Looking South: Race, Gender, and the Transformation of Labor from Reconstruction to Globalization

Looking South: Race, Gender, and the Transformation of Labor from Reconstruction to Globalization

Looking South: Race, Gender, and the Transformation of Labor from Reconstruction to Globalization

Looking South: Race, Gender, and the Transformation of Labor from Reconstruction to Globalization

Synopsis

A fresh look at the South through the lens of larger global forces. Frederickson links the global and local in new ways that point to a model for future work in the field.--Richard Greenwald, Drew University.

Excerpt

One of the persistent problems in writing about the South is the tendency to assume that this American region stood alone and unique in history. Scholars and “South-watchers” too often look only inward rather than outward to understand the character and extent of a supposed southern exceptionalism. Even when they set up a comparative framework, they confine themselves to an examination of the differences between the southern and northern sections of the United States. As the story often goes, the South developed its “peculiar” society, economy, and culture principally from slavery and a staple-crop economy. Then, after the Civil War and through much of the twentieth century, southern reliance on cheap, oppressed labor trapped in farm tenancy or textile mill isolation, and a strict code of racial segregation and suppression, perpetuated distinctiveness. Class, race, rural life, old-time religion, and (of course) male dominance controlled human relations and public life. Such an understanding of the South is not wrong. But it limits our approach to the region because peculiarities in economic, political, racial, and gender relationships are best understood in a framework that transcends not only the South but also the United States.

Mary Frederickson offers such a wide-angle approach by placing the South in a global context. She also looks closely at developments within the factories, mill towns, churches, households, and labor organizations that made up the so-called New South. She demonstrates how the forces that shaped them are now being replicated in Latin America and Asia. She shows that looking south from a northern, or an American, perspective reveals the ways industries have moved their operations southward in a constant search for cheap labor, low taxes, friendly governments, and racial and/or ethnic tensions that discourage working people from unit-

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