2015 Election Results

SLSA election results are in!  Robert Kortstad (Duke University) was elected unanimously as the next Vice-President, as was Seth LaShier (George Washington University) as the new grad student representative. The three new elected Board members are Kelly Kennington (Auburn University), Jay Driskell (Hood College), and Jessie Wilkerson (University of Mississippi).

image_4122842Robert Korstad is Professor of Public Policy and History at Duke University. His research interests include twentieth century U.S. history, labor history, African American history, and contemporary social policy. His publications include: To Right These Wrongs: The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America (with James L. Leloudis), Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth-Century South, Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Talk About Life in the Segregated South (coeditor), and Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World (coauthor).

1010415_10100405009624399_1303776085_nSeth LaShier is a Ph.D. candidate in the history department at George Washington University. His research interests includes the histories of labor, race, liberalism, and urban political economy. He is currently writing a dissertation on the politics of work in Atlanta in the 1960s and 1970s. Seth helped organize the 2015 SLSA conference, which, despite the weather, was successfully held at George Washington University over the first weekend of March.

kmk0019Kelly Kennington received her Ph.D. in history from Duke University in 2009. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of History at Auburn University, teaching courses in United States history, the American South, World History, and the History of American Slavery. Her research interests include slavery, law, and the antebellum American South and she most recently published an article, “Geography, Mobility, and the Law: Suing for Freedom in Antebellum St. Louis,” in the Journal of Southern History. Her current book project, In the Shadow of Dred Scott: St. Louis Freedom Suits and the Development of Slaves’ Legal Culture in Antebellum America, expands on her dissertation and focuses on enslaved litigants—in St. Louis and elsewhere—who sued for freedom in the antebellum years.

New-Haven-CT-2002Jay Driskell is currently an assistant professor of history at Hood College in Frederick, MD and has been a member of SLSA for several years. His work explores the relationship between race, gender, and the forging of effective political solidarities in struggles for power within the urbanizing, segregating South. His recent book, Schooling Jim Crow: The Fight for Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington High School and the Roots of Black Protest Politics (University Press of Virginia, 2014), tells the story of how the NAACP organized a voting bloc powerful enough to compel the city of Atlanta to budget $1.5 million for the construction of schools for black students. Jay’s next book will explore how the language of disease and public health shaped the terms of political contestation in Gilded Age Jacksonville, FL. Jay also worked for five years as an organizer for the Graduate Employees and Students Organization (GESO) at Yale University, doing consulting and research work for UNITE HERE and member education for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). Alongside Lane Windham, he also helped build the labor history curriculum for the National Labor College. Currently, he also runs the DC-Area African American Studies Works-in-Progress Seminar, which meets in the IBT archive at George Washington University.

Wilkerson-Jessica-Cropped-560x631Jessie Wilkerson is Assistant Professor in History and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. She is currently working on her manuscript, Where Movements Meet: From the War on Poverty to Grassroots Feminism in the Appalachian South. Since joining the faculty at U of M, she has been learning about current labor struggles in Mississippi—including the organizing efforts of Nissan workers—and is eager to find ways to support southern labor struggles through teaching, writing, public history projects, and networking with SLSA members.

A. Lane Windham Awarded Inaugural Zieger Prize

10258219_886620608068696_9139338607342708154_oThe inaugural 2015 Robert H. Zieger Prize for Southern Labor Studies was awarded to A. Lane Windham for her provocative and ambitious essay, “The Cannon Mills Case: Out of the Southern Frying Pan, Into the Global Fire.” A former union organizer, at the time of the award, Windham was a U.S. History Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland.

In honor of the late Robert Zieger—teacher, scholar, and tireless union activist SLSA awards the Robert H. Zieger Prize for Southern Labor Studies every two years to the best unpublished article in southern labor studies submitted by a graduate student or early career scholar, journalist, or activist. Paul Ortiz (University of Florida), Max Krochmal (Texas Christian University), and Michelle
Haberland (Georgia Southern University) served on the 2014-15 prize committee.

Joey Fink, Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, received honorable mention for her essay, “In Good Faith: Working-Class Women, Feminism, and Religious Support in the Struggle to Organize J. P. Stevens Textile Workers in the Southern Piedmont, 1974–1980.”

Spring 2015 Newsletter

Pages from slsa_spring-2015_6-1Check out our latest newsletter for member updates, reports from the 2015 conference in Washington, D.C., and information on conferences, calls for papers, prizes, and awards.

Southern Labor Studies Conference Withstands Thor! 

Over one hundred scholars, archivists, graduate students, and activists met in snowy Washington for the SLSA’s conference, “Slavery, Law, and Legacy.”

Unfortunately, Thursday’s events at the University of Maryland’s Center for the History of the New America had to be cancelled but the rest of the conference went off (almost) without a hitch thanks to contributions from the following donors: The Department of History, Columbian College of Arts & Sciences, The George Washington University, The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Labor History Research Center, The Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas, and the Lyon G. Tyler Department of History, The College of William & Mary. Southern Spaces plans to solicit several papers for its online journal.

