[Marxism] Fwd: Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore

Louis Proyect 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.


More information about the Marxism mailing list