2021 Award Recipient
For this year’s Philip Taft Award for the best book published in 2020 on labor and working-class history, the committee, made up of Ileen DeVault (Chair, Cornell University), Louis Hyman (Cornell University) and LAWCHA representatives Josh Freeman (CUNY Graduate Center), Kimberley Phillips Boehm (Independent Scholar) and Paul Ortiz (University of Florida), is extremely pleased to award the 2021 Taft Labor History Award to Nate Holdren for his book, Injury Impoverished.
Nate Holdren’s book, Injury Impoverished: Workplace Accidents, Capitalism, and Law in the Progressive Era, published by Cambridge University Press, is both elegantly and elegiacally written. Throughout the book, Holdren lays out the ways in which the early 20th century capitalistic legal system commodified workers’ body parts in what he terms two different types of tyrannies: “the tyranny of the table” and the “tyranny of the trial.” Unlike those who manufactured these tyrannies, Holdren never loses sight of the very real humanity of those who experienced workplace accidents. During this pandemic year, it seems fitting that we celebrate a work which so deftly reverberates beyond historical understandings of injury and harm and considers those of obligation, dignity and justice.
The Taft Prize, consisting of $2,000 and a plaque, is named in honor of Professor Philip Taft, an eminent labor historian and economist, who made outstanding contributions to the field of labor and working-class history during his lengthy career.
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.
2019 Award Recipients
Peter Cole and Joshua B. Freeman
The Philip Taft Prize in Labor and Working-Class History has been an award for forty-one years now, with the last eleven being a joint effort of LAWCHA and the Cornell ILR School. The Taft Prize Committee this year consisted of Ileen DeVault (Chair, ILR – Cornell), Lawrence Glickman (Cornell), Matthew Basso (University of Utah, LAWCHA), LaShawn Harris (Michigan State University, LAWCHA) and Maria Montoya (NYU, LAWCHA).
The committee notes that this year was a particularly challenging. Choosing just one winner proved difficult because of the vast array of excellent scholarship in the field. Of the 45 books nominated for the prize, many were excellent works of history; this serves as a testament to the continued importance of labor and working-class history in today’s difficult world. Some of these books were impressive monographs on specific topics while others were sweeping overviews. Ultimately, the committee chose two books as the co-winners of this year’s Taft Labor History Prize. Interestingly, both are transnational works of very different types. Both therefore encourage us to think about the dialectics of world events.
Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World provides us with an impressive synthetic survey of the large factory, in the U.S. and throughout the world. Joshua B. Freeman’s magisterial work puts the massive transformation of the workforce into both historical and transnational context, making connections where appropriate without over-reaching. Beginning with the dark satanic mills of England and moving through the auto factories of Detroit and Stalingrad to the stifling control of present-day FoxConn in China, this book reminds us of the ways in which histories across the world are both connected and yet distinct.
Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area offers a powerful story while detailing a lesser-known chapter in American labor history. Peter Cole supplies us with an innovative comparative study examining dockworkers in Durban, South Africa and San Francisco, California, illuminating their similar struggles as waterfront laborers and the different ways they worked as union activists to improve labor conditions under the threat of containerization. Simultaneously, Cole points out how the two groups participated in transnational political and social movements, fighting against apartheid and American racism while also struggling for racial equality within their unions.
2018 Award Recipient
Sarah F. Rose
The Philip Taft Prize in Labor and Working-Class History has now completed its tenth year as a joint committee of LAWCHA and the Cornell ILR School and its 40th year as an award. The Taft Prize Committee this year consisted of Ileen DeVault (Chair, ILR – Cornell), Louis Hyman (ILR – Cornell), Matthew Basso (University of Utah, LAWCHA), Talitha LeFlouria (University of Virginia, LAWCHA) and Maria Montoya (NYU, LAWCHA).
The committee is pleased to announce the winner of the 2018 prize for the best book in labor and working-class history published in 2017 is Sarah F. Rose’s No Right to Be Idle: The Invention of Disability, 1840s-1930s, published by The University of North Carolina Press. Combining the new field of disability studies with that of labor history, this book offers new and compelling insights in every chapter. Lucidly written and meticulously researched, No Right to Be Idle makes carefully considered and nuanced arguments about the spectrum of productivity and the changes the transition to mechanized labor brought on the policy front in regard to disability, and, crucially, to the lives of workers we now call disabled. This pathbreaking book promises to be profoundly influential.
2017 Award Recipient
The Philip Taft Prize in Labor and Working-Class History has now completed its ninth year as a joint committee of LAWCHA and the Cornell ILR School and its 39th year as an award. The Taft Prize Committee this year consisted of Ileen DeVault (Chair, ILR-Cornell), Louis Hyman (ILR-Cornell), Stacey Smith (Oregon State, LAWCHA), Thomas Dublin (SUNY Binghamton, LAWCHA), and Talitha LeFlouria (University of Virginia, LAWCHA).
