Peter Cole

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.

(Photo by Sharon Knight)

Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly, Second Edition

SKU: 9781629638324
Editor: Peter Cole • Foreword: Robin D.G. Kelley
Series: PM Press
ISBN: 9781629638324/9781629638621
Published: 12/2020
Format: Paperback/Hardcover
Size: 6×9
Pages: 288
Subjects: History / Labor


“This stirring collection gives us the drama, largely in his own exciting words, of the life and work of black radical labor leader Ben Fletcher. It is a story of suffering, fighting, and organizing but also of thinking deeply and writing clearly about the social power of labor, and particularly of maritime workers, and the possibility of a world beyond racial division and class exploitation.”
—David Roediger, University of Kansas, author of Class, Race, and Marxism

“This book tells the unusual story of an African American who became a leader of racially integrated dockworkers in Philadelphia before, during, and after World War I. It poses two questions. First, can a black worker become a spokesperson for a workforce made up of blacks from the American South, whites born in the United States, and immigrants from Europe? The inspiring answer is yes. The second is, to what extent can Wobbly ideas be made part of a local union with a collective bargaining agreement so that what results is ‘a radical yet stable union.’ Here the evidence is more mixed, but the question is an essential one and every reader should feel challenged to find their own answer.”
—Staughton Lynd, author of Wobblies and Zapatistas and Labor Law for the Rank and Filer

“Prior to A. Philip Randolph, Ben Fletcher was one of the most important black labor figures of the twentieth century. He led an interracial, multiethnic union with a racially diverse leadership. Fletcher was a Wobbly through and through, an unapologetic radical who envisioned a postcapitalist, revolutionary society. Yet his vision did not inhibit him from actively engaging in the reform struggle. In fact, the antiracist component of their radical vision was central to the day-to-day unionism he advanced. Cole’s book is an important intervention in discussions regarding the state of organized labor today.”
—Bill Fletcher Jr., racial justice, labor, and international activist, and author of “They’re Bankrupting Us!” and 20 Other Myths about Unions

“In a unionism noted for great organizers, Fellow Worker Fletcher was one of the greatest. Nearly a hundred years, Local 8’s great achievements are still a model for us all.”
—Carlos Cortez, poet, artist, social activist, member of the IWW for more than six decades

“Ben Fletcher’s all-out, front-door-to-back revolutionary industrial unionism exemplifies Wobbly-style working-class solidarity at its creative best. This is the kind of no-compromise, multi-racial, direct-action organizing that labor needs today.”
—Franklin Rosemont, author of The Big Red Songbook and Joe Hill

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