HIS BOOK EXPLORES a question that has long concerned social critics, and now a growing number of American historians as well: How have black and white workers negotiated the dual identities of race and class, in settings where both were charged with meaning? In the introduction I discuss the narrative and themes of the book. Here I want to convey how I came to study the coal miners of Alabama, and to acknowledge those who have helped me along the way.
My interest in race and labor has deep roots. From my family I absorbed the trade union ethics of solidarity and social justice, values my father and mother had learned from their parents, Bessie and Lazar, Manya and Zell. I first become aware of a broader world amid the civil rights struggles