The Gospel of the Working Class (Paperback)
Labor's Southern Prophets in New Deal America (Working Class in American History)
University of Illinois Press, 9780252078408, 248pp.
Publication Date: June 28, 2011
In this exceptional dual biography and cultural history, Erik S. Gellman and Jarod Roll trace the influence of two southern activist preachers, one black and one white, who used their ministry to organize the working class in the 1930s and 1940s across lines of gender, race, and geography. Owen Whitfield and Claude Williams, along with their wives Zella Whitfield and Joyce Williams, drew on their bedrock religious beliefs to stir ordinary men and women to demand social and economic justice in the eras of the Great Depression, New Deal, and Second World War.
About the Author
Erik S. Gellman is an assistant professor of history at Roosevelt University in Chicago. He is the author of Death Blow to Jim Crow: The National Negro Congress and Militant Civil Rights.Jarod Roll teaches American history at the University of Sussex, England, where he directs the Marcus Cunliffe Centre for the Study of the American South. He is the author of the award-winning Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South.
Praise For The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor's Southern Prophets in New Deal America (Working Class in American History)…
"In this fast-paced, highly readable book, Erik Gellman and Jarod Roll tell the fascinating, interwoven stories of two southern preachers/labor activists. . . . Their crisply written, carefully researched volume raises intriguing questions for the fields of labor history, southern religion, and the twentieth-century South. . . . Gellman and Roll skillfully avoid the all-too-familiar trap of reducing religion to mere function or window-dressing."--West Virginia History
"Essential, even urgent, reading for scholars of modern United States history. . . . This is a remarkable book."--Arkansas Historical Quarterly
"Grassroots labor movements, illustrated by the careers of Claude and Joyce Williams and Owen and Zella Whitfield ... are crucial to understanding southern history. Recommended."--Choice
"The subfields of religious and labor history in the United States rarely intersect. Thanks to Erik S. Gellman and Jarod Roll, help is on the way. . . . The many ways this slim volume challenges boundaries are what make it so compelling. . . . The book not only explores overlooked combinations, such as interracial cooperation, progressive religion in the South, and the confluence of union and religious activism, but also complicates binaries that too often dominate historical analysis, including sacred and secular, black and white, rural and urban, and North and South. It is hard to imagine anyone who would not find much to learn from this story, and from the way that Gellman and Roll have told it."--American Historical Review
"A must read for today: two activists, one black, one white, organize America's laboring poor through a powerful social gospel to confront racism and economic injustice in the Great Depression and World War II era."--Reverend Calvin S. Morris, Executive Director, Community Renewal Society
"This is the story of heroic people, black and white, who tried to democratize the southeastern states of the USA in the years before Dr. King and the Warren Court."--Pete Seeger