IISH Lectures: Peter Cole

15 April 2019 - 14:40
  • Peter Cole
  • Western Illinois University
  • Lecture @ IISH
  • 7 may 2019 | 15.00 hrs,  Max Nettlau Room

Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the Francisco Bay Area

Abstract: Dockworkers have power. Often missed in commentary on today’s globalizing economy, workers in the world’s ports can harness their role, at a strategic choke point, to promote their labor rights and social justice causes. This presentation brings such overlooked experiences to light in a comparative study of Durban, South Africa, and the San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA. The research reveals how unions effected lasting change in some of the most far-reaching struggles of modern times. First, dockworkers in each city drew on longstanding radical traditions to promote racial equality. Second, they persevered when a new technology--- container ships-- sent a shockwave of layoffs through the industry. Finally, their commitment to black internationalism and leftist politics sparked transnational work stoppages to protest apartheid and authoritarianism. This presentation, based on a monograph entitled Dockworker Power, brings to light surprising parallels in the experiences of dockers half a world away from each other. It also offers a new perspective on how workers can change their conditions and world.

Peter Cole is a professor of history at Western Illinois University in Macomb. He also is a Research Associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Cole is the author of Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area (University of Illinois Press, 2018) and Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia (University of Illinois Press, 2007). He co-edited Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW (Pluto Press, 2017) and edited Ben Fletcher: The Life & Times of a Black Wobbly (Charles H. Kerr Press, 2007). He has written many scholarly articles and book chapters, but also published dozens of non-academic essays in the Washington Post, TIME, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg), History News Network, Africa Is A Country, Jacobin, In These Times, and more. He holds a BA from Columbia University and PhD in history from Georgetown University. He tweets from @ProfPeterCole

The lecture is open to the public, but we would like you to register with Jacqueline Rutte.

Peter Cole