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Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly with Editor Peter Cole
Sun, April 11, 2021 @ 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM$7.00 – $27.00
In the early twentieth century, when many US unions disgracefully excluded black and Asian workers, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) warmly welcomed people of color, in keeping with their emphasis on class solidarity and their bold motto: “An Injury to One Is an Injury to All!” Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly tells the story of one of the greatest heroes of the American working class.
A brilliant union organizer and a humorous orator, Benjamin Fletcher (1890–1949) was a tremendously important and well-loved African American member of the IWW during its heyday. Fletcher helped found and lead Local 8 of the IWW’s Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union, unquestionably the most powerful interracial union of its era, taking a principled stand against all forms of xenophobia and exclusion.
For years, acclaimed historian Peter Cole has carefully researched the life of Ben Fletcher, painstakingly uncovering a stunning range of documents related to this extraordinary man. Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly is the most comprehensive look at Fletcher ever to be published. It includes a detailed biographical sketch of his life and history, reminiscences by fellow workers who knew him, a chronicle of the IWW’s impressive decade-long run on the Philadelphia waterfront in which Fletcher played a pivotal role, and nearly all of his known writings and speeches, thus giving Fletcher’s timeless voice another opportunity to inspire a new generation of workers, organizers, and agitators. This revised and expanded second edition includes new materials such as facsimile reprints of two extremely rare pamphlets on racism from the early twentieth century, more information on his prison years and personal life, additional recollections from friends, greater consideration of Fletcher from a global perspective, and much more.
“This stirring collection gives us the drama, largely in his own exciting words, of the life and work of black radical labor leader Ben Fletcher. It is a story of suffering, fighting, and organizing but also of thinking deeply and writing clearly about the social power of labor, and particularly of maritime workers, and the possibility of a world beyond racial division and class exploitation.”
—David Roediger, author of Class, Race, and Marxism
Peter Cole is a professor of history at Western Illinois University (USA) and a research associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). Cole is the author of the award-winning Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area and Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia. He coedited Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW. While the first edition of Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly was published by Charles H. Kerr Press, in 2006, the revised and much expanded second edition has now been published by PM Press. He also is the founder and co-director of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project (CRR19).
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