The Cruel Years: American Voices at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century / Edition 1

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The Cruel Years provides readers with a vivid picture of what life was like a hundred years ago, not for the rich and famous but for ordinary working Americans. The story is told in the words of twenty-two fascinating people who lived by laboring long hours at farms and factories and mines. A preface by Howard Zinn and an introduction by William Loren Katz provide an easy-to-follow historical map that places these hard-hitting, first-person narratives in the context of their troubled times and within the larger picture of U.S. growth and development.

Here are the no-nonsense words of a young immigrant trying to survive as a sweatshop operator in New York City, a hard working farmer's wife who has writing ambitions; a black southern sharecropper seeking fulfillment under a new system of slavery; a young Puerto Rican passing the Statue of Liberty and ready for new challenges; a Chinese immigrant, a Mexican immigrant, and a Japanese immigrant struggling to rise from lower rungs on the social and economic ladder; an Irish girl of sixteen deciding to become a political agitator; a black southern woman trying to fend off the hurts of Jim Crow; a coal miner telling of the lethal dangers of his work; and a black cowhand rejoicing in the thrill of the cattle trails.

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Editorial Reviews

In his lengthy introduction to this collection of 22 short autobiographical sketches or "lifelets," William Katz, noted historian and author of several multicultural studies, chronicles labor conditions and the growth of the labor movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The powerful excerpts that fill these pages are sometimes taken from published autobiographies, such as those of the African American cowboy Nat Love and union activist Helen Gurley Flynn, but more often from the pages of Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans As Told by Themselves, edited by Hamilton Holt in 1906, or from the archives of The Independent, a liberal New York magazine. Here are the stories of a Japanese immigrant who worked as a house servant, a young woman from Troy, New York, who worked as a collar starcher and helped to organize her co-workers, a young Polish girl who worked in a sweat shop and went to school at night, a young Italian boy who set up a chain of shoeshine parlors, and the tale of Lee Chew, who established a laundry but, having made money, planned to go back to China because of the prejudice and discrimination he found in the United States. These powerful stories, while often depressing in detail, celebrate the courage and spirit of their narrators. This text can be used as supplemental reading, either as separate chapters or as a panoramic whole. KLIATT Codes: JSA;Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Beacon, 274p. illus., Moore
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807054536
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 4/14/2003
  • Edition description: None
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

William Loren Katz is an award-winning author and historian. He is the author of more than forty titles, including the internationally acclaimed The Black West. Laurie R. Lehman, associate professor of education at Long Island University, has written extensively on culture and disability in U.S. education. They live in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Mary: Keeping a Job, Losing a Job 41
Ross B. Moudy: Clashing Values in Colorado's Mines 47
A Farming Woman: Expanding Horizons 55
Rose Schneiderman: Becoming a Union Organizer 68
Lee Chew: Fighting Discrimination 78
A Japanese Immigrant: Becoming a Servant 90
Elizabeth G. Flynn: Becoming a High School Rebel 105
Anna Louise: Entering White Womanhood 113
An African American Woman: Surviving the South 121
An Irish American Cook 130
Rocco Corresca: From Immigrant to Entrepreneur 137
Sadie Frowne: A Jewish Sweatshop Operator at Sixteen 149
Bernardo Vega: From Puerto Rico to New York 160
Georgia Sharecroppers: Slavery's New Clothes 170
Mike Trudics: An Immigrant Is Enslaved 184
Ah-nen-la-de-ni: A Mohawk Receives a White Education 198
Elias Garza: A Mexican American Family in Conflict 211
Antanas Kaztaukis: From Lithuania to Chicago's Stockyards 217
A Collar Starcher 235
Becoming a Policeman 248
Life as a Coal Miner 256
Nat Love: From Southern Slave to Western Cowpuncher 265
Bibliographical Notes 272
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