NYFS logo    tagline
 Pinto Guira making guiramaking a mandalaplaying mandolin
 


New York Folklore Vol. 14. Nos. 1-2, Winter-Spring, 1988
View the Table of Contents here. Back issues of New York Folklore (1975–1999) and single articles are available for purchase.
JOIN the New York Folklore Society today to receive Voices.



ny14-1-2

Support the New York Folklore Society


NEW YORK FOLKLORE
Vol. 14, Nos. 1-2, 1988

SONGS OF WORK AND SONGS OF WORKSHOP: SANCTIFYING BLACK UNIONISM IN THE SOUTHERN CITY OF STEEL
by Brenda McCallum

Introduction

Set within the historical context of New South industrialization and the resurgence of black unionism in the New Deal era and against the background of racial and social stratification in Birmingham, Alabama, this paper examines expressive culture as an agent for social change. Many members of Birmingham’s black workforce during this period had rich associationallives as gospel singers, and their interconnected contexts for alliance - at the workplace, in company towns and industrial communities, in the union hall, and in the church — provided alternative arenas, modes, and levels of communication and expression. The discourse, narratives, and songs that emerged from this complex matrix of overlapping social networks served as analogous channels for black workers’ heightened response to the inequities of the industrializing environment and, in particular, to the prospects for profound economic and social reform brought about by black unionism.

By drawing on and reinterpreting traditional religious speech and song, black miners and industrial workers in Birmingham helped give unionism “an extraordinary cultural and ideological vitality” (Grossberg 1986: 54–55). This paper investigates the practice, among some Birmingham black workers and gospel singers, of transforming religious songs to union songs which commemorated and canonized labor leaders, sanctified labor organization, and praised the gospel of black unionism. Performed in a quasi-sacred style and empowered by the unifying ideologies of evangelical Protestantism and democratic unionism, these pro-labor songs provided an active mode in which black industrial workers could articulate an emerging consciousness and a new collective identity.....


Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society. To become a subscriber, join the New York Folklore Society today.


TO PURCHASE A BACK ISSUE of New York Folklore, visit our online book store.


TO PURCHASE THIS ARTICLE from New York Folklore, use the form here.



Right Arrow Image    BACK TO NEW YORK FOLKLORE.

 



New York Folklore
PURCHASE A SINGLE ARTICLE

To order a single article, please enter volume number, issue number, and title of the article you wish and click on an order button below to purchase through Paypal or with your credit card. We will send you a PDF of the article via e-mail upon receipt of your order.

ITEM #603
Single Article $3.00




Volume No. & Issue



Title







Member Price  $2.00



Volume No. & Issue



Title










NEW YORK FOLKLORE SOCIETY ♦ 129 Jay Street ♦ Schenectady, NY 12305 ♦ 518.346.7008 ♦ Fax 518.346.6617 ♦ nyfs@nyfolklore.org