Summary: American Work travels through 350 years of history to tell the epic, often tragic story of success and failure on the uneven playing fields of American labor. Here is the story of how virtually 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 African Americans who had managed to gain footholds in various jobs ...show moreand industries. It is not a story of simple ideological "racism," but of politics and economics interacting to determine - and determine differently in different times and places - what kind of work was "suitable" to which groups. Jacqueline Jones shows how racially divided workplaces developed, and how efforts to gain or preserve group advantages in certain jobs helped to foster racial hatred and contradictory stereotypes. Ultimately, she reveals in an unmistakable light how systematic forms of discrimination have denied whole groups of Americans the opportunity to compete for jobs, training, and promotions on an equal footing.
From Library Journal:
Jones (history, Brandeis Univ.) has written a massive study of black working people in the United States from the first arrival of slaves in the early 1600s until the present. Running throughout the narrative is the theme that in the long history of work in America, blacks have always suffered disproportionate burdens and received unequal rewards. Jones argues that emphasizing employer discrimination downplays the role of the state, which, from earliest colonial times, has given white workers advantages over their black counterparts. Blacks, however, have always pressed hard against employment discrimination. In the 20th century their struggle for decent jobs has taken the form of lawsuits, grassroots boycotts of retail stores, and protests against racially discriminatory labor unions. The writing is often turgid. Recommended for labor and Afro-American collections of academic libraries. -Harry Frumerman, formerly with Hunter Coll., New York ...show less