2020 Award Recipients
with Honorable Mentions to Toni Gilpin and Jessica Wilkerson
For this year’s Philip Taft Award for the best book published in 2019 on labor and working-class history, the committee, made up of Ileen DeVault (Chair, Cornell University), Lawrence Glickman (Cornell University) and LAWCHA representatives Josh Freeman (CUNY Graduate Center), LaShawn Harris (Michigan State University) and Paul Ortiz (University of Florida), found itself in an unprecedented situation: three books clearly add significant value to the field and deserve recognition. While the committee sometimes has been unable to choose between two top books, and thus announces two Taft Award winners, this year we are bestowing three Taft Labor History Awards in order to recognize the fantastic contributions these authors make to the field of labor history.
Written with clarity and grace, Toni Gilpin’s The Long Deep Grudge: A Story of Big Capital, Radical Labor, and Class War in the American Heartland (Haymarket Books) examines the conflict between International Harvester and the Farm Equipment Workers Union in order to provide new and trenchant insights into both the strengths and weaknesses of “radical” unionism from the 1880s through the 1970s.
Equally well-researched and written, Jessica Wilkerson’s To Live Here, You Have to Fight: How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice (University of Illinois Press) focuses on women during the War on Poverty’s successes and failures in the 1960s and 70s, drawing heavily on oral history accounts of trials and tribulations in order to highlight the lived experience of participants.
Very different in many ways, the committee found it impossible to distinguish between these two excellent books, leading us to create a “new” category of Taft Awards which we have labelled “Honorable Mentions.” The authors of both books will receive $1,000 awards for their works.
Vincent DiGirolamo’s Crying the News: A History of America’s Newsboys (Oxford University Press) is a massive work, lifting “newsies” far above pop culture and placing them squarely at the center of working-class history. Examining changing forms of newspaper delivery from the 1830s to the 1930s, DiGirolamo’s work places these ubiquitous workers back into their changing family economies and demonstrates how newsboys' labor shaped youth culture, organized unions, and contributed to the expansion of America's newspaper industry. Researched meticulously and written beautifully, the Taft Award Committee reached a unanimous conclusion that Crying the News was worthy of the full Taft Award, consisting of $2,000 and a plaque.