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conference projects
class papers
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Bread and Roses (2008), banner by Mike Alewitz

Class meets in Bates Classroom, Tuesdays 3:35-5:35 p.m.
On November 5, class will end at 6:35.

Click here for schedule of assignments.

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Classwork


Books:
All of our books are on reserve at the library. Those listed below are also on sale at the bookstore. Additional reading will be distributed as PDFs.

For discussion in class:
Louis Adamic, Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence In America

Thomas Bell, Out of This Furnace: A Novel of Immigrant Labor in America

W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880

Karen Fields and Barbara Fields, Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life

Michael Helquist, Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions

Matthew Hild, Greenbackers, Knights of Labor, and Populists: Farmer-Labor Insurgency in the Late-Nineteenth-Century South

Martha Menchaca, Recovering History, Constructing Race: The Indian, Black, and White roots of Mexican Americans

Priscilla Murolo and A.B. Chitty, From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend: An Illustrated History of Labor in the United States (revised and updated edition, published 2018, ISBN: 978-1620974883)

Julius Scott, The Common Wind: Afro-American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution

Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860


Reference:
Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History (9th edition, 2017)

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Reading notes:
Students must hand in their notes on texts read for class. Notes will be collected weekly and returned in batches in on October 8 and December 17.

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Seminar meetings:
Every student is expected to attend every class. In preparation for our meetings, please review the discussion questions embedded in this syllabus; they'll provide the starting points for our discussions.

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Class papers and presentations:
Over the course of the year, every member of the seminar will present a short paper (5 pages) on a book related to the seminar's common reading. Please focus the paper on the ways in which the book complements and/or contradicts the common reading for that week. Papers will be posted on the course website.

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Conference projects

Students may undertake conference projects on any aspect of the labor history in the United States and/or other countries. Undergraduates may design a project that revolves around an internship with a labor union, workers' center, or kindred group. Below are the due dates for various phases of conference work; click here for guidelines.
October 29 - prospectus and bibliography
December 17 - detailed outline
January 28 - first draft of the conference paper
When we reconvene after the winter break, the whole seminar will read each student's first draft and discuss it in class. Conference papers will be expanded, revised, and polished in the spring.

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Reasonable Accommodations
If a disability may interfere with your capacity to participate in this course, you may be entitled to reasonable accommodations. Contact Polly Waldman, Associate Dean of Studies and Disabilities Services located in Westlands 116, telephone 914-395-2235 and email pwaldman@sarahlawrence.edu. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, all students, with or without disabilities, are entitled to equal access to the programs and activities of Sarah Lawrence College and the College will make reasonable accommodations as appropriate and necessary.

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Class Schedule

9/10
9/17
9/24
10/1
10/8
10/15
10/22
10/29
11/5
11/12
11/19
11/26
12/3
12/10
12/17
1/21/20

 

 

 

 





A NOTE ABOUT READING ASSIGNMENTS: IN THE SCHEDULE BELOW, THE ASTERISK (*) DENOTES ITEMS THAT WILL BE DISTRIBUTED AS PDFS.

 

9/10
Introduction to the Course

Seminar reading: *Priscilla Murolo, "What Is Labor History" (PDF)
In addition to discussing "What Is Labor History?," we'll review the syllabus, schedule conferences, assign class presentations, and determine first readings for conference projects.

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9/17
Unfinished Revolutions


Seminar reading: Murolo and Chitty, From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend (2018), preface to revised edition, foreword and acknowledgments, chapters 1-4
In light of the overview of labor history presented in these chapters, what questions will you take to our readings for the next four weeks?

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9/24
A Fever for Emancipation


Seminar reading: Scott, The Common Wind
Why did slaveholders try so assiduously-and unsuccessfully-to contain information about slave and rebellions? What do these efforts at containment and their repeated failures reveal about the dynamics of labor history?

Options for class papers and presentations:
Ethan Kytle and Blain Roberts, Denmark Vesey's Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy
Joanne Pope Melish, Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and "Race" in New England, 1780-1860
Andrés Reséndez, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America
David Walker, Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World

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10/1
Class Formation


Seminar reading: Stansell, City of Women
Stansell crafts her study of working women in New York City as history of class formation, tracing the development of a working class dependent on wages, the consolidation of an urban bourgeoisie that dominated commerce and industry, and the emergence of a gender system that buttressed this domination. What are the advantages and drawbacks to Stansell's approach to understanding class formation in the United States?

Options for class papers and presentations:
Seth Rockman, Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore
Alan Dawley, Class and community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn
David Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class

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10/8
Legacies of Conquest


Seminar reading: Menchaca, Recovering History, Constructing Race
As this book establishes, racial hierarchy has often been structured by access to land ownership. What are the implications for the labor history of the U.S. Southwest and the rest of the country?

