Blair L.M. Kelley Tells Black Working Class History Through FamilyHistorians in the News
tags: family history, African American history, labor history, working class history
When historian Blair LM Kelley began writing her latest book, “Black Folk: The Roots of the Black Working Class,” she started with her own family.
“They came from folks who were agricultural workers and domestic workers and laundresses,” Kelley said. “And elevator operators. My mother wanted me to know that being an elevator operator was a really good job at one point.”
Kelley, who is a distinguished professor of Southern studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the incoming director of the Center for the Study of the American South, follows those Black workers through centuries of history — exploring how segregation and violence, as well as the civil rights and labor movements, shaped the unique experience of Black workers.
“The interests of a Black working class — of accessibility to decent working conditions and a living wage — so many of the things that are hard and difficult about making a living, we really feel first,” she said. “And we have to think in our policies and in our approach to our humanity, how do we do better?”
Click through to the source to listen to the audio of Blair L.M. Kelley's interview with Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal and read an excerpt of Black Folk.