“Labor rights are civil rights” has often been a rallying cry for both activists and scholars. Yet the very need to make such a declaration speaks to the fact that most people in the United States think of the two multifaceted crusades as separate, if not actually at odds with one another. That divide seemed particularly clear in the 1980s and 1990s, especially within the academy. While New Left labor historians still lionized forgotten moments of interracial cooperation, scholars of “whiteness” came to see an inexorable divide between the purposes and character of the two social movements. The undeniable power of the modern Right in these years often led these historians to link the decline of organized labor to the simultaneous exodus of the white working class from the Democratic Party.

Reuel Schiller’s Forging Rivals: Race, Class, Law, and the Collapse of Postwar Liberalism seeks to reconcile these two...

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