Black Power at Work: Community Control, Affirmative Action, and the Construction Industry

Overview

Black Power at Work chronicles the history of direct action campaigns to open up the construction industry to black workers in the 1960s and 1970s. The book's case studies of local movements in Brooklyn, Newark, the Bay Area, Detroit, Chicago, and Seattle show how struggles against racism in the construction industry shaped the emergence of Black Power politics outside the U.S. South. In the process, "community control" of the construction industry—especially government War on Poverty and post-rebellion urban ...

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Overview

Black Power at Work chronicles the history of direct action campaigns to open up the construction industry to black workers in the 1960s and 1970s. The book's case studies of local movements in Brooklyn, Newark, the Bay Area, Detroit, Chicago, and Seattle show how struggles against racism in the construction industry shaped the emergence of Black Power politics outside the U.S. South. In the process, "community control" of the construction industry—especially government War on Poverty and post-rebellion urban reconstruction projects— became central to community organizing for black economic self-determination and political autonomy.

The history of Black Power's community organizing tradition shines a light on more recent debates about job training and placement for unemployed, underemployed, and underrepresented workers. Politicians responded to Black Power protests at federal construction projects by creating modern affirmative action and minority set-aside programs in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but these programs relied on "voluntary" compliance by contractors and unions, government enforcement was inadequate, and they were not connected to jobs programs. Forty years later, the struggle to have construction jobs serve as a pathway out of poverty for inner city residents remains an unfinished part of the struggle for racial justice and labor union reform in the United States.

Contributors: Erik S. Gellman, Roosevelt University; David Goldberg, Wayne State University; Trevor Griffey, University of Washington; Brian Purnell, Fordham University; Julia Rabig, Boston University; John J. Rosen, University of Illinois at Chicago

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Black Power at Work is an invaluable resource. Through the articles assembled by the two editors, the reader is introduced to an entirely different side of both the Black Freedom Movement and organized labor. . . . It is a powerful examination of a social movement that has often been overlooked due to a class bias on the part of many commentators. The leaders and members of these militant organizations were, by and large, not from the middle stratum; they were not doctors, lawyers and ministers, but instead rank and file worker activists."— Bill Fletcher, Jr., ILR Review (July 2011)

"Initially many readers might think this focus on construction jobs to be narrow, even parochial, but instead the book's contributors demonstrate how in just this one area Black Power proves far more complex and varied than traditional historiography, never mind the popular perception, has understood."—Derek Catsam, H-Net (January 2013)

"Highly public, remunerative, and symbolic of breadwinning manhood, construction trade jobs have long held a special place in urban economies and big-city politics. The authors of Black Power at Work go to the heart of why such jobs were among the most hotly contested during the civil rights and black power decades of the 1960s and 1970s. The politics of black power come to life not in abstract manifestos but in the daily grind to win concrete economic opportunity for people and communities in the racially segregated postwar metropolis."—Robert Self, Brown University

" A richly detailed, multicity, and broadly scoped exploration of black male laborers' quests for construction jobs in the wake of interminable racism, Black Power at Work challenges us to rethink how laborers constructed and constrained liberation struggles, inner-city communities, and affirmative action policies in American during the 1960s and 1970s. This collection forcefully reshapes our understanding of labor politics and culture in the Black Power era and its continuing effects today."—Rhonda Y. Williams, author of the award-winning The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women’s Struggles against Urban Inequality

"This book's provocative chapters refute the myth of a sharp divide between civil rights and Black Power. The authors tell varied stories of mass jobs struggles involving working-class African Americans in the North and West that reached back to the early 1960s and into the 1970s. Black Power at Work expands the regional scope and temporal reach of civil rights scholarship while raising timely questions about the kinds of coalitions needed for economic justice to prevail in America."—Nancy MacLean, author of Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace

"Black Power activists did not only wear dashikis or berets but also wore overalls and hardhats. This original collection of essays opens the way for a reappraisal of Black Power politics from the perspective of the ordinary workers whose struggles for justice transformed the American workplace. The authors direct our attention to the everyday activism around dignity, representation, and economic empowerment in one of America's most important industries."—Thomas J. Sugrue, author of Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801474316
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 8/19/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Constructing Black Power by David Goldberg and Trevor Griffey

1. "Revolution Has Come to Brooklyn": Construction Trades Protests and the Negro Revolt of 1963
by Brian Purnell

2. "The Laboratory of Democracy": Construction Industry Racism in Newark and the Limits of Liberalism by Julia Rabig

3. "Work for Me Also Means Work for the Community I Come From": Black Contractors, Black Capitalism, and Affirmative Action in the Bay Area by John J. Rosen

4. Community Control of Construction, Independent Unionism, and the "Short Black Power Movement" in Detroit by David Goldberg

5. "The Stone Wall Behind": The Chicago Coalition for United Community Action and Labor's Overseers, 1968–1973
by Erik S. Gellman

6. "The Blacks Should Not Be Administering the Philadelphia Plan": Nixon, the Hard Hats, and "Voluntary" Affirmative Action by Trevor Griffey

7. From Jobs to Power: The United Construction Workers Association and Title VII Community Organizing in the 1970s by Trevor Griffey

Conclusion: White Male Identity Politics, the Building Trades, and the Future of American Labor by David Goldberg and Trevor Griffey

Notes
About the Contributors
Index

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