The 2017 Philip Taft Labor History Book Award goes to LaShawn Harris for her book, Sex Workers, Psychics, and Numbers Runners: Black Women in New York City's Underground Economy, published by the University of Illinois Press. Harris's focus on labor in the informal, irregular urban economy recovers the lived and laboring experiences of a population of poor, working-class women that have been completely elided in labor and working-class history. Her creative and innovative research and analysis of both the opportunities and the dangers of this work help us reconceptualize how we think about labor and the economy.
2016 Award Recipients
Talitha L. LeFlouria and Nancy Woloch
The Philip Taft Prize in Labor and Working-Class History has now completed its eighth year as a joint committee of LAWCHA and the Cornell ILR School and its 38th year as an award. The Taft Prize Committee this year consisted of Ileen DeVault (Chair, Cornell), Lawrence Glickman (Cornell), Thomas Dublin (Binghamton), Stacey Smith (Oregon), and Dorothy Sue Cobble (Rutgers).
Out of an excellent collection of nominated works, this year’s Taft Labor History Prize Committee has decided to award the prize to two co-winners:
Nancy Woloch’s book, A Class by Herself: Protective Laws for Women Workers, 1890s-1990s, (Princeton University Press) exemplifies even-handed, careful, and insightful research, illuminating key cases affecting labor standards legislation over the course of the 20th century. Speaking to broad themes about gender and labor, A Class by Herself synthesizes years of research into a powerful narrative.
Talitha L. LeFlouria’s Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South (The University of North Carolina Press) is at the cutting edge of the newest southern labor history, putting renewed emphasis on types of labor coercion persisting in the wake of slavery. Her innovative research uses oral history sources and medical records to interrogate convict workers’ experiences in new ways.
2015 Award Recipient
The Philip Taft Prize in Labor and Working-Class History has now completed its seventh year as a joint committee of LAWCHA and the Cornell ILR School and its 37th year as an award. The Taft Prize Committee this year consisted of Jefferson Cowie (Chair, Cornell), Ileen DeVault (Cornell), Thavolia Glymph (Duke), Seth Rockman (Brown), and Dorothy Sue Cobble (Rutgers).
The unanimous selection of the Taft Prize committee for 2015 was Sven Beckert (Harvard), Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Knopf). The committee found the book to be a major work with immense range that will help to define and expand the field of labor history. Empirically rich and exhaustively researched, Beckert successfully places the history of slaves, millworkers, and share croppers into the broad terrain of the history of capitalism as it was shaped by the demand for one of its most important and lucrative commodities, cotton. Linking Indian weavers to African slavery to American plantations to European consumers, Beckert masterfully bridges the global transformations of the cotton economy with local history. Taking his story through the twentieth century, Beckert shows the importance of making labor history central to the history of capitalism.
2014 Award Winner
Matthew L. Basso
The Philip Taft Labor History Prize Committee, made up of Jefferson Cowie, Ileen DeVault, Thavolia Glymph, Laurie Green, and Seth Rockman is pleased to announce the winner of the 2014 prize for the best book in labor and working-class history published in 2013. The winner of this year’s prize is Matthew L. Basso for his book Meet Joe Copper: Masculinity and Race on Montana’s World War II Home Front (University of Chicago Press).
Meet Joe Copper: Masculinity and Race on Montana’s World War II Home Front opens up new areas of working-class history in its exploration of white, working class masculinity on the home front during the war. Through impressive research, Basso's examination of the often overlooked wartime production workers provides a fresh interpretation of how race, gender, ethnicity, and wartime mobilization both challenged and sustained social norms and working-class values. Meet Joe Copper will serve as a benchmark for future scholarship on questions of class and gender.
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
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
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 and 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
Laurie B. Green
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
James N. Gregory
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
Dorothy Sue Cobble
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 and Robert Rodgers Korstad
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.
State of the Union: A Century of American Labor
In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th Century America
Reinventing Free Labor: Padrones and Immigrant Workers in the North American West, 1880-1930
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
The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race & Inequality in Postwar Detroit
Home to Work: Motherhood & the Politics of Industrial Homework in the U.S.
Common Labour: Workers & the Digging of North American Canals, 1780-1860
Creating the Modern South: Millhands & Managers in Dalton, Georgia, 1884-1984
Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman & the Rise of American Labor
Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939
In Transit: The Transport Workers Union in New York City, 1933-1966
Figured Tapestry: Production, Markets, & Power in Philadelphia Textiles, 1885-1941
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
Out of Work : The First Century of Unemployment in Massachusetts
Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present
The Haymarket Tragedy
Rebuilding the Pulp & Paper Workers’ Union, 1933-1941
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
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