Out of the Crucible

Black Steel Workers in Western Pennsylvania, 1875-1980

By Dennis C. Dickerson

Subjects: African American Studies
Series: SUNY series in African American Studies
Paperback : 9780887063060, 323 pages, September 1986
Hardcover : 9780887063053, 323 pages, September 1986

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Table of contents

List of Figures

List of Tables




1. Black Sons of Vulcan, 1875–1916

2. World War I and the Black Migration to Western Pennsylvania, 1916–1930

3. Black Steelworkers Confront their New Environment

4. The Steel Strike of 1919 and its Aftermath

5. Welfare Capitalism and Black Steelworkers, 1916–1930

6. The Depression, the New Deal and Black Steelworkers in Western Pennsylvania

7. Black Steelworkers in Western Pennsylvania: World War II and its Aftermath

8. The Illusion of Advancement: Black Steelworkers During the 1950s

9. Pyrrhic Victories: Black Steelworkers During the Civil Rights Era, 1960–1980






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.