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Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly | Talk with Peter Cole | New Labor Book Series #9
February 23, 2023 at 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm PST
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A brilliant union organizer and a humorous orator, Benjamin Fletcher (1890– 1949) was a tremendously important and well-loved African American member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) during its heyday. During that period, when many US unions disgracefully excluded black and Asian workers, the IWW warmly welcomed people of color, in keeping with their emphasis on class solidarity and their bold motto: “An Injury to One Is an Injury to All!” Fletcher helped found and lead Local 8 of the IWW’s Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union, unquestionably the most powerful interracial union of its era, taking a principled stand against all forms of xenophobia and exclusion.
For years, historian Peter Cole has carefully researched Fletcher’s life, the result of which is the most comprehensive look at Fletcher ever to be published—including a detailed biographical sketch of his life and history, reminiscences by fellow workers who knew him, a chronicle of the IWW’s impressive decade-long run on the Philadelphia waterfront in which Fletcher played a pivotal role, and nearly all of his known writings and speeches, thus giving Fletcher’s timeless voice another opportunity to inspire a new generation of workers, organizers, and agitators.
About Peter Cole
Peter Cole is a professor of history at Western Illinois University in Macomb and a research associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Cole is the author of the award-winning Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area and Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia. He coedited Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW. He is the founder and codirector of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project.