“Struggle Everyday: Toward a New Synthesis of Black History in America, 1861-1992″
Friday, October 11, 2013
I posit a new synthesis of Black history in the United States. This synthesis is rooted in the struggles, writ small, of Black workers to survive in a shifting racial capitalism and racial democracy; a synthesis rooted also in the struggles, writ large, of Black workers to win greater or lesser degrees of power over racial capitalism and racial democracy. I argue that Black workers have played a central and exceptional role in the history of American labor, and that precariously-employed Black workers in cities have been a vanguard in the American workers’ movement. All of my periods are premised on Black workers’ changing relationships to other workers, to employers, to the State, and to each other in a capitalist society and racial democracy. In the fraught task of synthesis, I avoid arguments that cast the Black working class ahistorically: without relation to a period’s broader class structure and a time’s quicksilver constellation of social forces. I conclude that the history of precariously-employed Black workers in American cities suggests a mode of struggle, forged in crisis, against racial capitalism and racial democracy that can be remade today.