Temple Book Club Presents Historian Peter Cole and Wobblies on the Waterfront

April 17 1:00 pm Paley Library Lecture Hall The Temple Book Club presents a discussion with author and historian Peter Cole. Cole will speak on his book Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive Era Philadelphia (University of Illinois Press, 2007). Dr. Cole is a professor of history at Western Illinois University. His research focuses on the intersections of class, ethnicity, and race in U.S. History. Dr. Cole was born and raised in South Florida. He received his B.A. from Columbia University and his Ph.D. from Georgetown University. He has taught at Georgetown, Washington College, Western Maryland College, and most recently for two years at Boise State University. About the Book: For almost a decade during the 1910s and 1920s, the Philadelphia waterfront was home to the most durable interracial, multiethnic union seen in the United States prior to the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) era. In a period when most unions, like many institutions, excluded blacks or segregated them, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was ideologically committed to racial equality. More than any other IWW affiliate, however, Local 8 worked to become a progressive, interracial union. For much of its time, the union majority was black, always with a cadre of black leaders, which included Ben Fletcher. Local 8 also claimed immigrants from Eastern Europe, as well as many Irish Americans, who had a notorious reputation for racism. In Wobblies on the Waterfront, Peter Cole outlines the factors that were instrumental in Local 8’s success, both ideological (the IWW’s commitment to working-class solidarity) and pragmatic (racial divisions helped solidify employer dominance). He also shows how race was central not only to the rise but also to the decline of Local 8, as increasing racial tensions were manipulated by employers and federal agents bent on the union’s destruction. Critics Say: “By demonstrating how interracial solidarity prevailed on the Philadelphia waterfront for the better part of a momentous and critically important decade, Peter Cole kindles the flames of the ‘class-race’ debate. As he also demonstrates, Local 8’s achievements in this regard were all the more remarkable because the larger context–in Philadelphia and in the nation–was one of racial polarization and virulent white racism.”–Bruce Nelson, author of Divided We Stand: American Workers and the Struggle for Black Equality “Wobblies on the Waterfront offers a fascinating and engaging look at the Philadelphia longshoremen in Local 8 of the IWW. Offering a fresh perspective on an important organization that charted its own, independent course in the 1910s and ’20s, this study considerably adds to our knowledge of waterfront unionism, Philadelphia labor, the IWW, and race and labor. Local 8 deserves the in-depth treatment that Peter Cole gives it, for it stood out as a rather unique example of militant, interracial unionism in an age in which exclusion or segregation was the rule in the labor movement.”–Eric Arnesen, editor of The Black Worker: Race, Labor, and Civil Rights since Emancipation

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