Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World / Edition 1

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Since its original publication in 1987, Like a Family has become a classic in the study of American labor history. Basing their research on a series of extraordinary interviews, letters, and articles from the trade press, the authors uncover the voices and experiences of workers in the Southern cotton mill industry during the 1920s and 1930s. Now with a new afterword, this edition stands as an invaluable contribution to American social history.

"The genius of Like a Family lies in its effortless integration of the history of the family--particularly women--into the history of the cotton-mill world.--Ira Berlin, New York Times Book Review

"Like a Family is history, folklore, and storytelling all rolled into one. It is a living, revelatory chronicle of life rarely observed by the academe. A powerhouse.--Studs Terkel

"Here is labor history in intensely human terms. Neither great impersonal forces nor deadening statistics are allowed to get in the way of people. If students of the New South want both the dimensions and the feel of life and labor in the textile industry, this book will be immensely satisfying.--Choice

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
This eloquent reconstruction of the cotton mill world allows us to understand and to pay homage to those who fought and lost.

Ira Berlin, New York Times Book Review

A work of scholarship that is both authoritative and most refreshingly undogmatic.

Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

Diligent research and fine writing has produced a landmark work.

Journal of Southern History

Like a Family is that rare compelling book, a delight for the academic and the public, with much to say to both.

Journal of American History

Like a Family is the most important study of southern cotton mill workers we have ever had.

Reviews in American History

Library Journal
Drawing on oral interviews and workers' letters, the authors re-create the village world of the cotton mills of the Carolina Piedmont region from its beginnings in the 1880s until this distinctive cultural fabric began to unravel in the 1930s. The emphasis is on showing how kinship and a common culture gave these mill hands, mostly of rural origin, a shared identity and a hedge against poverty and management. While these rich materials have not been woven into a fully integrated account, they provide a new and significant dimension to the story of these Southern cotton workers. Recommended for subject collections.Harry Frumerman, formerly with Hunter Coll., CUNY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807848791
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 8/14/2000
  • Series: Fred W. Morrison Series in Southern Studies
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 553,495
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall is professor of history and director of the Southern Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Jim Leloudis is professor of history, associate dean for honors, and director of the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Robert Korstad is associate professor of public policy studies and history at Duke University.

Mary Murphy is professor of history at Montana State University.

Robert Korstad is associate professor of public policy studies and history at Duke University.

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Table of Contents


Foreword by Michael Frisch
Note on Sources
Part One: Cotton Mill People
Chapter 1. Everything We Had
Chapter 2. Public Work
Chapter 3. From the Cradle to the Grave
Part Two: Air and Promises
Chapter 4. Hard Rules
Chapter 5. Turn Your Radio On
Chapter 6. A Multitude of Sins


1. Textile Spindleage in the Southeast, 1929
2. Counties of the Southeast, 1929
3. Rivers and Railroads of the Southeast, 1930
4. Selected Mill Towns of the Carolinas, 1930


A North Carolina mountain farm
Men gathered for wheat threshing
Advertisement for Altamahaw Plaids
Officers and superintendents of the Cone family's Proximity and White Oak plants
The Gaffney Manufacturing Company
Workers at the Franklinville Manufacturing Company
Doffers at the Bibb Mill No. 1
Learning to spin
Men opening bales of cotton at the White Oak Mill
Card room hands at the Franklinville Manufacturing Company
Men and women weaving at the White Oak Mill
Women drawing in at the White Oak Mill
The card room at the White Oak Mill
Swimming in the whirlpool on the Deep River
Girls enjoy a break from work
The superintendent's house at the Franklinville Manufacturing Company
D. A. Tompkin's plan for a four-room mill house
Children six to eight years old in the school at the Lynchburg Cotton Mills
Welfare worker conducting a domestic science class at Proximity Mills
The mill baseball team at Bynum, North Carolina
Children participating in organized recreation at the Franklinville Manufacturing Company
Raising chickens
Caring for livestock
Advertisement for labor-saving machinery
Advertisement for Veeder-Root pick counters
Advertisement for high-speed machinery
Ella May Wiggins
Flossie Cole Grindstaff
Lawrence Hogan
The Piedmont Heights mill complex and village
James Spencer Love
James Lee Love with Cornelia and Spencer
The Hagenback and Wallace Show
The Swingbillies
Preacher George Washington Swinney
Glen Hope Baptist Church
The Blue Eagle
Francis Gorman
George Sloan
Union memebers marching down the main street of Gastonia, North Carolina
National Guardsmen rounding up strikers in Newman, Gerogia
Dancing pickets outside the Clark Thread Mill
Striking workers fresh from a confontation with police outside the Trion Cotton Mill
Lacy Wright
Icy Norman
"Performing Like a Family" performance ensemble, production staff, and co-author Robert Korstad

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