Reuther, by his youngest
daughter, Elisabeth. It is also a history of the UAW with Walter
Reuther at the helm, and the monumental social impact he had on
America and the world. The book dispels the conservative propaganda
that liberals are bad for America. In contrast it tells how one of
our nation's greatest liberal and moral leaders created pensions and
health care for workers, during World War II gave FDR the plan to
turn Detroit's auto plants into manufacturing of planes and tanks,
thus creating the Arsenal of Democracy, co-founded the United Way
with Henry Ford II, marched side-by-side with Martin Luther King,
Jr., during all great civil rights struggles of the 50s and 60s, was
the first to give aid to Cesar Chavez and the migrant farm workers,
gave President John F. Kennedy the plan that became the Peace Corps,
gave the seed money for the first Earth Day, and at the time of his
untimely death in a mysterious plane crash was leading the effort
for national health care insurance for every American.
The book also reveals Walter Reuther and his close
relationships with Eleanor Roosevelt, John and Robert
Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Elisabeth tells of
the security measures her family endured as numerous
assassination attempts were made on her father's life.
Her first memory, a shotgun blast that nearly killed her
father, taught her that he had numerous enemies who were
trying to stop him. Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater and
J. Edgar Hoover never tired of trying to destroy
Reuther's voice. This is an inspiring story of a true
working class hero.
* * *
* * *
* * * *
Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The
Permanence of Racism
grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black
former Harvard law professor who made
headlines recently for his one-man protest
against the school's hiring policies,
hammers home his controversial theme that
white racism is a permanent, indestructible
component of our society. Bell's fantasies
are often dire and apocalyptic: a new
Atlantis rises from the ocean depths,
sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white
resistance to affirmative action softens
following an explosion that kills Harvard's
president and all of the school's black
professors; intergalactic space invaders
promise the U.S. President that they will
clean up the environment and deliver tons of
gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens
take all African Americans back to their
planet. Other pieces deal with black-white
romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job
Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine
And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back
in some of these ominous allegories, which
speak from the depths of anger and despair.
Bell now teaches at New York University Law
* * *
Representing the Race
The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer
By Kenneth W. Mack
Representing the Race tells the story of an enduring paradox of American race relations, through the prism of a collective biography of African American lawyers who worked in the era of segregation. . . . Mack reorients what we thought we knew about famous figures such as Thurgood Marshall, who rose to prominence by convincing local blacks and prominent whites that he was—as nearly as possible—one of them. But he also introduces a little-known cast of characters to the American racial narrative. These include Loren Miller, the biracial Los Angeles lawyer who, after learning in college that he was black, became a Marxist critic of his fellow black attorneys and ultimately a leading civil rights advocate; and Pauli Murray, a black woman who seemed neither black nor white, neither man nor woman, who helped invent sex discrimination as a category of law. The stories of these lawyers pose the unsettling question: what, ultimately, does it mean to “represent” a minority group in the give-and-take of American law and politics? /
For Love of Liberty
* * * *
Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered
the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It
By H. W. Brands
In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today.
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Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura María Agustín
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.
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Michelle Alexander: US Prisons, The New Jim Crow
Judge Mathis Weighs in on the execution of Troy Davis
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
mass incarceration of people of color through the War on
Drugs is a big part of the reason that a black child
born today is less likely to be raised by both parents
than a black child born during slavery. The absence of
black fathers from families across America is not simply
a function of laziness, immaturity, or too much time
watching Sports Center. Hundreds of thousands of black
men have disappeared into prisons and jails, locked away
for drug crimes that are largely ignored when committed
by whites. Most people seem to
imagine that the drug war—which has swept millions of
poor people of color behind bars—has been aimed at
rooting out drug kingpins or violent drug offenders.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This war has
been focused overwhelmingly on low-level drug offenses,
like marijuana possession—the very crimes that happen
with equal frequency in middle class white communities.
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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If you like this page consider making a donation
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
update 8 July 2012