Interview, Peter Cole's Blog

Ben Fletcher: The Life And Times Of A Black Wobbly With Peter Cole— on Millennials Are Killing Capitalism

Millennials Are Killing Capitalism
July 25th, 2021

In this episode we talk to Peter Cole, historian and author of Ben Fletcher, The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly

Fletcher was among the most successful union organizers in the early 20th century, and a Black leader of the Local 8 union – a component of the Industrial Workers of the World – which organized on the docks in South Philadelphia beginning in 1913. Local 8 of the IWW’s Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union, was the most powerful interracial union of its era, and the IWW or the Wobblies were the most radical union organizing in the US in the early part of the 20th Century.

We talk to Cole about the life and times of Ben Fletcher, about the successes of Local 8, the repression Fletcher faced as a political prisoner, Fletcher’s relationships to other members of the Black left, and what we know about the successes and eventual demise of Local 8 after a decade of radical union work on the docks in Philadelphia.

Stay tuned to the end of the episode to hear more about how Cole is looking to further commemorate Fletcher’s legacy, and about Cole’s work around the Chicago Race Riot of 1919.

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Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly

Peter Cole is a professor of history at Western Illinois University in Macomb and a research associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Cole is the author of the award-winning Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area and Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia. He coedited Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW. He is the founder and codirector of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project.