In this latest installment in our Authors on Issues series, Rosemary Feurer and Chad Pearson, co-editors of the edited collection Against Labor: How U.S. Employers Organized to Defeat Union Activism, write about how employers use racism to divide workers. 

What do Employers have to do with Individualism and Racism?

By Rosemary Feurer and Chad Pearson

For labor historians interested in raising awareness about the overall power of employers and class divisions in society, this fall has brought provocative lobs and jabs. First, historian Jefferson Cowie, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, dismissed an entire generation of labor historians for missing the rise of Trump. Borrowing from George Wallace’s handbook about pointy-headed college professors, he suggested that Ivory Tower labor historians were ideologically inclined toward a romantic belief in collectivism, so they missed how easy it was for the working class to be led down Trump’s dark alley. In his view, labor historians have been blind to “the strange and heady brew of anti-statism, anti-elitism, fragile pride, and, often, individualism (a word all but banned from labor history) that are part of class consciousness in America.” Shortly after Cowie’s intervention, the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates argued in The Atlantic that, in his view, too many white leftists fixate on class divisions and habitually fail to realize that white workers, not the nation’s elites, deserve primary blame for expressions of racism. He writes, “The left would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which might entice the white working masses, instead of about the racist struggles that those same masses have historically been the agents and beneficiaries of.” We disagree with this assessment, insisting that we must consider the role of the exploiters while not holding any romantic view of worker solidarity, which required much hard work. The virtually white, homogeneous employer class did not have to work nearly as hard to establish solidarity with one another.

We invite Cowie, Coates, and their readers to consult our collection, Against Labor:How U.S. Employers Organized to Defeat Union Activism, which contains efeurer and pearsonssays by talented historians interested in the anti-labor activism of organized employers from the late nineteenth century to roughly the present. These essays provide plenty of evidence that the nation’s diversity of employers were always deeply worried that workers would chose collectivism over individualism. Taken together, the collection demonstrates that, for more than a century, employers built powerful anti-union organizations to stop what they saw as looming dangers: the birth of left-wing organizations and workers’ demands that employers hire union members exclusively. The contributors to Against Labor explore numerous questions: how did employers deploy racism to divide workers? Why did they spend huge sums of money to build Astroturf organizations and disseminate thousands of pieces of anti-union propaganda? How close were they to both conservative and liberal politicians? How did they coordinate strikebreaking and union-busting activities, and how did they learn from one another? The collection’s chapters reveal how hard employers worked to promote individualism even as they engaged in their own collective organizing efforts. The point is important, but largely overlooked by Cowie and Coates: deep-pocketed employers throughout the nation networked and lobbied aggressively, recognizing that their hegemonic position required a considerable amount of effort.

Two of the collection’s essays examine the political-economy of racism, highlighting how anti-union employers promoted what authors Dave Roediger and Elizabeth Esch identify as “race management.” “Capital and management,” they write, systematically sought “to divide workers in ways that compromised labor’s efforts to address either race or class inequalities.”  Indeed, in the South, the open-shop movement coincided with the establishment of Jim Crow laws—laws promoted primarily by anti-labor elites, not white workers.

Not all anti-union employers used racism as they fought workers. In the Progressive Era, numerous employers, many of whom were Union Veterans, echoed comments from Lincoln.  They wanted workers to embrace the principle of “free labor,” insisting that union activists were responsible for creating a new form of slavery. Rather than call non-unionists “scabs,” these spokespersons referred to them as “free workers.” Anti-union organizations hired several of the nation’s most influential journalists and writers to spread anti-union messages, including the Los Angeles Times’s Harrison Grey Otis, world famous novelist Owen Wister, and George Creel, best known for leading the nation’s pro-war propaganda campaign during World War I. Together, they published and disseminated an incredible amount of propaganda celebrating the individualism of the “free worker” and denouncing what they considered the tyranny of the union “bosses” and the unfairness of closed shops. The anti-union National Association of Manufacturers and its affiliate employers’ associations, for example, claimed to have disseminated over 150 million pieces of literature between 1903 and 1906.

