From the ongoing issues of poverty, health, housing and employment to the recent upsurge of lethal police-community relations, the black working class stands at the center of perceptions of social and racial conflict today. Journalists and public policy analysts often discuss the black poor as “consumers” rather than “producers,” as “takers” rather than “givers,” and as “liabilities” instead of “assets.”
In his engrossing new history, Workers on Arrival, Joe William Trotter, Jr. refutes these perceptions by charting the black working class’s vast contributions to the making of America. Covering the last four hundred years since Africans were first brought to Virginia in 1619, Trotter traces black workers’ complicated journey from the transatlantic slave trade through the American Century to the demise of the industrial order in the 21st century. At the center of this compelling, fast-paced narrative are the actual experiences of these African American men and women. A dynamic and vital history of remarkable contributions despite repeated setbacks, Workers on Arrival expands our understanding of America’s economic and industrial growth, its cities, ideas, and institutions, and the real challenges confronting black urban communities today.
About the Author
Joe William Trotter, Jr., is Giant Eagle Professor of History and Social Justice and Founder and Director of the Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy at Carnegie Mellon University. He is the author of Black Milwaukee and Coal, Class, and Color and past President of the Labor and Working Class History Association.
“Mr. Trotter has synthesized an eye-popping array of scholarship into a slim volume, one that should be read by . . . the general public, and especially by those whose bad-Twitter-argument-of-the-day calendar is turned to: ‘African-Americans have been superfluously aided by undue economic initiatives.’”
— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“This book shows the fruitful results of decades of scholarship in the field. This vital contribution is particularly timely after a period in which ‘the working class’ has somehow become synonymous with white Americans in the middle of the country. In fact, African Americans have been central to that history, including now in a new global capitalist economy. With consummate skill and compression of prose, the book surveys the ‘lives and labor of black workers’ . . . A splendidly rigorous and authoritative text from an accomplished senior scholar.”