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

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

“No Labor Dictators For Us”: Revisiting Anti-Union Forces in the Flint Sit-Down Strike

While the 1936-1937 Flint Sit-Down is usually viewed as a pivotal success for the UAW, Dr. Gregory Wood considers more closely the influence of anti-union workers and the General Motors-supported Flint Alliance both during and after the strike. Wood is an associate professor and chair of the history department at Frostburg State University. His research will be featured in a forthcoming article in the Michigan Historical Review titled, “’No Labor Dictators for Us’: Anti-Union Workers During the Flint Sit-Down Strikes.”

Related Collections:
Henry Kraus Papers
Flint Auto Worker
Reuther Library Oral History Collections

Related Resources:
Michigan Historical Review
Subject Focus: Remembering the Flint Sit-Down

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Greg Wood
Music: Bart Bealmear

No Equal Justice: The Legal and Civil Rights Legacy of George W. Crockett Jr.

George W. Crockett, Jr., 1968-02-14

Peter Hammer describes the life and legacy of civil rights icon George W. Crockett, Jr. A Black lawyer who fought racism and defended constitutional rights in landmark cases in the 1940s through the 1960s, Crockett brought his ethos to the Detroit Recorder’s Court during his time on the bench from 1966 through 1978, and to his decade of service in the 1980s as a Congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Hammer is an A. Alfred Taubman Endowed Chair in the Wayne State University Law School and director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. With Wayne State Law Professor Emeritus Edward J. Littlejohn, Hammer coauthored the biography, No Equal Justice: The Legacy of Civil Rights Icon George W. Crockett Jr.

Related Collections:
George Crockett Papers
Ernest Goodman Papers
Edward J. Littlejohn Papers (Available for public access in 2023)

Related Resources:
No Equal Justice: The Legacy of Civil Rights Icon George W. Crockett Jr.

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Peter Hammer
Music: Bart Bealmear

A Miasma of Metals: The Steelworkers’ Environmental Call Following the Donora Smog of 1948

Louise Milone recounts how smog produced by the southwestern Pennsylvanian steel industry poisoned the air in the Monongahela Valley town of Donora on November 1, 1948, killing more than 22 people and sickening thousands more. Exploring the response of the US Steel Corporation, employees, and Donora residents, Milone explains how the United Steelworkers of America union pushed for an investigation and improved environmental and health and safety regulations following the disaster. Milone is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Georgia Department of History.

Related Collections:
Olga Madar Papers

Harvey O’Connor Papers
UAW President’s Office: Walter P. Reuther Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Louise Milone
Music: Bart Bealmear

Labor’s End: Automation’s Failed Promise of Freedom

Dr. Jason Resnikoff explains that the rise of automation in the mid-20th century workplace was heralded as a way to free workers from manual labor, but resulted instead in the intensification of human labor and the degradation of workers’ protections and powers. Resnikoff is a core lecturer in the History Department at Columbia University and author of Labor’s End: How the Promise of Automation Degraded Work.

Related Collections:
UAW archival collections
Detroit Revolutionary Movements Records
James and Grace Lee Boggs Papers

Related Resources:
Labor’s End: How the Promise of Automation Degraded Work

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Jason Resnikoff
Music: Bart Bealmear

Environmental Activism in Deindustrialized Detroit

Brandon Ward explains how Detroit residents, community organizations, and the labor movement, alarmed by the pollution remaining in Detroit’s deindustrialized era that mostly heavily impacted Black Americans and the working class, worked together from the 1970s onward to create a healthier, greener, and more livable city.

Ward is a lecturer at Perimeter College at Georgia State University and author of Living Detroit: Environmental Activism in an Age of Urban Crisis.

Donations to the Walter P. Reuther Library Endowment Fund are gratefully accepted to support this podcast and enhance access to the Reuther Library’s collections.

Related Collections:
Detroit Revolutionary Movements Records
Olga Madar Papers
UAW Conservation and Recreation Department Records
UAW Local 600 Records

Related Resources:
Living Detroit: Environmental Activism in an Age of Urban Crisis

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Brandon Ward
Music: Bart Bealmear

Bargaining for the Common Good: Milton Tambor Reflects on 50 Years in Labor and Social Activism

Labor leader and social activist Milton Tambor discusses his life’s work in Detroit since the 1950s as a social worker; AFSCME local union president, staff representative and assistant education director; and teaching faculty in both labor studies and social work at Wayne State University and other institutions. He also discusses the intersection of labor and social political movements through his involvement in organizations such as the Detroit Coalition to End the War Now, the Michigan Labor Committee on Central America, and the Democratic Socialists of America in both Detroit and Atlanta. Tambor recently published a memoir titled A Democratic Socialist’s Fifty Year Adventure.

Related Collections:
AFSCME Michigan Council 25 Records
Detroit Coalition to End the War Now! Records
Milton Tambor Papers

Related Resources:
A Democratic Socialist’s Fifty Year Adventure

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Milton Tambor
Music: Bart Bealmear

Brewing a Boycott: Collective Activism and the Decades-Long Coors Beer Boycott

Dr. Allyson Brantley explains how large and diverse groups joined together for a decades-long consumer boycott of the Coors Brewing Company to fight against its union busting, discriminatory hiring practices, and politics. Brantley is an assistant professor of history and Director of Honors & Interdisciplinary Initiatives at the University of La Verne and author of Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism.

Related Collections:
AFSCME Office of the President: Gerald W. McEntee Records
AFT President’s Office: Albert Shanker Records
Bob Barber Papers
Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) Records
Dolores Huerta Papers
Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO Council: Tom Turner Records
Michigan Coalition for Human Rights Records
UAW President’s Office: Owen Bieber Records
UFW Office of the President: Arturo Rodriguez Records

Related Resources:
Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Allyson Brantley
Music: Bart Bealmear

Communists and Community in Wartime Detroit

Group of people some wearing labor union emblems, carry picket signs denouncing the deportation of Sam Sweet outside the Detroit Federal Building, 1950-04-08.

Dr. Ryan Pettengill explains how communist activists in Detroit worked with labor activists during and after the Second World War to enhance the quality of life in the community by advocating for civil rights, affordable housing, protections for the foreign-born, and more. Pettengill is a Professor of History at Collin College and author of Communists and Community: Activism in Detroit’s Labor Movement, 1941-1956.

Related Collections:
Don Binkowski Papers
Nat Ganley and Saul Wellman Papers
Maurice Sugar Papers
Sam Sweet Papers
Shelton Tappes Papers
Edith Van Horn Papers

UAW Fair Practices and Anti-Discrimination Department Records

UAW President’s Office: Walter P. Reuther Records

Related Resources:
Communists and Community: Activism in Detroit’s Labor Movement, 1941-1956

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Ryan Pettengill
Music: Bart Bealmear