Iron and Steel


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Class, Race, and Community in Birmingham, Alabama, 1875-1920

By Henry M. McKiven Jr.
University of North Carolina Press

This study of Birmingham’s iron and steel workers unravels the complex connections between race relations and class struggle that shaped the city’s social and economic order.

According to the McKiven, the white men who moved to Birmingham soon after its founding to take jobs as skilled iron workers shared a free labor ideology that emphasized opportunity and equality between white employees and management at the expense of less skilled black laborers. Doubtful of their employers’ commitment to white supremacy, they formed unions to defend their position within the racial order of the workplace. This order changed, however, when advances in manufacturing technology created more semiskilled jobs and broadened opportunities for black workers.

McKiven shows how these race and class divisions also shaped working-class life away from the plant, as workers built neighborhoods and organized community and political associations that reinforced bonds of skill, race, and ethnicity.

“This impressive book illuminates the workplace conflicts, political battles, racial tensions, and community struggles that shaped working-class life in the New South. It is based on exhaustive research and is at once authoritative in its treatment of Birmingham’s working people and nuanced in its analysis of the intersection of technology, industrial development, community institutions, and public life.”—Robert Zieger, author of American Workers, American Unions

Additional information

Weight 13.9 oz
Dimensions 9.25 × 6 × 0.75 in



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