Employers’ efforts to divide workers continued throughout the twentieth century. They never stopped organizing, even in the face of labor’s victories in the 1930s and 40s. New organizations, including Southern States Industrial Council and the Astroturf Christian Americans, emerged in those decades. Led by Texas’s Vance Muse, the Christian Americans combined a toxic mix of racism and anti-Semitism to its anti-union campaigns. The racially inclusive Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), Muse warned, threatened to further unite workers across racial lines, and “white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.” Simply put, racism helped employers divide the working class. Indeed, Cowie and Coates should ask themselves: if white workers were hopelessly individualistic and racist, then why did white supremacist anti-unionists like Muse need make these appeals? Racism was an effective tool to divide workers, but we must be mindful that someone was deploying that tool. Employers operated it with the most power.

More generally, why do many of today’s employers pay union-busting lawyers $700 to $1000 an hour to prevent organizing? They do so because many workers want to join unions and improve their conditions. Workers, like anyone else in our society, are not naturally individualistic, racist, religious or anything else. They are products of their environment.  For this reason, we need to take seriously the roles of organized employers, the dominant forces responsible for shaping the nation’s laws, workplace conditions and, in many cases, our views. Those interested in social justice cannot afford to dismiss them.



brach's royalsWhatever industry group planted National Chocolate Day on October 28 did a great job. There’s no better positioning than a few days before Halloween, a holiday dedicated to candy of all kinds—but one where, let’s be honest, chocolate bars are the best items you can get.

Dots on wax paper? Bit O’ Honey? Okay, the competition is not fierce, But with the possible exceptions of Sour Patch Kids and Skittles, products manufactured precisely to the strange metabolisms of grade schoolers, a trick-or-treater goes through the evening take—after Mom removes the razor blades and nerve gas grenades—and puts chocolate in the pile marked Immediate Consumption.

Yet I had one exception. Let me throw out a childhood favorite now consigned to memory and hip vintage candy stores.

The Brach’s Royal.

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Today marks the completion of St. Louis’s most monumental claim to fame, the Gateway Arch. Designed by Eero Saarinen and sheathed in stainless steel, the Arch instantly became the symbol of Mound City when work on it ended in 1965. It clocks in at 630 feet tall at its arch-iest and majestically arcs over, well, nothing. The Gateway Arch just stands in a park along the Big River. In fact, from the interstate, you’d swear they built the thing in the empty parking lot of a long-closed Piggly Wiggly. It seems just that disconnected from the city.

Seriously, the Arch itself is about 1/1000th as interesting as the story behind it, a tale of competing visions, racial discrimination and protest, labor unrest, hilarious lies about jobs, and an abandoned plan to make the object the centerpiece of a Midwestern edition of Disneyland. Have you been up in the Arch? So what, right? It’s only popular because there’s nothing else to do once you finish your lunch of (admittedly fantastic) St. Louis barbecue.

EkbergS15Save your money and buy a real piece of the city: its history. St. Louis Rising tells the incredible story behind the city’s founding, when cunning Frenchmen made lemonade out of the lemon that was France’s performance in the French and Indian Wars. Carl J. Ekberg and Sharon K. Person get down to it. They reexamine the complexities of politics, Indian affairs, marriage customs, slavery, the role of women, and material culture that characterized the 1760s. Their alternative version of the oft-told tale of St. Louis’s founding places the event within the context of Illinois Country society. Vividly depicting life in a colonial outpost, St. Louis Rising provides a trove of new information on everything from the fur trade to the arrival of the British and Spanish in the aftermath of the war.

Here are 5 essential books that explore the sociopolitical and historical contexts of jazz music.


