How did immigrants to the United States come to see themselves as white? David R. Roediger has been in the vanguard of the study of race and labor in American history for decades. He first came to prominence as the author of The Wages of Whiteness, a classic study of racism in the development of a white working class in nineteenth-century America. In Working Toward Whiteness, Roediger continues that history into the twentieth century. He recounts how ethnic groups considered white today -- including Jewish-, Italian-, and Polish-Americans -- were once viewed as undesirables by the WASP establishment in the United States. They eventually became part of white America, through the nascent labor movement, New Deal reforms, and a rise in home-buying. Once assimilated as fully white, many of them adopted the racism of those whites who formerly looked down on them as inferior. From ethnic slurs to racially restrictive covenants -- the real estate agreements that ensured all-white neighborhoods -- Roediger explores the mechanisms by which immigrants came to enjoy the privileges of being white in America. A disturbing, necessary, masterful history, Working Toward Whiteness uses the past to illuminate the present. In an introduction to the 2018 edition, Roediger considers the resonance of the book in the age of Trump, showing how Working Toward Whiteness remains as relevant as ever even though most migrants today are not from Europe.
Arriving in New York City in the first decade of the twentieth century, six painters-Robert Henri, John Sloan, Everett Shinn, Glackens, George Luks, and George Bellows, subsequently known as the Ashcan Circle-faced a visual culture that depicted the urban man as a diseased body under assault. Ashcan artists countered this narrative, manipulating the bodies of construction workers, tramps, entertainers, and office workers to stand in visual opposition to popular, political, and commercial cultures. They did so by repeatedly positioning white male bodies as having no cleverness, no moral authority, no style, and no particular charisma, crafting with consistency an unspectacular man. This was an attempt, both radical and deeply insidious, to make the white male body stand outside visual systems of knowledge, to resist the disciplining powers of commercial capitalism, and to simply be with no justification or rationale. Ashcan Art, Whiteness, and the Unspectacular Man maps how Ashcan artists reconfigured urban masculinity for national audiences and reimagined the possibility and privilege of the unremarkable white, male body thus shaping dialogues about modernity, gender, and race that shifted visual culture in the United States.
How do people produce and reproduce identities? In How Americans Make Race, Clarissa Rile Hayward challenges what is sometimes called the 'narrative identity thesis': the idea that people produce and reproduce identities as stories. Identities have greater staying power than one would expect them to have if they were purely and simply narrative constructions, she argues, because people institutionalize identity-stories, building them into laws, rules, and other institutions that give social actors incentives to perform their identities well, and because they objectify identity-stories, building them into material forms that actors experience with their bodies. Drawing on in-depth historical analyses of the development of racialized identities and spaces in the twentieth-century United States, and also on life-narratives collected from people who live in racialized urban and suburban spaces, Hayward shows how the institutionalization and objectification of racial identity-stories enables their practical reproduction, lending them resilience in the face of challenge and critique.
2013 Notable Title in American Intellectual History from the Society for U.S. Intellectual History Since the Gilded Age, social scientists, middle-class reformers, and writers have left the comforts of their offices to "pass" as steel workers, coal miners, assembly-line laborers, waitresses, hoboes, and other working and poor people in an attempt to gain a fuller and more authentic understanding of the lives of the working class and the poor. In this first, sweeping study of undercover investigations of work and poverty in America, award-winning historian Mark Pittenger examines how intellectuals were shaped by their experiences with the poor, and how despite their sympathy toward working-class people, they unintentionally helped to develop the contemporary concept of a degraded and "other" American underclass. While contributing to our understanding of the history of American social thought, Class Unknown offers a new perspective on contemporary debates over how we understand and represent our own society and its class divisions.
In the early 1890s, black performer Bob Cole turned blackface minstrelsy on its head with his nationally recognized whiteface creation, a character he called Willie Wayside. Just over a century later, hiphop star Busta Rhymes performed a whiteface supercop in his hit music video "Dangerous." In this sweeping work, Marvin McAllister explores the enduring tradition of "whiting up," in which African American actors, comics, musicians, and even everyday people have studied and assumed white racial identities. Not to be confused with racial "passing" or derogatory notions of "acting white," whiting up is a deliberate performance strategy designed to challenge America's racial and political hierarchies by transferring supposed markers of whiteness to black bodies--creating unexpected intercultural alliances even as it sharply critiques racial stereotypes. Along with conventional theater, McAllister considers a variety of other live performance modes, including weekly promenading rituals, antebellum cakewalks, solo performance, and standup comedy. For over three centuries, whiting up as allowed African American artists to appropriate white cultural production, fashion new black identities through these "white" forms, and advance our collective ability to locate ourselves in others.
