Too often in today’s popular discourse “working class” means white, male workers in industrial settings. This narrow conceptualization distorts the true working class in the United States and limits opportunities for mobilizing workers in social justice campaigns to expand democracy, increase economic security, and dismantle structural racism. Joe Trotter’s Workers on Arrival centers black urban workers in the historical development of the United States and provides a much needed corrective to popular conceptions of the working class. This well-written, fast-paced, and engaging history integrates labor history, global studies, capitalism, slavery, African American studies, and comprehensive micro-histories that contextualize race, labor, and gender to detail all the ways black workers have always participated as “producers, givers, and assets” in the making of America (xv).

While centering black urban workers in this history of the United States, Workers on Arrival details the ways black people used existing institutions, built communities, and created...

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