Philip Taft Labor History Book Award

374 Ives Faculty Building, 607-255-6693

Past Taft Award Recipients 


2013 Award Winners
Matt Garcia and Kimberley Phillips

The Taft Labor History Prize Committee, made up of Ileen DeVault, Jeff Cowie, Thavolia Glymph, Laurie Green, and Seth Rockman is pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 prize for the best books in labor and working-class history published in 2012.  The winners of this year's prize, in alphabetical order, are Matt Garcia, for From the Jaws of  Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement, published by University of California Press, and Kimberley Phillips's  War! What Is It Good For?: Black Freedom Struggles and the U.S. Military from World War II to Iraq, published by The University of North Carolina Press. 

Matt Garcia's From the Jaws of Victory is a brave, if sobering, biography of a movement and its leader.  A testament to Garcia's skill with oral histories, the book tells the UFW's story from inside the union, identifying a wider circle of organizers and an unsettling struggle to consolidate the gains of the grape boycott.  Garcia does not shy away from criticizing the strategic choices of the movement's hallowed leader, but this volume is neither revisionism for its own sake, nor a romantic lament for what might have been.  Instead, Garcia brings together the "hope, triumph, and disappointment" that have characterized the quest for social justice in modern America.   

Kimberley Phillips's War! What Is It Good For? uniquely grapples with blacks in the armed forces from both a race and class perspective, as both members of the military and as workers.  Bookended by chapters on the better-known World War II and Vietnam wars, Phillips's middle chapters on black soldiers during the Cold War, particularly in the Korean War will forever change our understandings of this period.  Philips builds from there to consider the impact of African American experiences in U.S. wars on American culture and on the Black Freedom Movement.  She emphasizes the ongoing importance of this multifaceted struggle in her epilogue by bringing her account all the way to Iraq.  Phillips's groundbreaking work thus not only adds to, but in several ways changes, the conversation about African Americans in postwar America.

2012 Award Winner
Cindy Hahamovitch

The Taft Labor History Prize Committee, made up of Ileen DeVault, Jeff Cowie, Susan Levine, Moon Ho-Jung and Laurie Green, is pleased to announce the winner of the 2012 prize for the best book in labor and working-class history.  The winner of this year's prize is Cindy Hahamovitch, for No Man's Land:  Jamaican Guestworkers in America and the Global History of Deportable Labor, published by Princeton University Press.

Based on extensive research in archival collections and oral history interviews across national and imperial borders, Cindy Hahamovitch offers an incisive and expansive history of Jamaican "guestworkers" in the United States since World War II. Revealing the intricate dynamics between local and global contexts and between individual aspirations and corporate demands, Hahamovitch's engrossing interpretation stands as a cautionary tale of how the state regulation of labor migration produced working conditions detrimental to all workers, especially to guestworkers subjected to a permanent state of deportability.

2011 Award Winner
James D. Schmidt

The Philip Taft Labor History Prize Committee is pleased to announce the winner of the 2011 prize for the best book in labor and working-class history published in 2010. The winner of this year's prize is James D. Schmidt, for Industrial Violence and the Legal Origins of Child Labor published by Cambridge University Press.

Through an elegant and lively narrative based on court cases involving involving injured young workers of the Appalachian South, James D. Schmidt explains how "child labor" as a concept came to be normalized in American culture and proscribed in American law at the turn of the twentieth century. Schmidt's captivating interpretation compels us to reconsider the historical origins of modern social views and values surrounding work, childhood, and industrial capitalism.

2010 Award Winner
Seth Rockman

The Philip Taft Labor History Prize Committee is pleased to announce the winner of the 2010 prize for the best book in labor and working-class history published in 2009.  The winner of this year’s prize is Seth Rockman, for Scraping By:  Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore, published by The John Hopkins University Press. 

While most studies of capitalist development in the early American republic emphasize the impact of the "market revolution" and the rise of an artisan class, Scraping By examines Baltimore workers rarely acknowledged in these histories: unskilled laborers, who far outnumbered their more famous (and literate) skilled brethren.  Rockman uses an impressive set of sources to argue that the labor of economically insecure men and women - whether free or unfree - provided the backbone for American wealth, freedom, and equality.

2009 Award Winners
Thavolia Glymph  &  Jana K. Lipman

The Taft Labor History Prize Committee is pleased to announce the winners of the 2009 prize for the best book in labor and working-class history published in 2008.  This year, the Committee is particularly happy to announce that we have co-winners of the prize.  We believe that these two books represent the growth of labor history both temporally and geographically.  Both books are deeply researched, beautifully written, and powerfully argued.

Thavolia Glymph's Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge University Press) reconceptualizes the planter household as a workplace with labor and class as well as gender and race relations.  Detailing the day-to-day relations between black and white women and how those relations changed, Glymph offers a telling critique of the limits of such notions as patriarchy, domesticity, and private versus public spheres.

Jana K. Lipman's Guantánamo:  A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution (University of California Press) examines how United States labor practices in a military outpost maintained neocolonialism.  Foregrounding the women and men who lived and worked under the empire, Lipman demonstrates the importance of a transnational perspective and opens a window to a virtually unknown chapter of United States labor history.

2008 Award Winner

The 2008 Taft Prize Committee, in collaboration with the Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA), is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2008 Taft Award in Labor and Working-Class History is Laurie B. Green, for her deeply researched and wide-ranging book, Battling the Plantation Mentality:  Memphis and the Black Freedom Struggle, published by the University of North Carolina Press.  Green's book is a highly original contribution to the labor historiography of race, gender, and class in an important southern city during a crucial period for civil rights movement mobilization at the grassroots.  Especially significant is Green's examination of the occupational structure and organization of labor in Memphis over three decades, assessing the composition, orientation, and outlook of the Memphis working class as a whole.  By showing how the slogan "I am a Man" had great meaning for women, too, Green changes how we think about gender relations in the civil rights movement, in the labor movement, and among working-class women and men. 

