Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

We Just Keep Running the Line: Black Southern Women and the Poultry Processing Industry

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

We Just Keep Running the Line: Black Southern Women and the Poultry Processing Industry

Article excerpt

We Just Keep Running the Line: Black Southern Women and the Poultry Processing Industry. By LaGuana Gray. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2014. Pp. [x], 277. $39.95, ISBN 978-0-8071-5768-8.)

In We Just Keep Running the Line: Black Southern Women and the Poultry Processing Industry, historian LaGuana Gray traces the emergence of the poultry processing industry in the American South in the twentieth century, giving particular attention to the lives of black women poultry workers in southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana. In the first chapter, the author documents the rapid growth of the poultry industry in Arkansas after World War II. In addition to changes in traditional agricultural practices and increased consumer demand, the author highlights the critical role of local government and business representatives in the '"selling of the South'" to bring new businesses to the region (p. 3). That is, "southern boosters attracted business to the South by promising a low-paid, low-skilled workforce" (p. 20).

Although black southern women in the mid-twentieth century found poultry processing work a viable alternative to traditional jobs in domestic service, Gray demonstrates in chapter 2 how most women remained marginalized in their new workplaces. "Given black women's history of working in food preparation and production in private homes in the South," the author affirms, "their experiences inside poultry processing plants were not as different from their old domestic work as they hoped" (p. 62). In chapter 3, Gray documents specific incidences of abuse at work, showing that some women workers were treated like children, while many others were subjected to various acts of sexual harassment by their primarily white male supervisors. …

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