The Poor People's Campaign of 1968 has long been overshadowed by the assassination of its architect, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the political turmoil of that year. In a major reinterpretation of civil rights and Chicano movement history, Gordon K. Mantler demonstrates how King's unfinished crusade became the era's most high-profile attempt at multiracial collaboration and sheds light on the interdependent relationship between racial identity and political coalition among African Americans and Mexican Americans. Mantler argues that while the fight against poverty held great potential for black-brown cooperation, such efforts also exposed the complex dynamics between the nation's two largest minority groups. Drawing on oral histories, archives, periodicals, and FBI surveillance files, Mantler paints a rich portrait of the campaign and the larger antipoverty work from which it emerged, including the labor activism of Cesar Chavez, opposition of Black and Chicano Power to state violence in Chicago and Denver, and advocacy for Mexican American land-grant rights in New Mexico. Ultimately, Mantler challenges readers to rethink the multiracial history of the long civil rights movement and the difficulty of sustaining political coalitions.
Silencing Race provides a historical analysis of the construction of silences surrounding issues of racial inequality, violence, and discrimination in Puerto Rico. Examining the ongoing racialization of Puerto Rican workers, it explores the 'class-making' of race.
Fictional depictions of intermarriage can illuminate perceptions of both 'ethnicity' and 'whiteness' at any given historical moment. Popular examples such as Lucy and Ricky in I Love Lucy (1951-1957), Joanna and John in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), Toula and Ian in My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) helped raise questions about national identity: does 'American' mean 'white' or a blending of ethnicities? Building on previous studies by scholars of intermarriage and identity, this study is an ambitious endeavor to discern the ways in which literature and films from the 1960s through 2000s rework nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century intermarriage tropes. Unlike earlier stories, these narratives position the white partner as the 'other' and serve as useful frameworks for assessing ethnic and American identity. Lauren S. Cardon sheds new light on ethno-racial solidarity and the assimilation of different ethnicities into American dominant culture.
In the nineteenth century, nearly all Native American men living along the southern New England coast made their living traveling the world's oceans on whaleships. Many were career whalemen, spending twenty years or more at sea. Their labor invigorated economically depressed reservations with vital income and led to complex and surprising connections with other Indigenous peoples, from the islands of the Pacific to the Arctic Ocean. At home, aboard ship, or around the world, Native American seafarers found themselves in a variety of situations, each with distinct racial expectations about who was "Indian" and how "Indians" behaved. Treated by their white neighbors as degraded dependents incapable of taking care of themselves, Native New Englanders nevertheless rose to positions of command at sea. They thereby complicated myths of exploration and expansion that depicted cultural encounters as the meeting of two peoples, whites and Indians. Highlighting the shifting racial ideologies that shaped the lives of these whalemen, Nancy Shoemaker shows how the category of "Indian" was as fluid as the whalemen were mobile.
Examining three interconnected case studies, Tamar Carroll powerfully demonstrates the ability of grassroots community activism to bridge racial and cultural differences and effect social change. Drawing on a rich array of oral histories, archival records, newspapers, films, and photographs from post–World War II New York City, Carroll shows how poor people transformed the antipoverty organization Mobilization for Youth and shaped the subsequent War on Poverty. Highlighting the little-known National Congress of Neighborhood Women, she reveals the significant participation of working-class white ethnic women and women of color in New York City's feminist activism. Finally, Carroll traces the partnership between the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and Women's Health Action Mobilization (WHAM!), showing how gay men and feminists collaborated to create a supportive community for those affected by the AIDS epidemic, to improve health care, and to oppose homophobia and misogyny during the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s. Carroll contends that social policies that encourage the political mobilization of marginalized groups and foster coalitions across identity differences are the most effective means of solving social problems and realizing democracy.