American Work: Four Centuries of Black and White Labor

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9780393318333: American Work: Four Centuries of Black and White Labor

This is history at its best-the epic, often tragic story of success and failure on the uneven playing fields of American labor, rooted in painstaking research and passionately alive to its present-day implications for a just society. Jacqueline Jones shows unmistakably how nearly every significant social transformation in American history (from bound to free labor, from farm work to factory work, from a blue-collar to a white-collar economy) rolled back the hard-won advances of those African Americans who had managed to gain footholds in various jobs and industries. This is a story not of simple ideological "racism" but of politics and economics interacting to determine what kind of work was "suitable" for which groups. Here is a "useful and sobering" (Kirkus Reviews) account of why the connection between success and the work ethic was severed long ago for a substantial number of Americans. American Work goes far beyond the easy sloganeering of the current debates on affirmative action and welfare versus workfare to inform those debates with rich historical context and compelling insight.

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Product Description:

This is a social history of almost four centuries of competition, co-operation and exclusion. In a New World built on a foundation of tobacco, rice, timber and peas, human labour was the key to wealth and colonists knew that most labour was "naturally" not free. Red, white and black men, women and children could all expect "hard usage" by masters, husbands and fathers. As the wilderness was cultivated and economies stabilized, however, life got better - for some. This book is the story of how blacks were excluded from significant social transformation in American history - from farm work to factory work, from a blue-collar to a white-collar economy. Meanwhile, whites have characterized blacks simultaneously as lazy and ruthless competitors for their jobs.

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