The SLSA’s board met on Friday, and the membership on Saturday, where president, Scott Nelson, presented Lane Windham with the first Robert H. Zieger Prize, and where president-elect Beth English led a lively discussion of the organization’s priorities for the next two years.

Spring 2015 Newsletter Sneak Peek

The Spring 2015 newsletter will be emailed out to members soon, but for now, here’s a sneak peek of a member’s contribution, “Raise Up Charleston,” by Bob Korstad, Professor of Public Policy and History at Duke and nominee for SLSA Vice President. (Don’t forget to send your ballot to Jennifer Brooks by May 4th!) Korstad offers some reflections on the history of labor militancy and current labor activism in Charleston, and his own family’s history there:

Raise Up Charleston
by Bob Korstad

I’m spending the spring in Charleston, SC, where my wife Jacquelyn Hall is the Mark Clark Chair in History at the Citadel.  Charleston is a second home for me.  My mother was born and raised here, and I spent many holidays and vacations in town and on the islands.  This was also the place where my parents met and fell in love.  My father, a native of northern Minnesota, was stationed at the Army Hospital and my mother was a social worker for the county welfare department.  Not long after they married, they became involved in a support group for strikers at the American Tobacco Company’s Cigar Factory.  The union, Local 15 of the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural, and Allied Workers (FTA), was comprised mostly of black women, but included men and white women.

Workers at the American Tobacco Company's Cigar Factory in Charleston, S.C.

Workers at the American Tobacco Company’s Cigar Factory in Charleston, S.C.

It was a life-changing moment for both of them.  At the end of the war, they moved to Memphis where my father became the business agent for FTA Local 19 and my mother continued her career in social work.  A few years later they moved to North Carolina when my father became FTA’s Southeast Regional Director.

Bob Korstad's parents on their wedding day.

Bob Korstad’s parents on their wedding day.

One of our first excursions this spring was to the Cigar Factory where the 1945-46 strike took place.  It is now being renovated for “upscale” businesses. The developers claim that this will “revitalize” the surrounding neighborhoods, which are mostly black and often poor.  Gentrification is soon to follow.

On the evening of April 2, I appeared on a panel for the Charleston People’s Assembly.  The event was held in the impressive hall of the International Longshoreman’s Union, Local 1442, and was in part a preparation for the April 15 protests by fast food workers, “Raise Up for $15,” in Atlanta.  My comments were brief, and my message was simple: South Carolina, like North Carolina, might have the lowest unionization rates in the country, but it also has a history of militant struggle by slaves, black and white farmers, and industrial workers.

Korstad with speakers from Carolina Raise Up at the People's Assembly in Charleston.

Korstad with speakers from Carolina Raise Up at the People’s Assembly in Charleston.

The people that Raise Up represents are not that different from the tobacco workers my parents joined with in the 1940s, and I couldn’t help but be moved by the passion and militancy of the other speakers and the audience.  Here we were sitting not far from the Cigar Factory seventy years after the strike that produced the anthem of social movements worldwide, “We Shall Overcome.”  Added to this echo of the past, was the fact that the moderator of the panel was a comrade from the student movement at UNC in the early 1970s, George Hopkins, an emeritus professor at the College of Charleston.

Bob Korstad and George Hopkins.

Bob Korstad and George Hopkins.

The workers’ struggles of 2015 aren’t the same as they were in 1945.  But it is clear to me that history has to inform the organizing strategy of today.  I’m not on the front lines in the same way that my parents were, but I keep trying to play my small historians’ part in what they and Jacquelyn’s mother, who went from working as a secretary to leading the Labor Action Coalition of New York, would have called the “good fight.”

Ballots due by May 4th!

Don’t forget to cast your vote for SLSA officers and board members by May 4th. Email your completed ballot to Jennifer Brooks by 5pm Monday May 4th: jebrooks@auburn.edu

Raleigh-area members: Invite to screening of Norma Rae, Saturday March 14

normareaNC Triangle-area members: On Saturday, March 14 from 1-4pm at the NC AFL-CIO building, NC Women United is sponsoring a free screening of the Academy-award winning movie Norma Rae (with Spanish subtitles), followed by a panel discussion about women in the work force and labor movement, workers’ grassroots activism, and the historical and current issues facing North Carolina workers, especially women. SLSA is proud to co-sponsor this event with Scholars for North Carolina’s Future, NC AFL-CIO, Triangle Progressives: Traction, and Women AdvaNCe. (SLSA’s David Zonderman will speak on the panel, and Joey Fink helped organize the event with NCWU’s Tara Romano and Heysoll Rodriguez.)

The event is free and open to the public. Please help spread the word, and if you’re in the Triangle area, we’d love to see you there! The screening begins at 1pm, followed by the panel. 1408 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh. Refreshments provided by Triangle Progressives: Traction. Space is limited, so please RSVP: eventnormarae@gmail.com.