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American Working-Class Literature

An Anthology

Edited by Nicholas Coles and Janet Zandy

Publication Date - August 2006

ISBN: 9780195144567

960 pages
6-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $129.99

America's workers have been singing, reciting, performing, telling stories, writing, and publishing for more than three centuries. Ranging from early colonial times to the present, this groundbreaking anthology presents more than 300 literary texts that exemplify this tradition.


America's workers have been singing, reciting, performing, telling stories, writing, and publishing for more than three centuries. Ranging from early colonial times to the present, American Working-Class Literature presents more than 300 literary texts that exemplify this tradition. It demonstrates how American working people live, labor, struggle, express themselves, and give meaning to their experiences both inside and outside of the workplace. The only book of its kind, this groundbreaking anthology includes work not only by the industrial proletariat but also by slaves and unskilled workers, by those who work unpaid at home, and by workers in contemporary service industries. As diverse in race, gender, culture, and region as America's working class itself, the selections represent a wide range of genres including fiction, poetry, drama, memoir, oratory, journalism, letters, oral history, and songs. Works by little-known or anonymous authors are included alongside texts from such acclaimed writers as Frederick Douglass, Upton Sinclair, Tillie Olsen, Philip Levine, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Leslie Marmon Silko. A rich selection of contemporary writing includes Martin Espada's poem "Alabanza" about the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center.
American Working-Class Literature is organized chronologically into seven sections that highlight key historical and cultural developments in working-class life. The book is enhanced by an editors' introduction, section introductions, and individual head notes for each selection that provide biographical and historical context. A timeline of working-class history, rich illustrations, sidebars, reading lists, and a bibliography of critical commentary are also included. This unique volume is ideal for courses in American literature, cultural and working-class studies, and labor history.


"One cannot overstate the need for this book. Instructors with any interest in socioeconomic issues in literature owe a debt of gratitude to professors Coles and Zandy. Until this book, there has not been a resource text for courses in working-class studies or in American Studies from a labor-literary perspective."--Laura Hapke, New York City College of Technology

"This is a long-overdue textbook. Attention to matters of class and labor, to working class studies, has been a subject of serious interest in American literature for the last three decades, but it remains an underrepresented field at the level of scholarship and teaching apparatuses. This volume is an important step toward addressing that lack."--Michael Elliott, Emory University

