Release Date: 10/01/21
28 Blues / Rhythm & Blues songs about work
Slave owners had an economic incentive to exploit the multifaceted talents of blacks in the craft shop as well as in the kitchen and field. But after emancipation, whites attempted to limit blacks to menial jobs. Throughout the late nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, blacks as a group were barred from machine work within the industrial sector, and from white-collar clerical and service work. 'Modernization' wore a white face. Focusing on the city of Memphis, Tennessee, we offer a story about African American men and women workers who literally risked their lives on the shop floor, day in and day out, trying to provide for their families.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Memphis was a place where blacks were concentrated in the lowest-paying, dirtiest, and most hazardous jobs, and where the political establishment (the noxious, violent Boss Crump machine) routinely colluded with employers to harass and assault union organizers. Within this state-sanctioned system of segregation, industrial unionism represented the most progressive force for change, their toughest battles in the period immediately following World War II. Many had moved to Memphis from the surrounding countryside, where their parents had labored as sharecroppers, receiving their pay more often in promises than in cash. Factory work represented a step up and out of the plantations, sawmills, and lumber camps, and the steady wages offered by the biggest plants, especially Firestone, were higher than the pay earned by African American post office employees, nurses, or schoolteachers.
|Run Time: 71:35 mins|
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