2007 Award Winner

The members of 2007 Taft Prize committee---Jefferson Cowie, Ileen DeVault (chair), Nancy Gabin, Joseph McCartin, and Stephen Pitti---are delighted to announce that this year's prize for the outstanding book published in 2006 in the field of U.S. labor history has been awarded to Nancy MacLean in recognition of her pathbreaking volume Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace (Russell Sage Foundation Books, Harvard University Press).  MacLean's sweeping work maps out new terrain in the recent history of American workers, illuminating the achievements and limits of efforts to win equal opportunity, rights, and greater diversity in U.S. workplaces. The prodigious research, broad scope, and elegant style of this book ensured that it stood out from among a large group of unusually strong nominees this year, testifying both to the vitality of the field and to the singular importance of Nancy MacLean's contribution.

2006 Award Winner

The winner of the 2006 Philip Taft Labor History Award is James N. Gregory, for his beautifully written and prodigiously researched book, The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America (University of North Carolina Press, 2005).  Unlike previous authors who have focused exclusively on either white or black southerners’ migrations, Gregory describes how both came together in emptying the southern states of some twenty-nine million of its residents between 1900 and the end of the 1970s.  Using an impressive range of sources, Gregory is always attentive to both the similarities and the differences between the two racial migrations, demonstrating the various factors shaping southerners’ decisions to leave the south, the reactions of northerners to their presence, and the ways in which southerners would permanently alter northern culture, religion, politics, and workplaces.  Casting his subjects as agents of change, Gregory significantly revises twentieth century American social and labor history and reshapes what we know and how we think about the politics of race and class.

2005 Award Winner

The 2005 Philip Taft Labor History Book Prize was awarded to Dorothy Sue Cobble for her outstanding examination of workplace feminism The Other Women's Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America (Princeton University Press, 2004).   The selection committee was privileged to deal with an impressive set of books that were wide-ranging in their topics, methodologies, and contributions to the field.  Cobble's study stood out because of her challenge to our understanding of labor history, women’s history, and political history in the twentieth century. She not only helps to recast our view of labor history by integrating women and the politics of gender into its modern story, but also reframes some of the central dilemmas of feminism by revealing the more inclusive social vision that often clashed with the individual rights of "second wave" feminism.

While partially synthetic, The Other Women's Movement is based on extensive original research in union, government, and policy makers’ records. It is a well-crafted piece of history, written in a graceful, readable style.

2004 Award Winners

Frank Tobias Higbie's book, Indispensable Outcasts: Hobo Workers & Community in the American Midwest, 1880-1930 (University of Illinois Press), is an imaginative recreation of the diverse people, mostly younger men, who formed an ever-shifting transient labor force between the late 19th century and the Great Depression. Higbie's clear and lucid book is a deft interplay of social history, labor studies, cultural studies, and ethnography.

In Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers & the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth-Century South (University of North Carolina Press), Robert Rodgers Korstad recounts the story of tobacco workers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, during the 1940s and 50s in a work which is beautifully written and conceived, deeply researched, and ambitious in scope. In telling the story of black and white workers, both male and female, coming together in support of industrial unionism, Korstad weaves together union organizing and Cold War politics in a compelling way.

Nelson Lichtenstein
State of the Union: A Century of American Labor

Alice Kessler-Harris
In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th Century America

Gunther Peck
Reinventing Free Labor: Padrones and Immigrant Workers in the North American West, 1880-1930

Jefferson Cowie
Capital Moves: RCA’s 70-Year Quest for Cheap Labor

Joseph A. McCartin
Labor’s Great War: The Struggle for Industrial Democracy & the Origins of Modern American Labor Relations, 1912-1921

Sanford M. Jacoby
Modern Manors: Welfare Capitalism Since the New Deal

Thomas Sugrue
The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race & Inequality in Postwar Detroit

Robert Zieger

Eileen Boris
Home to Work: Motherhood & the Politics of Industrial Homework in the U.S.

Peter Way
Common Labour: Workers & the Digging of North American Canals, 1780-1860

Douglass Flamming
Creating the Modern South: Millhands & Managers in Dalton, Georgia, 1884-1984

Steven Fraser
Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman & the Rise of American Labor

Lizabeth Cohen
Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939

Joshua Freeman
In Transit: The Transport Workers Union in New York City, 1933-1966

Philip Scranton
Figured Tapestry: Production, Markets, & Power in Philadelphia Textiles, 1885-1941

Alan Derickson
Workers’ Health, Workers’ Democracy: The Western Miners Struggle, 1891-1925

Jacquelyn Dowd, James Leloudis, Robert Korstad, Mary Murphy, Lu Ann Jones, & Christopher B. Daly
Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton

Alexander Keyssar
Out of Work : The First Century of Unemployment in Massachusetts

Jacqueline Jones
Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present

Paul Avrich
The Haymarket Tragedy

Robert Zieger
Rebuilding the Pulp & Paper Workers’ Union, 1933-1941

Walter Licht
Working for the Railroad: The Organization of Work in the Nineteenth Century

Howell John Harris
The Right to Manage: Industrial Relations Policies of American Business in the 1940s

Alice Kessler-Harris
Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States

James A. Gross
The Reshaping of the National Labor Relations Board: National Labor Policy in Transition, 1937-1947

No award made

August Meier & Elliott Rudwick
Black Detroit and the Rise of the UAW

David M. Katzman
Seven Days a Week: Women & Domestic Service in Industrializing America