Table of Contents

    I. Early American Labor: Hard, Bound, and Free 1600s-1810s
    "The Trappan'd Maiden: Or, the Distressed Damsel" (mid-1600s)
    James Revel, "The Poor, Unhappy Transported Felon" (1680s)
    Gottlieb Mittelberger, "Gottlieb Mittelberger's Journey to Pennsylvania in the Year 1750 and Return to Germany in the Year 1754" (1754)
    "Petition of a Grate Number of Blackes" to Thomas Gage, May 25, 1774
    Olaudah Equiano, ["I Was in Another World: The Slave Ship"] from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself (1789)
    Phillis Wheatley, "To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth, His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for North America, Etc." (1773)
    "A Sea Song"
    Francis Hopkinson, "The Raising: A New Song for Federal Mechanics" by A. B. (1788)
    John McIlvaine, "Address to the Journeymen Cordwainers L.B. of Philadelphia" (1794)
    Tecumseh's Speech to the Osages (Winter 1811-12)
    II. New Kinds of Work, Old Practices 1820s-1850s
    Sorrow Songs and Spirituals
    "Nobody knows de trouble I've seen"
    "Steal away to Jesus"
    "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
    "Many Thousand Gone"
    "Bredden, don't git weary"
    W. E. B. DuBois, "The Sorrow Songs" (1903)
    Maria W. Stewart, "Lecture Delivered at the Franklin Hall, Boston, September 21, 1832"
    The Lowell Mill Girls
    Josephine L. Baker, "A Second Peep at Factory Life" (1845)
    Mary Paul, "Letters to Her Father" (1845-1848)
    "The Lowell Factory Girl"
    Harriet Hanson Robinson, "Characteristics of the Early Factory Girls" (1898)
    Helena Minton, "From the Same Cloth: For the Mill Girls, Lowell, Massachusetts, circa 1840" (1985)
    Frederick Douglass, ["In the Shipyards"] (1845 and 1855)
    "An Address to the Colored People of the United States" from The North Star (1848)
    Herman Melville, "The Paradise of Bachelors" and "The Tartarus of Maids" (1855)
    John Greenleaf Whittier, "The Ship-Builders" (1850)
    Fanny Fern (Sara Payson Willis Parton), "Soliloquy of a Housemaid" (1854)
    "The Working-Girls of New York" (1868)
    Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, "The Slave Mother" (1857)
    Harriet E. Wilson, ["Keep her . . . She's real handsome and bright, and not very black, either."]
    Walt Whitman, "A Song for Occupations" (1855)
    "The Wound Dresser" (1865)
    Nineteenth-Century Work Songs
    "Peg An'Awl"
    "Paddy Works on the Railway"
    "The Housekeeper's Lament"
    "The Farmer Is the Man"
    "John Henry"
    III. Beneath the Gilded Surface: Working-Class Fictions and Realities, 1860-1890s
    Rebecca Harding Davis, "Life in the Iron Mills" (1861)
    I. G. Blanchard, "Eight Hours" (1866, poem; set to music, 1878)
    Lucy Parsons, "To Tramps" (1884)
    Songs of the Knights of Labor
    "Knights of Labor" (1898)
    "Storm the Fort, Ye Knights" (1885)
    "Thirty Cents a Day" (1892)
    "America" (1890)
    "Father Gander's Melodies" (1887)
    "One More Battle to Fight" (1892)
    The Battle of Homestead, 1892
    AAISW Preamble (from the Constitution of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers)
    "Tyrant Frick"
    "A Man Named Carnegie"
    "Father Was Killed by the Pinkerton Men"
    "A Fight for Home and Honor"
    Stephen Crane, "The Men in the Storm" (1894)
    Hamlin Garland, "Under the Lion's Paw" (1889)
    Edwin Markham, "The Man with the Hoe" (1899)
    "Lifelets: Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans" from the Independent
    "A Georgia Negro Peon" (1904)
    "The Autobiography of a Labor Leader": James Williams (1902)
    "A Negro Nurse" (1912)
    Maxine Hong Kingston, "The Grandfather of the Sierra Nevada Mountains" from China Men (1980)
    Angel Island Poems by Chinese Immigrants (1910-1940)
    IV. Revolt, Represssion, and Cultural Formations: 1900-1929
    Eugene V. Debs, "How I Became a Socialist" (1902)
    "Statement to the Court" (1918)
    Miners' and Other Labor Poems
    J. A. Edgerton, "The Man Behind the Pick" (1903)
    "Scab, Scab, Scab" (1904)
