Working Class History

The quest to reshape American society so that working people experience economic security, a political voice, and respect at work and in the community, has been ongoing for more than 200 years. Yet, it has received little attention in our country’s dominant narrative, our schools’ text books, and our popular cultural phenomena. As a result, generation after generation has come to maturity uninformed not only about labor struggles and achievements, but also about how our society has been impacted by these struggles. Without historical knowledge or historical consciousness, we face each challenge as if it has appeared on a blank whiteboard. Working women and men – and our organizations – start from scratch over and over again.

This course is designed not only to fill in the blanks of historical information – to tell the untold stories – but also to encourage forms of thinking that are historical and critical. We will explore such questions as: How was the past shaped by the organizations and actions of working people? What choices, decisions, and actions did working people take at key points in history, and with what consequences? How have those past struggles shaped our present situations? How can we use our deepening knowledge of the past to help us think about bringing about the future in which we want to live?

We will rely on two newly published books for our access to history: Michael Yates, Can the Working Class Change the World? (2018) and Elizabeth Faue, Rethinking the American Labor Movement (2017). While part of our work will be uncovering historical information which is new to us, our focus will be on working collaboratively to build our thinking muscles. We will challenge ourselves and each other even as we support and encourage each other. Our course will also be in a dynamic relationship to the People’s Leadership course taught by Robyn Gulley and Karlton Scott.

Get ready for the most exciting learning experience of your life!