Options for class papers and presentations:
Tomás Almaguer, Racial Fault Lines: the Historical Origins of White Supremacy in California
Justin Akers Chacón, Radicals in the Barrio: Magonistas, Socialists, Wobblies, and Communists in the Mexican-American Working Class
Albert Hurtado, Indian Survival on the California Frontier

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10/15
Race/Class, Class/Race

Seminar reading:
- *Civil War and Reconstruction Chronology (PDF)
- Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, introduction by David Levering Lewis, chapters 1-7, 10, 11, 17 (pp. vii-xvii, 3-236, 381-486, 711-729 in the Touchstone reprint edition)
One of the pathbreaking aspects of Black Reconstruction is that it recognizes the class identity of black labor and racial identity of white labor. What difference does that make to our understanding as labor historians of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction?

Options for class papers and presentations:
Barbara Fields, Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland during the Nineteenth Century
Tera Hunter, To 'Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women's Lives and Labors after the Civil War
Moon Ho-Jung, Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation

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10/22
October Break - NO CLASS

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10/29
Back to Basics

Seminar reading: Murolo and Chitty, From the Folks, chapters 5-7
What questions and insights will you take to our readings for the rest of the term?

HAND IN A HARD COPY OF THE PROSPECTUS/BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR THE CONFERENCE PROJECT. EMAIL A COPY TO THE WHOLE SEMINAR. FOR GUIDELINES, SEE THE COURSE WEBSITE OR THE APPENDIX TO THIS SYLLABUS.

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11/5
Conference Projects


Seminar reading: classmates' prospectuses and bibliographies
In class, we'll discuss these questions with respect to each project: What are its most promising and most challenging aspects? What is its greatest significance for U.S. labor historians? We'll discuss each project for ten to fifteen minutes (depending on the seminar's size). Be ready to lead the discussion of your own project, starting with your responses to the questions about its promise, its challenges, and its significance.

CLASS ENDS AT 6:35

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11/12
Farmer-Labor Politics


Seminar reading: Hild, Greenbackers, Knights of Labor, and Populists
This book traces the rise and decline of an important movement whose accomplishments fell far short of its goals. How do you explain its failure to live up to its participants' best hopes?

Options for class papers and presentations:
T. Thomas Fortune, Black and White: Land, Labor, and Politics in the South
Beth Lew-Williams, The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America
Robert Weir, Beyond Labor's Veil: the Culture of the Knights of Labor

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11/19
Causality

Seminar reading: Fields and Fields, Racecraft
This book insists that race explains nothing in U.S. history but instead must be explained. First, think about this assertion's implications for U.S. labor history (for example, your thoughts about the farmer- labor movement's shortcomings); second think about how labor history might contribute to explaining race as a phenomenon in the United States.

 

 


11/26
Thanksgiving Break - NO CLASS

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12/3
Queen of the Bolsheviks


Seminar reading: Helquist, Marie Equi
What are the advantages and drawbacks of studying a social movement-in this case the Industrial Workers of the World-through the lens of a single life story.

Options for class papers and presentations:
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, The Rebel Girl: An Autobiography, My First Life (1906-1926)
Elliott Gorn, Mother Jones: the Most Dangerous Woman in America
Jacqueline Jones, Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical

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12/10
Class War


Seminar reading: Adamic, Dynamite
"The United States has had the bloodiest and most violent labor history of any industrial nation in the world." So began labor historians' contribution to The History of Violence in America: A Report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (1969); and as the authors went on to explain, U.S. workers were not only been victims of an extraordinarily high level of violence but helped to perpetrate it too. How do you explain this exceptional aspect of U.S. labor history? (For the full text of the essay quoted here, visit http://www.ditext.com/taft/vio-con.html. The digital version doesn't include the notes, unfortunately; but you can find them in the hard copy of the report in the campus library: HQ784 .V55 C36 1995.)

Options for class papers and presentations:
Kevin Kenny, Making Sense of the Molly Maguires
Paul Avrich, Sacco and Vanzetti: the Anarchist Background
Zeese Papanikolas, Buried Unsung: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre

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12/17
Celebration

No reading assignment

HAND IN A DETAILED OUTLINE OF THE CONFERENCE PAPER (one hard copy in class and one MSWord copy via email).

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1/21/20
American Dreams

*John Latouche, "Ballad for Americans" (lyrics for a cantata whose music was composed by Earl Robinson; PDF)
Bell, Out of This Furnace
This intergenerational saga of a Slovak-American family focuses on four individuals, each of whom has a different understanding of what it means to be an American. How do you explain the differences? In particular, consider the understanding of Americanism that Dobie embraces at the end of the novel--much the same understanding that underlies "Ballad for Americans." What are this Americanism's appeal and drawbacks as a platform for mobilizing workers and working-class communities? (In addition to reading the lyrics, you may wish to listen to a performance "Ballad for Americans." If so, I especially recommend the performance by Paul Robeson, which you can hear via YouTube, free of charge. Click here for the link.)

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