    Shorty P., "The Eight Hour Day" (1904)
    Joe R. Lazure, "A Colorado Miner's Fourth" (1905)
    J. P. Thompson, "Union Poem" (1909)
    Unknown Worker, "Labor Speaks" (1909)
    Joe Foley, "Wadda Ya Want to Break Your Back for the Boss For" (c. 1917)
    Berton Braley, "The Worker," (1917)
    Eugene Barnett, "Political Prisoners" (1921)
    "St. Peter and the Scab" (1923)
    Upton Sinclair, ["The Hog-Squeal of the Universe"] from The Jungle (1906)
    Jack London, "The Apostate" (1906)
    "Pinched": A Prison Experience (1907)
    Rose Schneiderman, "A Cap Maker's Story" (1905)
    The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, March 25, 1911
    Rose Schneiderman, "Triangle Memorial Speech" (1911)
    Morris Rosenfeld, "Requiem on the Triangle Fire" (1911)
    Contemporary Poems on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
    Mary Fell, "The Triangle Fire"
    Chris Llewellyn, "Four from Sonya," "I Am Appalled," "Survivor's Cento," "Sear"
    Carol Tarlen, "Sisters in the Flames"
    Safiya Henderson-Holmes, "rituals of spring (for the 78th anniversary of the shirtwaist factory fire)"
    James Oppenheim, "Bread and Roses" (1914)
    Arturo Giovannitti, "The Walker" (1914)
    John Reed, "War in Paterson" (1913)
    Fellow Workers: IWW Oral Histories
    (from Solidarity Forever, An Oral History of the IWW 1985)
    Sophie Cohen, ["Paterson had a prison-like feeling"]
    James Fair, ["Working the Docks"]
    Mother Jones, "The March of the Mill Children" (1903)
    The Wobblies, the "Little Red Song Book," and the Legacy of Joe Hill (1879-1915)
    Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, "Joe Hill--Martyred Troubadour of Labor" from The Rebel Girl: My First Life (1906-1926)
    Joe Hill, "The Rebel Girl" (song) and letter to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
    From The Little Red Song Book (1913)
    "Preamble of the Industrial Workers of the World"
    Joe Hill, "The Tramp"
    Ralph Chaplin, "Solidarity Forever!"
    Joe Hill, "The Preacher and the Slave"
    T-Bone Slim, "The Popular Wobbly"
    Joe Hill, "Joe Hill's Last Will"
    Ralph Chaplin, "Mourn Not the Dead"
    Alfred Hayes, "Joe Hill" (1928)
    Cheri Register, "A Dream of Joe Hill" (2000)
    Sarah N. Cleghorn, "Through the Needle's Eye: 1. Comrade Jesus 2. Quatrain" (1915)
    Carl Sandburg, "Chicago" (1916)
    "Muckers" (1916)
    "Child of the Romans" (1916)
    from "The People, Yes" (1936)
    Lola Ridge, "The Ghetto" (1918)
    Anzia Yezierska, "The Free Vacation House" (1920)
    Edith Summers Kelley, "Billy's Birth," restored chapter of Weeds (1923)
    Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance
    James Weldon Johnson, "O Black and Unknown Bards" (1908)
    Jean Toomer, "Reapers" (1923)
    Claude McKay, "The Harlem Dancer" (1917)
    "If We Must Die" (1919)
    "The Lynching" (1920)
    Countee Cullen, "For a Lady I Know" (1925)
    "From the Dark Tower" (1927)
    Sterling A. Brown, "Ma Rainey" (1930)
    "Scotty Has His Say" (1932)
    "Call Boy" (1932)
    Alice Dunbar-Nelson, "I Sit and Sew" (1920)
    Angelina Weld Grimké, "Fragment" (c. 1930)
    John Beecher, "Report to the Stockholders" (1925)
    "Beaufort Tides" (1934)
    Bartolomeo Vanzetti, "Last Speech to the Court" (1927)
    Agnes Smedley, ["The Wanderlust in My Blood"] from Daughter of Earth (1929)
    "Mining Families" 1937
    V. Economic Depression and Cultural Resurgence: 1930s
    Langston Hughes, "The Weary Blues" (1925)
    "Johannesburg Mines" (1928)
    "Christ in Alabama" (1931)
    "Park Bench" (1934)
    "Let America Be America Again" (1936)
    "Office Building Evening" (pub. 1960)
    Genevieve Taggard, "Words Property of the People" (1934)
    "Life of the Mind, 1935" (1935)
    "At Last the Women Are Moving" (1935)
    Mary Heaton Vorse, "The Emergency Brigade at Flint" (1937)
    Mike Gold, "Go Left, Young Writers!" (1929)
    "Jews and Christians" from Jews Without Money (1935)
    Appalachia Voices
    Aunt Molly Jackson, "Kentucky Miners' Wives Ragged Hungry Blues" (1932)
