Conversations with Maida Springer: A Personal History of Labor, Race, and International Relations / Edition 1by Yevette Richards
Pub. Date: 05/15/2004
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
Harlem in the early 1920s was humming with cultural and political energy. Marcus Garvey was proclaiming the rights of African Americans as the leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and leading boycotts against local businesses in his "don't buy where you can't work" campaign. Radical orators shouted from soapboxes on the street, dynamic black… See more details below
Harlem in the early 1920s was humming with cultural and political energy. Marcus Garvey was proclaiming the rights of African Americans as the leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and leading boycotts against local businesses in his "don't buy where you can't work" campaign. Radical orators shouted from soapboxes on the street, dynamic black intellectuals such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson were asserting in print the struggle for racial equality, and the progressive literary groundswell known as the Harlem Renaissance was just getting started. Maida Springer was a child stuffing leaflets for her best friend's father, a member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and listening in awe to the stirring rhetoric all around her.
As a young married woman in the 1930s, Springer went to work for a garment shop and joined Local 22 of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. This was the first step in what would be a remarkable career in national and international union politics. She began by helping to organize new members as part of the strike committee and soon was being sent to settle prices between workers and managers. Springer's talent for organization and negotiation was quickly recognized and in 1943 she became the educational director of Local 132. Rising into the ranks of the AFL-CIO, she frequently represented American unions internationally, and ultimately became one of the most influential labor envoys to emerging African nations.
From the Great Depression to World War II, from the early Civil Rights Movement to the Cold War and the fall of apartheid, Springer was at the forefront of some of the most dramatic social and political changes of the twentieth century. In Conversations with Maida Springer, this distinguished champion for workers' rights candidly shares the story of her personal and professional life. When Springer entered the workforce there was no job security, no unemployment compensation, and there were no laws against discrimination. "I was there in the beginning," she says. "Young people today take for granted pensions, hospitalizations, birthdays off, and a lot of other things that were fought for. They think that these benefits came down from heaven and somebody gave it to them. But this, people challenged and fought and in some instances died for on behalf of the workers."
Historian Yevette Richards has transcribed her interviews with Springer with a brilliantly light hand, allowing Springer's voice to emerge from the pages easily and conversationally. Richards begins each chapter with a short historical introduction, and footnotes the text with background information and bibliographic references to orient the reader without interrupting the engaging rhythm of Springer's narrative. Witty and gracious, yet intelligent and direct, Springer is often surprisingly frank, and it is easy to see how she came to be so widely respected by politicians and workers alike. "Lord, this is history, you know, making you scratch your head and go way back," she reflects. "Because, you see, I was there. I was a part of all that transition."
- University of Pittsburgh Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
Table of Contents
|1||A Panamanian immigrant in Harlem||19|
|2||In the cauldron of local 22 politics||60|
|3||Educational outings, strikes, and struggles for equality||96|
|4||The international affairs arena||132|
|5||African policy conflicts within the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions||168|
|6||The All-African People's Conference and the International Labor Affiliation dispute||206|
|7||The cost of the Cold War on AFL-CIO programs and African unity||236|
|8||Labor and civil rights||257|
|9||The AFL-CIO and South Africa||283|
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >