Hillbilly Highway: Charting White Migration from Appalachia to the Industrial Midwest

Dr. Max Fraser shares the often overlooked story of the “hillbilly highway,” the route nearly eight million poor, rural, white Americans took in the 20th century from economically depressed areas in the Southeastern and Southern United States toward higher paying factory jobs in the Upper South and Midwest. He explains how the social advancement and marginalization they experienced transformed American culture, the labor movement, and today’s political landscape.

Dr. Fraser is an assistant professor of History at the University of Miami. His book Hillbilly Highway: The Transappalachian Migration and the Making of a White Working Class received an Honorable Mention for the Frederick Jackson Turner Award from the Organization of American Historians.

Related Resources:
Hillbilly Highway: The Transappalachian Migration and the Making of a White Working Class

Related Collections:
Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR) / Human Rights Department Records (UR000267)
George Roberts Papers (LP000038)
Lewis B. Larkin Papers (WSP000122)
Michael Manning Papers (LP000018)
UAW Local 78 Records (LR000645)
UAW Local 174 Records (LR000006)
UAW Oral Histories (LOH002229)
UAW President’s Office: Homer Martin Records (LR000063)
UAW President’s Office: Walter P. Reuther Records (LR000261)
UAW Secretary Treasurer’s Office: George Addes Records (LR000052_Addes)

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Max Fraser
Music: Bart Bealmear

Betty Friedan’s Labor Roots

Rachel Shteir shares how Betty Friedan’s early experience as a labor reporter for the Federated Press informed her later work as a famed women’s rights activist, author of The Feminine Mystique, and co-founder of the National Organization for Women. Although Friedan’s activism shaped the American women’s movement in the latter half of the 20th century, Shteir also notes that her pugilistic attitude ignored or antagonized would-be allies, including non-white women and lesbians. Shteir is head of dramaturgy and dramatic criticism in the Theatre School at DePaul University and is the author of Betty Friedan: Magnificent Disrupter, a finalist in the biography category for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Related Resources:
Betty Friedan: Magnificent Disrupter

Related Collections:
UAW Women’s Department Records (LR00446)
UAW Women’s Department: Dorothy Haener Records (LR000848)
Toni Swanger Papers (UP001777)

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Rachel Shteir
Music: Bart Bealmear

The UAW’s Southern Gamble in Foreign-Owned Factories

Dr. Stephen Silvia explains how the UAW built a cooperative relationship with workers’ councils and unions at foreign automotive companies, but has nevertheless struggled to organize those companies’ vehicle factories in the southern United States since the 1990s due to anti-labor politics and the companies’ shared anti-union playbooks. Silvia is a professor in the School of International Service at American University and author of The UAW’s Southern Gamble: Organizing Workers at Foreign-Owned Vehicle Plants.

Related Resources:
The UAW’s Southern Gamble: Organizing Workers at Foreign-Owned Vehicle Plants

Related Collections:
UAW President’s Office: Douglas Fraser Records (LR001116)
UAW Vice-President’s Office: Donald Ephlin Records (LR001404)
UAW President’s Office: Howard Young Records (LR001400)
UAW President’s Office: Owen Bieber Records (LR001270)
UAW President’s Office: Stephen P. Yokich Records (LR001626)

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Stephen J. Silvia
Music: Bart Bealmear

Labor Radical Harry Bridges and the Cold War Ire of the US Government

In the second of a two-part series, Dr. Robert Cherny recounts how immigrant Harry Bridges successfully led the powerful International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for four decades beginning in the 1930s, even as his militant unionism and association with communists placed him at odds with the American government during the Cold War and at the center of several deportation hearings.

Cherny is professor emeritus at San Francisco State University and author of Harry Bridges: Labor Radical, Labor Legend.

Related Collections:
CIO Office of the Secretary-Treasurer Records
Civil Rights Congress of Michigan Records
Industrial Workers of the World Records
M.A. Williams Papers
Workers’ Defense League Records

Related Resources:
Harry Bridges: Labor Radical, Labor Legend

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Robert Cherny
Music: Bart Bealmear

Labor Legend Harry Bridges and the Pacific Coast Longshore Strike of 1934

In the first of a two-part series, Dr. Robert Cherny explains how the early life of Australian immigrant Harry Bridges prepared him to lead the groundbreaking 1934 Pacific Coast longshoremen’s and maritime workers’ strikes in the United States, later becoming the first president of the powerful International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

Cherny is professor emeritus at San Francisco State University and author of Harry Bridges: Labor Radical, Labor Legend.

Related Collections:
CIO Office of the Secretary-Treasurer Records
Civil Rights Congress of Michigan Records
Industrial Workers of the World Records
M.A. Williams Papers
Workers’ Defense League Records

Related Resources:
Harry Bridges: Labor Radical, Labor Legend

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Robert Cherny
Music: Bart Bealmear

Taming the Octopus: Eli Black and the Search for Social Responsibility at the United Fruit / United Brands Company

Dr. Matt Garcia traces the legacy of Eli Black, a former rabbi who, as CEO of United Fruit/United Brands Company in the late 1960s and early 1970s, attempted to instill corporate social responsibility into the notorious fruit conglomerate before ending his life following a series of business setbacks and looming corruption scandals. Garcia is the Ralph and Richard Lazarus Professor of History, Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies, and Human Relations at Dartmouth College, and author of Eli and the Octopus: The CEO Who Tried to Reform One of the World’s Most Notorious Corporation.

Related Collections:
LP000467: Reverend Victor P. Salandini Papers
LP002659: Anna Andreini-Brophy Papers
LR000221_admin: UFW Administration Department Records
LR002435: UFW Information and Research Department Records

Related Resources:
Eli and the Octopus: The CEO Who Tried to Reform One of the World’s Most Notorious Corporation

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Matt Garcia
Music: Bart Bealmear

Toxic Debt: An Environmental Justice History of Detroit

A poster on the back of an anti-incinerator publication proclaims: "Detroit Incinerator: We Say No!" From the Thomas Stephens Papers, Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

Dr. Josiah Rector explains that since the 1880s a confluence of unregulated industrial capitalism and racist practices in housing and employment in Detroit created pollution and environmental disasters disproportionately affecting the poor, working class, and particularly African Americans. He explores the resulting environmental justice movements in Detroit as residents have fought for clean air, water, and improved public health amid government and corporate divestment and Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy. Rector is an assistant professor of urban, environmental, and labor history at the University of Houston and author of Toxic Debt: An Environmental Justice History of Detroit.

Related Resources
Toxic Debt: An Environmental Justice History of Detroit

Related Collections:
Joe Brown Papers
Olga Madar Papers
Thomas W. Stephens Papers
UAW Conservation and Recreation Department Records
UAW Foundry and Forge Departments Records
UAW Health and Safety Records
UAW President’s Office: Douglas Fraser Records
UAW President’s Office: Walter P. Reuther Records
UAW President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Josiah Rector
Music: Bart Bealmear

Latinx Encounters: How Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans Made the Modern Midwest

Dr. Juan I. Mora examines three groups of Latinxs as they used postwar migration, temporary guest-worker programs, and agricultural labor to redefine migrant power, justice, and rights in the twentieth century Midwest, and particularly in Michigan. He shows that Latinx migrants melded distinct claims to U.S. citizenship, ethnic identity, and labor rights through conflicts over access to intermediary influence, shifting processes of racialization, and the politics of foodways. Mora is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society and a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Indiana University.

Related Collections:
Agricultural Workers History Collection
Ken Barger Papers
Detroit Latino Records
Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) Records
Monsignor Clement Kern Papers
New Detroit, Inc. Records
UFW Central Administration Records
UFW Michigan Boycott Records
UFW Office of the President: Cesar Chavez Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Juan I. Mora
Music: Bart Bealmear

Under the Iron Heel: Repressing the IWW and Free Speech

Ahmed White explains how industrialists and government officials in the United States used violence and legal maneuverings to stultify the Industrial Workers of the World and silence its members in the early twentieth century. White teaches labor and criminal law at University of Colorado Boulder and is the author of Under the Iron Heel: The Wobblies and the Capitalist War on Radical Workers, which received the International Labor History Association Book of the Year Award in 2022.

Related Collections:
Industrial Workers of the World Records
Nicolaas Steelink Papers

Related Resources:
Under the Iron Heel: The Wobblies and the Capitalist War on Radical Workers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Ahmed White
Music: Bart Bealmear

“Girls, We Cannot Lose!”: Midwestern Black Women Activists During the Great Depression

Dr. Melissa Ford explores the influence of working-class Black women in Detroit, St. Louis, and Cleveland on the development of Black radicalism in the American Midwest during the Great Depression.

Ford is an associate professor of African American history at Slippery Rock University and author of A Brick and a Bible: Black Women’s Radical Activism in the Midwest during the Great Depression.

Related Collections:
Black Workers in the Labor Movement Oral Histories
Black Workers in the Labor Movement Oral Histories: Joseph and Rose Billups
Robert W. Dunn Papers
Maurice Sugar Papers

Related Resources:
A Brick and a Bible: Black Women’s Radical Activism in the Midwest during the Great Depression.
Subject Focus: Ford Hunger March
1932 Ford Hunger March Image Gallery

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Melissa Ford
Music: Bart Bealmear