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19+ Works 1,502 Members 13 Reviews 2 Favorited

About the Author

David R. Roediger is the Foundation Professor of American Studies at University of Kansas. The author of The Wages of Whiteness, among other books, he lives in Lawrence, KS.
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Works by David R. Roediger

Associated Works

John Brown (1962) — Editor, some editions — 287 copies
Encyclopedia of the American Left (1990) — Contributor, some editions — 105 copies
Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror (1997) — Contributor — 56 copies
Treason to Whiteness Is Loyalty to Humanity (2022) — Foreword — 36 copies
Here to Stay, Here to Fight: A Race Today Anthology (2019) — Contributor — 14 copies
Fellow Worker: The Life of Fred Thompson (1993) — Introduction — 11 copies
Race Traitor 10 (1999) — Contributor — 4 copies
Race Traitor 4 (1995) — Contributor — 3 copies

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Reviews

A valuable but densely packed synthesis of immigration to the US and change and assimilation over time. Probably not for the feint of heart, but I also did not find it overly academic. If you have a serious interest in the subject matter, this book has a lot to offer. But if you're looking for a casual overview, probably not. For me, in the process of researching my family history, it was enlightening and worth the time and effort.
 
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Cantsaywhy | 3 other reviews | May 30, 2022 |
The title essay is an essay I'd recommend in lieu of certain popular books about whiteness; though it references a specific historical moment I don't know much about (and I would love to know more!) it really cuts down to the heart of whiteness-as-violence and how we must be anti-white in our anti-racist movements. The other essays are maybe of less interest to folks who are not labor historians, and some of the reflective work on labor historiography was not super interesting to me, though it does mean I know I have a lot more reading to do. But there was also stuff in other essays I love--white communists trying and failing, mostly, and some fascinating looks at the construction of whiteness in the United States.

That opening essay though really turned kicked my butt and I want everyone to read it so pick this up even just for that!
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aijmiller | Sep 28, 2020 |
David R. Roediger’s Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White: The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs synthesizes much of the previous work on the ethnic tensions that led to our modern understanding of whiteness with a particular focus on the role of the state and unions. He writes in response to Matthew Jacobson’s Whiteness of a Different Color, believing that a more complicated approach will better explain the creation of whiteness (pg. 7). In addition to this, Roediger uses the concept of “the ‘long early twentieth century’ – the period from 1890 to 1945,” to structure his timeframe (pg. 9). Roediger “seeks to change the whole story of a crucial period in U.S. history without losing track of the wrenching dimension of race experienced by the new immigrants who were at its center” (pg. 10). He believes, “One necessity in any writing of the history of ‘new immigrants’ and racial formation is that the account must be jarring enough to keep us from slipping back into easy assumptions that all European immigrants were not simply white and that their stories were always ones of assimilation (or not) into American rather than specifically white American ways” (pg. 7). He further argues for a messy approach, writing, “Messiness contains its own uncertainties and dramas, and it is indispensable in helping us encounter the harrowing and confusing aspects of how new immigrants learned of race in the United States. Such trauma was not that of being made nonwhite but of being placed inbetween” (pg. 37).
Of the new immigrants’ experience of race, Roediger writes, “There was little consensus understanding of race beyond the near certainty among whites that African Americans were at or near the bottom of any racial hierarchy and that Asian exclusion was unassailable as public policy” (pg. 60). Roediger continues, “The power of the national state was crucial in this context. It gave new immigrants their firmest claims to whiteness and their strongest leverage for enforcing those claims” (pg. 60). As for where ethnicity was created, he writes, “If not white before coming, they may have been so quickly engaged by the clear advantages of being white in the United States as to be virtually WOA [white on arrival]” (pg. 119). Finally, Roediger argues that records of personal interactions hold more significance than state records, writing, “The messy micro-encounters in which whiteness was and was not made best illustrate how important the question ‘According to whom?’ is when looking at racial categorization” (pg. 135).
In his examination of the role of housing, Roediger builds on the foundation of work by historians such as Gail Radford. He concludes that new immigrants understood the New Deal housing programs as an extension of 1920s restrictive covenant programs that linked home ownership with white citizenship (pg. 158). In this manner, “State policies worked even more powerfully to blunt the possibility of productive interracial (i.e., largely black-new immigrant) alliances through labor laws that were largely race neutral in their language” (pg. 208). To this end, Roediger argues that new immigrants “understood New Deal housing policy as both racist and whitening” (pg. 225). He concludes, “The argument here, however, is that what is called white backlash derived importantly from white expectations created by (and even before) the racial nationalism of the New Deal. When white opponents of the Sojourner Truth Homes acted in World War II Detroit, they did so with full awareness that the state could make race” (pg. 229).
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DarthDeverell | 3 other reviews | Aug 9, 2017 |
Taking hold of freedom with both hands

Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All by David Roediger (Verso, $26.95).

David Roediger, a history professor at Kansas University, is an expert on American labor history and the persistence of racism. His latest, Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All, is the second major historical work this year to address the agency exhibited by enslaved people as they struggled to free themselves.

“Self-emancipation”—also covered in David Williams’ I Freed Myself: African American Self-Emancipation in the Civil War Era—goes a long way toward de-bunking the myth that African Americans waited patiently in chains for white people to decide they should be free.

This offers us a very different view of what it meant to be black in America in the post-Civil War years; Roediger goes farther, to examine how other groups—women seeking suffrage, laborers seeking better working conditions—also worked for their own benefit during this period.

It was an age of self-advocacy. Apparently, no one expected wealthy white men to hand them anything, which is a good thing. Of course, that doesn’t mean it was an easy road, and Roediger also analyzes the institutional barriers to attaining liberty in a capitalist society that takes advantage of racism and sexism to further the aims of the ultra-wealthy.

Reviewed on Lit/Rant: www.litrant.tumblr.com
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½
 
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KelMunger | Jan 26, 2015 |

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