Lowney1. Jazz Internationalism By John Lowney

“Indispensable to African American literary and cultural studies, jazz studies, and internationalist leftist studies. Its discussion of how jazz is called forth as a form of utopianism as well as social and political criticism in radical African American writing marks an important step in the contemporary critical reconsideration of how conventionally discrete areas of history and culture may be seen in intersectional terms.”–Gary Edward Holcomb, author of Claude McKay, Code Name Sasha: Queer Black Marxism and the Harlem Renaissance





2. Le Jazz By Matthew F. Jordan

“This illuminating study of cultural discourses on jazz makes an original contribution to French popular music studies. Jordan scrutinizes an impressively wide range of texts, with perceptive and astute analyses.”–David Looseley, author of Popular Music in Contemporary France: Authenticity, Politics, Debate







stanfield3. Body and Soul By Peter Stanfield

“[An] absorbing and convincing account of white America’s fraught, imitative, fascinated, repressive and denial-ridden relationship with black culture.”–The Wire 








DuewaJones4. The Muse is Music By Meta DuEwa Jones

“Meta DeEwa Jones’s recent tour de force of contemporary criticism, The Muse is Music, most certainly must take its place among classic and recent critical studies of African-American poetry and, as Jones describes her topic, ‘jazz resonant’ writing.”—The Black Scholar







josephson5. Cafe Society By Barney Josephson with Terry Trilling-Josephson

Cafe Society is a valuable document in the long, complex tale of America’s popular culture. Barney Josephson played his part in that tale, and played it with honor. And he certainly had a long run.”–The Wall Street Journal


NWSA and University of Illinois Press are pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 First Book Prize!

Congratulations to Nicosia M. Shakes who has won first prize for her book  “Gender, Race and Performance Space: Women’s Activism in Jamaican and South African Theatre” which roots the themes of theater activism, performance, and aesthetic labor in the broader non-disciplinary “field” of political pedagogy and in embodied engagements with questions of empowerment. In so doing, the author offers fresh avenues to engage with questions of racialized and gendered violence while pushing us to see theatre as a crucial anti-disciplinary site of feminist knowledge making.

We would also like to congratulate Elizabeth Verklan who received an honorable mention for her book “Objects of Desire: Feminist Inquiry, Transnational Feminism, and Global Fashion” which examines the discourse around sweatshop labour politics and the ways in which it constructs the sweatshop as ‘foreign,’ thereby tying progressive politics to ethical consumerism.


Thank you to the book prize committee:

Richa Nagar, University of Minnesota (Chair)

Ruth Nicole Brown, University of Illinois

Dia da Costa, University of Alberta

Treva Lindsey, The Ohio State University


The winners will be honored at a ceremony during the 2017 NWSA Conference in Baltimore.

NWSA 2017 Conference Registrants interested in learning more may want to attend the session “Introduction to the National Women’s Studies Association and University of Illinois Press First Book Prize”

Fri, Nov 17, 4:15 to 5:30pm Hilton Baltimore, Key Ballroom 3 (LCD)


Past winners of the prize include:

2016 Award: Michele Eggers, Embodying Inequality: The Criminalization of Women for Abortion in Chile

2015 Award: Erin. L Durban-Albrecht, Postcolonial Homophobia: United States Imperialism in Haiti and the Transnational Circulation of Antigay Sexual Politics

2014 Award: Ethel Tungohan, Migrant Care Worker Activism in Canada: From the Politics of Everyday Resistance to the Politics from Below

2013 Award: Christina Holmes, Chicana Environmentalisms: Decolonizing the Body, Nature, and Spirit

2012 Award: Sophie Richter-Devroe, How Women do Politics: Peacebuilding, Resistance and Survival in Palestine

2011 Award: Erica Williams, Ambiguous Entanglements: Sex, Race, and Tourism in Bahia


Please direct all questions and submissions to:

Dawn Durante, Senior Acquisitions Editor

University of Illinois Press

1325 South Oak St.

Champaign, IL 61820-6903

For more information please see the NWSA website.

