Out of the Crucible
Black Steel Workers in Western Pennsylvania, 1875-1980
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This book examines in depth the century-long struggle of Black laborers in the iron and steel industry of western Pennsylvania. In the process it shows how the fate of these Black workers mirrors the contemporary predicament of the Black working class and the development of a chronically unemployed underclass in America's declining industrial centers. Dickerson argues that persistent racial discrimination within heavy industry and the decline of major industries during the 1970s are key to understanding the social and economic situation of twentieth-century urban Blacks.
Through a blend of historical research and contemporary interviews, this study chronicles the struggle of Black steelworkers to gain equality in the industry and the setbacks suffered as American steelmaking succumbed to foreign competition and antiquated modes of production. The plight of western Pennsylvania's Black steelworkers reflects that of Black laborers in Chicago, Gary, Detroit, Cleveland, Youngstown, Birmingham, and other major American cities where heavy industry once flourished.
Dennis C. Dickerson, First Tennessee Professor of History, teaches at Rhodes College, Memphis.