History and Mission
The idea of an organization designed to promote southern labor history goes back to 1966, when a group of Southern Historical Association (SHA) members who had been meeting annually decided to form their own organization called the Association of Southern Labor Historians (ASLH). By 1972 the ASLH had largely disbanded, but Merl E. Reed and Gary M. Fink initiated a biennial conference to continue its past efforts. The Southern Labor History Conference—later named the Southern Labor Studies Conference—first met in Atlanta in the spring of 1976 and sponsored sessions with historians, activists, and labor leaders. Since then, labor activists and academics have met to exchange scholarship and experiences at the biennial Southern Labor Studies Conference.
In May 2007 at the joint conference convened at Duke University by the Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA) and the Southern Labor Studies Conference, participants specializing in southern labor created the Southern Labor Studies Association to put the conference on a more secure footing. Professor Heather Thompson was elected as SLSA’s first president. Since then the association has moved expanded to promote the study, teaching, and preservation of the history of southern labor through a variety of activities.
The SLSA is affiliated with the Labor and Working-Class History Association, the Southern Historical Association, and the Organization for the Study of Southern Economy, Culture, and Society.
The mission of the Southern Labor Studies Association is to promote the study, teaching, and preservation of the history of southern labor by activities that:
- Encourage dialogue and discussion about key issues and events relevant to the past and present of labor in the U.S. South;
- Enhance connections between academics and labor activists in the U.S. South;
- Organize the Southern Labor Studies Conference as well as sessions on southern labor and working-class history at other venues;
- Connect graduate students working on southern labor and working-class studies with one another and advanced scholars within and across academic disciplines;
- Promote the preservation of materials related to southern labor and working class history;
- Promote working-class history in public school curricula and provide resources for public school teachers.