Buhle, Paul and Nicole Schulman. Wobblies!: A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World.Verso, 2005.
The stories of the hard-rock miners' shooting wars, young Elizabeth Gurly Flynn (the "Rebel Girl" of contemporary sheet music), the first sit-down strikes and Free Speech fights, Emma Goldman and the struggle for birth control access, the Pageant for Paterson orchestrated in Madison Square Garden, bohemian radicals John Reed and Louise Bryant, field-hand revolts and lumber workers' strikes, wartime witch hunts, government prosecutions and mob lynching, Mexican-American uprisings in Baja, and Mexican peasant revolts led by Wobblies, hilarious and sentimental songs created and later revived—all are here, and much, much more.
Carter, Bill. Boom, Bust, Boom: A Story about Copper, the Metal that Runs the World.Scribner Book Company, 2012.
Starting in his own backyard in the old mining town of Bisbee, Arizona—where he discovers that the dirt in his garden contains double the acceptable level of arsenic—Bill Carter follows the story of copper to the controversial Grasberg copper mine in Indonesia; to the “ring” at the London Metal Exchange, where a select group of traders buy and sell enormous amounts of the metal; and to an Alaskan salmon run threatened by mining. Boom, Bust, Boom is a highly readable account—part social history, part mining-town exploration, and part environmental investigation. Page by page, Carter blends the personal and the international in a narrative that helps us understand the paradoxical relationship we have with a substance whose necessity to civilization costs the environment and the people who mine it dearly.
Dray, Philip. There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America.Doubleday, 2010.
From the nineteenth-century textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, to the triumph of unions in the twentieth century and their waning influence today, the contest between labor and capital for the American bounty has shaped our national experience. In this stirring new history, Philip Dray shows us the vital accomplishments of organized labor and illuminates its central role in our social, political, economic, and cultural evolution. His epic, character-driven narrative not only restores to our collective memory the indelible story of American labor, it also demonstrates the importance of the fight for fairness and economic democracy, and why that effort remains so urgent today.
Grandin, Greg. The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America. Metropolitan Books, 2019.
Ever since this nation’s inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been central to American identity. Symbolizing a future of endless promise, it was the foundation of the United States’ belief in itself as an exceptional nation—democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America has a new symbol: the border wall. In The End of the Myth, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin explores the meaning of the frontier throughout the full sweep of U.S. history—from the American Revolution to the War of 1898, the New Deal to the election of 2016. For centuries, he shows, America’s constant expansion—fighting wars and opening markets—served as a “gate of escape,” helping to deflect domestic political and economic conflicts outward.
Slotkin, Richard. Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America.University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.
Slotkin examines an impressive array of sources—fiction, Hollywood westerns, and the writings of Hollywood figures and Washington leaders—to show how the racialist theory of Anglo-Saxon ascendance and superiority (embodied in Theodore Roosevelt’s The Winning of the West), rather than Frederick Jackson Turner’s thesis of the closing of the frontier, exerted the most influence in popular culture and government policy making in the twentieth century. He argues that Roosevelt’s view of the frontier myth provided the justification for most of America’s expansionist policies, from Roosevelt’s own Rough Riders to Kennedy’s counterinsurgency and Johnson’s war in Vietnam.
Benton-Cohen, Katherine. Borderline Americans: Racial Division and Labor War in the Arizona Borderlands. Harvard University Press, 2009.
“Are you an American, or are you not?” This was the question Harry Wheeler, sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, used to choose his targets in one of the most remarkable vigilante actions ever carried out on U.S. soil. And this is the question at the heart of Katherine Benton-Cohen’s provocative history, which ties that seemingly remote corner of the country to one of America’s central concerns: the historical creation of racial boundaries. It was in Cochise County that the Earps and Clantons fought, Geronimo surrendered, and Wheeler led the infamous Bisbee Deportation, and it is where private militias patrol for undocumented migrants today. These dramatic events animate the rich story of the Arizona borderlands, where people of nearly every nationality—drawn by “free” land or by jobs in the copper mines—grappled with questions of race and national identity.
Murolo, Priscilla and A. B. Chitty. From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend: A Short, Illustrated History of Labor in the United States. New Press, 2001.
From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend surveys the historic efforts and sacrifices that working people have made to win the rights we take for granted today: basic health and safety standards in the workplace, fair on-the-job treatment for men and women, the minimum wage, and even the weekend itself. With dramatic cartoon narratives by internationally-acclaimed artist Joe Sacco, this book brings labor history to life.
Punke, Michael. Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mine Disaster of 1917. Hachette Books, 2006.
While the disaster is compelling in its own right, Fire and Brimstone also tells a far broader story striking in its contemporary relevance. Butte, Montana, on the eve of the North Butte disaster, was a volatile jumble of antiwar protest, an abusive corporate master, seething labor unrest, divisive ethnic tension, and radicalism both left and right. It was a powder keg lacking only a spark, and the mine fire would ignite strikes, murder, ethnic and political witch hunts, occupation by federal troops, and ultimately a battle over presidential power.
Watson, Bruce. Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream.Viking Books, 2005.
On January 12, 1912, an army of textile workers stormed out of the mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts, commencing what has since become known as the "Bread and Roses" strike. Based on newspaper accounts, magazine reportage, and oral histories, Watson reconstructs a Dickensian drama involving thousands of parading strikers from fifty-one nations, unforgettable acts of cruelty, and even a protracted murder trial that tested the boundaries of free speech. A rousing look at a seminal and overlooked chapter of the past, Bread and Roses is indispensable reading.
Byrkit, James W. Forging the Copper Collar: Arizona's Labor-Management War of 1901–1921. The University of Arizona Press, 2016.
While the Bisbee Deportation was the most notorious of many vigilante actions of its day, it was more than the climax of a labor-management war—it was the point at which Arizona donned the copper collar. That such an event could occur, James Byrkit contends, was not attributable so much to the marshaling of public sentiment against the I.W.W. as to the outright manipulation of the state's political and social climate by Eastern business interests. In Forging the Copper Collar, Byrkit paints a vivid picture of Arizona in the early part of this century. He demonstrates how isolated mining communities were no more than mercantilistic colonies controlled by Eastern power, and how that power wielded control over all the Arizona's affairs—holding back unionism, creating a self-serving tax structure, and summarily expelling dissidents.
Jones, Reece.Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move.Verso, 2017.
In Violent Borders, Jones crosses the migrant trails of the world, documenting the billions of dollars spent on border security projects and the dire consequences for countless millions. While the poor are restricted by the lottery of birth to slum dwellings in the ailing decolonized world, the wealthy travel without constraint, exploiting pools of cheap labor and lax environmental regulations. With the growth of borders and resource enclosures, the deaths of migrants in search of a better life are intimately connected to climate change, environmental degradation, and the growth of global wealth inequality.