If you like Fats Domino’s rollicking style of Fifties rhythm and blues, you owe it to yourself to try out The Complete Imperial Singles. It is a six-disc collection filled with the dozens of pop and R&B hits the New Orleans-based musician put out between 1949 and 1963. Yes, dozens. Though we all remember “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Blueberry Hill,” and rightfully so, the Imperial singles reveal a songwriter who ranged far wider and a singer who also tackled jazz, standards, and even Hank Williams (“Your Cheatin’ Heart,” no less!)

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This fall, University of Illinois Press celebrates new books published in the Folklore Studies in a Multicultural World Series. Since 2009, University of Illinois has been a partner in the multi-press initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation, along with the University Press of Mississippi, and the University of Wisconsin Press. The Folklore Studies in a Multicultural World series emphasizes the interdisciplinary and international nature of current folklore scholarship, documenting connections between communities and their cultural production. Series volumes highlight aspects of folklore studies such as world folk cultures, folk art and music, foodways, dance, African American and ethnic studies, gender and queer studies, and popular culture. 

BidgoodF17_144 HarrisF17_144 InserraF17_144

















This fall we have published five new contributions to the series, including: Global Tarantella: Reinventing Southern Italian Folk Music and Dances in which author Incoronata Inserra ventures into the history, global circulation, and recontextualization of tarantella around the world; Storytelling in Siberia: The Olonkho Epic in a Changing World by Robin Harris, who documents how Siberia’s Sakha people have used UNESCO’s Masterpiece Program to revive the epic narrative and song tradition olonkho; Recasting Folk in the Himalayas: Indian Music, Media, and Social Mobility by Stefan Fiol who explores the lives and work of Gahrwali artists who produce folk music, juxtaposing performance contexts in Himalayan villages with Delhi recording studios; Czech Bluegrass: Notes from the Heart of Europe by Lee Bidgood who merges intimate immersion in the music with on-the-ground fieldwork informed by his life as a working musician to paint a portrait of the Czech bluegrass phenomenon; and Building New Banjos for an Old-Time World by Richard Jones-Bamman who ventures into workshops and old-time music communities to explore how banjo builders practice their art.




pizzaSausage, an inexpensive meat as long as you avoid foodiepreneurs trying to sell you fennel-infused giraffewurtz, still offers you the chance to go carnivore on the cheap. Homeslice in Lincoln Park offers a heart-stopper that adds Canadian bacon and pepperoni to your Italian sausage pizza and even throws in some vegetables while the venerable Lou Malnati’s dumps sausage into its iconic deep dish. In fact, there are about a thousand at-least-adequate options within the city limits and even in the suburbs.

But that shouldn’t keep you from making your own. Homemade is always best, is it not? Once again The Chicago Food Encyclopedia provides the guidance.

Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Sausage Pizza [Pizza]

Prep: 45 minutes
Rise: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Makes: One 14-inch pizza, about 6 servings

Feel free to use pepperoni or sweet Italian sausage, or both, in this recipe, adapted from The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook, by Pasquale Bruno Jr. (McGraw Hill, 1983).


1 1/2 packages active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 tablespoon sugar
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup corn or olive oil, plus more for brushing, drizzling
1/2 cup warm water


1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon each: dried basil, dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
10 ounces mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed, crumbled

1. For dough, dissolve yeast in 1 cup of the warm water. Stir in sugar; set aside. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Stir in the yeast mixture, the oil, and remaining 1/2 cup warm water until dough forms a rough ball and cleans the sides of the bowl.

2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead dough, dusting with flour if too sticky, until smooth and soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Dust dough and a large, clean bowl with flour. Put dough in bowl; cover with plastic wrap and towel. Let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

3. Meanwhile, for topping, combine tomatoes, basil, oregano and salt. Set aside. Heat oven to 475 degrees. Turn dough out of bowl; knead about 2 minutes. Let dough stand, covered, about 10 minutes. Oil bottom and sides of a 14-inch round, 2-inch deep pizza pan. Spread dough in pan until it covers the bottom. Press edges of dough up sides to form a lip around the pan edge. Pierce dough bottom with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake exactly 4 minutes; remove from oven. Brush crust lightly with olive oil.

