Black from White: How the Rights of White and Black Workers Became “Labor” and “Civil” Rights after the U.S. Civil War

Source: Cedric de Leon, Labor Studies Journal, Published online before print November 17, 2016
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From the abstract:
Drawing on primary and secondary sources on the nineteenth-century U.S. labor movement both nationally and in Chicago, I argue that the major postbellum labor federations foundered on the shoals of racial exclusion and evolved into a segregated movement; from there, black labor leaders took their appeal for civil rights to the Republican Party. The separation unfolded in three interrelated processes. The first was discursive: white labor leaders framed the civil rights struggle as past or already accomplished by the Civil War, and the fight against wage slavery as the natural successor struggle. The second was institutional: the labor movement split into white and black unions; black leaders then shifted strategy to focus on achieving civil rights through partisan channels. The third was local in nature: black workers were systematically excluded from the member organizations of the National Labor Union and Knights of Labor, and socially by white workers in general. Together these processes conspired to fracture the initially biracial labor movement into a white labor movement and a black civil rights movement.