[Marxism] Fwd: Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Apr 26 06:43:05 MDT 2015
Enslaved mariners, white seamstresses, Irish dockhands, free black
domestic servants, and native-born street sweepers all navigated the
low-end labor market in post-Revolutionary Baltimore. Seth Rockman
considers this diverse workforce, exploring how race, sex, nativity, and
legal status determined the economic opportunities and vulnerabilities
of working families in the early republic.
In the era of Frederick Douglass, Baltimore's distinctive economy
featured many slaves who earned wages and white workers who performed
backbreaking labor. By focusing his study on this boomtown, Rockman
reassesses the roles of race and region and rewrites the history of
class and capitalism in the United States during this time.
Rockman describes the material experiences of low-wage workers―how they
found work, translated labor into food, fuel, and rent, and navigated
underground economies and social welfare systems. He also explores what
happened if they failed to find work or lost their jobs. Rockman argues
that the American working class emerged from the everyday struggles of
these low-wage workers. Their labor was indispensable to the early
republic’s market revolution, and it was central to the transformation
of the United States into the wealthiest society in the Western world.
Rockman’s research includes construction site payrolls, employment
advertisements, almshouse records, court petitions, and the nation’s
first "living wage" campaign. These rich accounts of day laborers and
domestic servants illuminate the history of early republic capitalism
and its consequences for working families.
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