    Sarah Ogun Gunning, "I Am a Girl of Constant Sorrow"
    Kathy Kahn, "They Say Them Child Brides Don't Last: Florence Reece" from Hillbilly Women (1972)
    Florence Reece, "Which Side Are You On?" (1931)
    Jim Garland, "The Murder of Harry Simms"
    Tillman Cadle, "Commentary on Harry Simms" (1932)
    John Dos Passos, "Harlan: Working Under the Gun" (1931)
    Maggie Anderson, "Among Elms and Maples, Morgantown, West Virginia, August, 1935" (1986)
    "Mining Camp Residents, West Virginia, July, 1935" (1986)
    "Long Story" (1992)
    Don West, "Clods of Southern Earth: Introduction" (1946)
    "Mountain Boy" (1931-1932?)
    "Clodhopper" (1940)
    "There's Anger in the Land" (1950)
    "No Lonesome Road" (1940)
    "I Am a Woman Worker": A Scrapbook of Autobiographies from the Summer Schools for Women Workers (1936)
    "One Day of Labor"
    "Bean Picking"
    "The Piece-Work System"
    "The President Visits the Mill"
    Boxcar Bertha (Ben Reitman) [" 'Are You Bill's Broad?' "] from Sister of the Road : The Autobiography of Boxcar Bertha (1937)
    Richard Wright, "I Have Seen Black Hands" (1935)
    "Fire and Cloud" (1938)
    Tillie Olsen, "I Want You Women Up North to Know" (1934)
    Meridel Le Sueur, "I Was Marching" (1934)
    "Eroded Woman" (1948)
    Muriel Rukeyser, from The Book of the Dead (1938)
    "The Road"
    "Gauley Bridge"
    "Praise of the Committee"
    "The Disease"
    "George Robinson: Blues"
    "The Book of the Dead"
    Joseph Kalar, "Night Shift" (1934)
    "Proletarian Night" (1934)
    "Papermill" (1931)
    "Worker Uprooted" (1932)
    "Now that Snow Is Falling" (1930)
    Kenneth Patchen, "Joe Hill Listens to the Praying" (1936)
    "The Orange Bears" (1949)
    Jack Conroy, "Monkey Nest Camp" from the Disinherited (1933)
    Pietro Di Donato, "Geremio" from Christ in Concrete (1939)
    Tom Kromer, ["Three Hots and a Flop"] from Waiting for Nothing (1935)
    Zora Neale Hurston, ["Polk County Blues"] from Mules and Men (1935)
    John Steinbeck, "Starvation Under the Orange Trees" (1938)
    ["The spring is beautiful in California"] from The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
    Sanora Babb ["Dust"] from Whose Names Are Unknown (2004)
    Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, from A Primer for Buford (1990)
    "A Primer for Buford"
    "Farm Children in the Grip of 1933"
    "Via Dolorosa"
    "You Can't Go Back"
    "Okie Boy Boss at Puccinello's, 1936"
    "Abdication Day"
    "Picking Grapes, 1937"
    "American Folk Music, 1937"
    "Day of Return, August 4, 1986"
    Woody Guthrie, "Pretty Boy Floyd" (1939)
    "1913 Massacre" (1945)
    "Two Good Men" (1946)
    "Christ for President" (circa 1938)
    ["Listening to the Little Girls' Song Drift Out Across the Dark Wind"] from Bound for Glory (1943)
    Clifford Odets, Waiting for Lefty (1935)
    Thomas Bell, "Zinc Works Craneman to Wed" (1936)
    William Attaway, ["The Moss Brothers Enter the Mill"] from Blood on the Forge (1941)
    VI. Affluence, Cold War, and the Other America: 1940s-1970s
    Ann Petry, "Like a Winding Sheet" (1946)
    Carlos Bulosan, "If You Want to Know What We Are" (1940)
    "The Story of a Letter" (1946)
    Harriette Arnow, ["I'm Gertie Nevels from Balew, Kentucky"] from The Dollmaker (1954)
    Alice Childress, "Like One of the Family" (1956)
    "Sometimes I Feel So Sorry" (1956)
    Hisaye Yamamoto, "Seventeen Syllables" (1949)
    Edwin Rolfe, "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been" (c. 1952)
    "Little Ballad for Americans, 1954"
    Thomas McGrath, "A Long Way Outside Yellowstone" (1940)
    "Ars Poetica: or Who Lives in the Ivory Tower?" (1949)
    "A Little Song About Charity" (1949)
    "On the Memory of a Working-Class Girl" (1940s)
    "O'Leary's Last Wish: In Case the Revolution Should Fail" (1940s)
    Tillie Olsen, "I Stand Here Ironing" (1956)
    Gwendolyn Brooks, "Bronzesville Woman in a Red Hat" (1960)
    "The Ballad of Rudolph Reed" (1960)
    "The Blackstone Rangers" (1968)
