A New Deal for All?

Race and Class Struggles in Depression-Era Baltimore

A New Deal for All?

Radical Perspectives

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Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 40 photographs Published: December 2012

Author: Andor Skotnes

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, History > U.S. History, Sociology

In A New Deal for All? Andor Skotnes examines the interrelationships between the Black freedom movement and the workers' movement in Baltimore and Maryland during the Great Depression and the early years of the Second World War. Adding to the growing body of scholarship on the long civil rights struggle, he argues that such "border state" movements helped resuscitate and transform the national freedom and labor struggles. In the wake of the Great Crash of 1929, the freedom and workers' movements had to rebuild themselves, often in new forms. In the early 1930s, deepening commitments to antiracism led Communists and Socialists in Baltimore to launch racially integrated initiatives for workers' rights, the unemployed, and social justice. An organization of radicalized African American youth, the City-Wide Young People's Forum, emerged in the Black community and became involved in mass educational, anti-lynching, and Buy Where You Can Work campaigns, often in multiracial alliances with other progressives. During the later 1930s, the movements of Baltimore merged into new and renewed national organizations, especially the CIO and the NAACP, and built mass regional struggles. While this collaboration declined after the war, Skotnes shows that the earlier cooperative efforts greatly shaped national freedom campaigns to come—including the civil rights movement.


A New Deal for All? is an insightful…study of obscure but influential activism in the Depression…. Skotnes reminds us that scarcity can produce vibrant activism and a new sense of the possible.” — Will Cooley, History: Reviews of New Books

"The arguments persuasively advanced in A New Deal for All? will be of particular interest to historians of the 'long civil rights movement,' trade union development, and radical politics." — Roger Biles, Journal of American History

“[T]his book… contributes to the body of scholarship illuminating the early years of the “long civil rights movement”…. Among the book’s distinctions is its use of oral history, and the interviews Andor Skotnes conducted especially enliven descriptions of the people and events that comprised the Baltimore freedom movement.” — Eben Miller, American Historical Review

“Academics and advanced students will benefit from the detailed approach based on extensive newspaper, oral history, and archival research…Recommended.” — C.K. Piehl, Choice

" . . . A New Deal for All provides an important contribution to the study of race and labour during the Depression." — Christopher Powell, Labour/Le Travail

"Through effective uses of sources, especially oral histories, Skotnes interweaves fascinating individual and organizational historical narratives . . . what is most useful is Skotnes's ability to make visible the multiple lines connecting these campaigns and organizations." — Keona Ervin, Journal of Southern History

“There is no doubt that the Red Scare dealt a severe blow to social justice struggles in the United States. Skotnes’s discussion of Baltimore’s freedom movement, however, encourages us to think carefully about historical actors and the trajectories of their beliefs.” — Jane Berger, Journal of American Ethnic History

“The most significant contribution of A New Deal for All? is its detailed accounting of the groups that engendered early 1930s activism…. The book is well written and keeps the reader's interest with its arresting accounts of local activists.”

— Theodore Rosenof, History Teacher

"A New Deal for All? is a valuable and important study of race, labor, and social activism that fills a significant gap by meticulous­ly charting the critically important, but previously overlooked, history of Baltimore's freedom struggle. Well written and provocative."  — David Goldberg, Journal of African American History

"Andor Skotnes' argument—that the labor and freedom movements in Baltimore were connected in interesting and complex ways during the critical period under discussion—is intellectually sound and quite innovative. Well researched and cogently argued, A New Deal for All? details and analyzes the political relationships between these two movements with enormous skill. Skotnes demonstrates that it was the most radical elements of the workers' movement who pressed a principled antiracist agenda, thereby creating a wedge into the pervasive racism of the time." — Linda Shopes, coeditor of The Baltimore Book: New Views of Local History

"In this creative account, Andor Skotnes convincingly places Baltimore in the 'long civil rights movement' as he deftly unravels the complex connections between race and class in an urban setting. His original use of oral history enriches his narrative and enhances our understanding of the compelling struggles for freedom and justice in the 1930s." — Jo Ann E. Argersinger, author of Making the Amalgamated: Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in the Baltimore Clothing Industry, 1899–1939


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Andor Skotnes is Professor of History at The Sage Colleges.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series vii

Illustrations ix

Abbreviations xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 3

I. The Context

1. Communities, Culture, and Traditions of Opposition 11

II. Emergences, 1930–1934

2. Disrupting the Calm: The Communist Party in Baltimore, 1930–1933 45

3. The City-Wide Young People's Forum, 1931–1933 69

4. Garment Workers, Socialists, and the People's Unemployment League, 1932–1934 92

III. Transitions, 1933–1936

5. The Lynching of George Armwood, 1933 119

6. Buy Where You Can Work, 1933–1934 140

7. The Baltimore Soviet, the ACW, and the PUL, 1933–1935 163

8. Seeking Directions, 1934–1936 187

IV. Risings, 1936–1941

9. The CIO and the First Wave, 1936–1937 215

10. The CIO, the AFL, and the Baltimore Workers' Movement: The Second Wave, 1938–1941 245

11. The New Baltimore NAACP and the Metropolitan Region, 1936–1941 269

12. The New Baltimore NAACP and the State and the Country, 1936–1941 290

Epilogue 313

Notes 319

Bibliography 353

Index 365
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5359-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5347-8
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