S2, Episode 5

In This Episode

April 26, 2022: Alonzo Ward on the Hidden History of Black Labor in Illinois

Image of Professor Alonzo Ward

In Episode 5, guest Alonzo Ward (history, Eastern Illinois University) and host Augustus Wood explore the less well known threads of American labor history, specifically Black labor in Illinois. Beyond any easy, simplified reading of the past—Black workers as "strike breakers," for example—they ask listeners to look deeper at the real, lived conditions and context of people's lives.

As history is written, are the subjects' voices part of the narrative? Is the multifaceted nature of their lives, in all of its complexity, incorporated into the analysis? As they discuss the importance of agency and complicating the story of Black labor in the 19th and 20th centuries, Ward and Wood find connections to labor trends unfolding today.


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About the Guest

Alonzo M. Ward is an assistant professor of history at Eastern Illinois University. His research focuses on African American history in the Midwest during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as the general history of race and ethnicity in the United States. Specifically, he researches African American labor history in Illinois in conjunction with the larger labor movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

His current book project, Relegated to the Bottom: Illinois African American Workers and their Struggle against Systematic Oppression during the Early Jim Crow Era (working title), is a multifaceted examination of African Americans in Illinois prior to the Great Migration of the twentieth century. This examination explores the type of labor Illinois African Americans procured during the early Jim Crow era (1877 to 1914).