    James Wright, "Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio" (1963)
    "Honey" (1982)
    Judy Grahn, "The Common Woman" (1969)
    Breece D'J Pancake, "The Honored Dead" (posthumous, 1983)
    Studs Terkel, from Working (1972)
    "Dolores Dante, waitress"
    "Mike Lefevre, steelworker"
    Toni Cade Bambara, "The Lesson" (1972)
    VII. The New World Order and Its Consequences: 1980s to 2005
    Philip Levine, "You Can Have It" (1979)
    "Among Children" (1992)
    "What Work Is" (1992)
    Nellie Wong, "Unemployment" (1983)
    "The Death of Long Steam Lady" (1986)
    Tomás Rivera, from . . . y no se lo tragó la tierra / And the Earth Did Not Devour Him (1987)
    "It's That It Hurts"
    "And the Earth Did Not Devour Him"
    "The Portrait"
    "When We Arrive"
    John Gilgun, "Counting Tips" (1995)
    "Whitman's Hands" (1991)
    Bill Witherup, "Mother Witherup's Top Secret Cherry Pie" (1989)
    Lucille Clifton, excerpt from Generations: A Memoir (1976)
    "At the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989" (1991)
    Marge Piercy, "To Be of Use" (1973)
    "Her Gifts" (2002)
    Sue Doro, "The Cultural Worker" (1992)
    "Hard Times in the Valley" (1992)
    "Blue Collar Goodbyes" (1992)
    Simon J. Ortiz, "My Father's Song" (1988)
    "Final Solution: Jobs, Leaving" (1992)
    "We Have Been Told Many Things" (1992)
    Gloria Anzaldúa, from Borderlands/La Frontera (1987)
    "We Call Them Greasers"
    "To Live in the Borderlands Means You"
    Hattie Gossett, "the cleaning woman/labor relations #4" (1988)
    Larry Smith, "The Company of Widows" (2002)
    Ernie Brill, "Crazy Hattie Enters the Ice Age" (1980)
    Karen Brodine, "Woman Sitting at the Machine, Thinking" (1984)
    Linda Hogan, "Making Do" (1986)
    "The New Apartment, Minneapolis" (1988)
    "Blessing" (1994)
    Carolyn Chute, "Faces in the Hands" (2000)
    Yusef Komunyakaa, "Work" (1988)
    "The Whistle" (1992)
    Michael Casey, "The Company Pool" (1999)
    "Positivity Poster" (1999)
    "Positivity Poster #75" (1999)
    "Urgent Need for Blood" (1999)
    "Positivity Poster #76" (1999)
    Leslie Marmon Silko, "Lullaby" (1981)
    Dorothy Allison, "Mama" (1988)
    Leslie Feinberg, ["It was time to find a factory job"] from Stone Butch Blues (1990)
    Susan Eisenberg, "Homage" (1984)
    "Hanging in Solo" (1984)
    "First Day on a New Jobsite" (1984)
    "Wiretalk" (1984)
    Dagoberto Gilb, "Romero's Shirt" (1994)
    Joy Harjo, "The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window" (1983)
    "Perhaps the World Ends Here" (1994)
    Jeanne Bryner, "The Story of My Village" (1999)
    "Mileage" (1999)
    "Release of the Spirit" (1999)
    "Blue Collar" (1999)
    Kate Rushin, "The Black Back-Ups" (1993)
    Cherríe Moraga, "Heroes and Saints" (1983)
    Jimmy Santiago Baca, "The New Warden" (1979)
    "So Mexicans Are Taking Jobs from Americans" (1982)
    "Perfecto Flores" (1986)
    Jan Beatty, "Awake in a Strange Landscape" (1994)
    "Louise" (2002)
    "The Rolling Rock Man" (1994)
    "A Waitress's Instructions on Tipping" (1994)
    "The Waitress Angels Speak to Me in a Vision" (2002)
    Helena María Viramontes, The Cariboo Café" (1988)
    Peter Oresick, "My Father" (1977)
    "The Story of Glass" (1977)
    "After the Deindustrialization of America" (1990)
    "Toward the Heaven of Full Employment" (1990)
    "Now" (1990)
    Jim Daniels, "Digger Thinks About Numbers" (1985)
    "Digger Goes on Vacation" (1985)
    "Digger Laid Off" (2002)
    "Digger, the Birthday Boy" (2002)
    "Digger's Territory" (1989)
    Martín Espada, "Who Burns for the Perfection of Paper" (1993)
    "The Toolmaker Unemployed" (1993)
    "Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100" (2002)
    Lois-Ann Yamanaka, "Lovey's Homemade Singer Sewing Class Patchwork Denim Hiphuggers" (1996)
    Melida Rodas, "El Olor de Cansansio (The Smell of Fatigue)" (2000)
    Contents by Genre
    Select Bibliography
    A Timeline of American Working-Class History
    Index by Author
    Index by Title
    About the Editors