4. Lay slices of mozzarella evenly over crust. Spoon tomatoes over cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan over tomatoes. Distribute pepperoni or flattened sausage pieces evenly over filling, Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over top. Bake on bottom oven rack 5 minutes. Move pizza to upper third of oven. Bake until crust is lightly browned and sausage is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing.

In an era where you may find any sort of foodstuff on your gourmet pizza, the classic za with sausage not only gets overlooked, but looked upon suspiciously, as if one is ordering something called a Cannibalism Special off the menu.

Sausage is one of the foods where people avoid the manufacturing process not out of apathy, but outright terror. The hot dog, an item with an ingredient list that usually just reads DON’T ASK, belongs to the extended sausage family, as do the various wurtzes. Yet the hunger for sausage in all its forms is so pervasive that the health-minded went to the trouble of inventing turkey sausage in order to keep the delicious item on their breakfast plates.

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tate and franchLex Tate is an adjunct lecturer in journalism and advertising at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and served as associate director of the University of Illinois Office for University Relations. She recently answered some questions about her book An Illini Place: Building the University of Illinois Campus.

Q: How did this book first come about?

Lex Tate: Like so many good things in life, happenstance and serendipity played into my decision to write An Illini Place. Roland Kehe, the retired campus architect, asked if I knew anyone who could/would write a book on campus planning to continue the story from the 1930 book by Tilton & O’Donnell. Crazily, I said I would if Kehe could wait until I retired from the Office for University Relations, the PR operation for the U of I President’s Office and others where I had worked since 1985. Kehe had a proposal that centered on planning; I’m not a planner or an architect so revised the proposal to broaden the reach and appeal of the book and created a budget. Kehe successfully approached the President’s Office, the Chancellor’s Office and the U of I Foundation for money to support research, writing, photography, etc., and we were off and running. Archivist Bill Maher urged me to hire John Franch and, for 10 years, John and I collaborated over gallons of chai latte, hot in the winters and iced in the summer. He is a wonderful searcher and finder of archival and other research matter that undergirds the book and is a good writer. He’s the author of Robber Baron, The Life of Charles Tyson Yerkes, a biography of the mastermind behind the Chicago El and the London Tube who also bankrolled a famous telescope.

Q: Briefly, can you summarize how the campus began and how the first buildings laid the groundwork for how it looks today?

Tate: It’s a story often told, especially in this sesquicentennial year. After a questionable selection process that included effective lobbying of the legislature (e.g., quail and liquor), Champaign County beat out other Illinois cities and counties (with better bids) for the privilege to host the new land-grant university made possible by the 1862 federal law popularly called the Morrill Act. The offer: One five-story second-hand spec building on 10 bleak acres close to where the Beckman Institute is today, about 400 acres farm land south of the cemetery, another 400 acres southeast of Urbana (quickly sold), 160 acres north of the cemetery, rail freight, trees. This was 1867 and before classes started in 1868, the regent, John Milton Gregory, and the newly appointed Board of Trustees wisely bought more land, including a narrow strip of almost 40 acres that ran north-south for one mile from the old spec building, derisively called the “Elephant.”  Although the main Quad was not formed until the seminal 1905-06 Blackall plan, this strip of land set the stage for the campus’s strong north-south orientation. The earliest buildings that followed the Elephant reflected the time: the mechanical building (1872, later demolished), University Hall (1874, taken down to make room for the Illini Union), Botany Greenhouse (1878, later demolished), Chemical Laboratory (1878, now Harker Hall), Drill Hall (1890, now Gym Annex) and Natural History (1893, restored and remodeled 2015-17). There were 15 buildings by 1900, many on the north campus, some to the south. Then, as now, the buildings tie directly to the campus’s work: lots of engineering and agriculture and horticulture, the library (Altgeld), science (Observatory) and a way to power them all–the campus’s first central power plant (1898). Five of the 15 buildings were designed by Nathan C. Ricker, the first architecture graduate in the country and a legend. The early buildings are eclectic in style and somewhat randomly sited. Continue reading