Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly
A book talk with Peter Cole
Peter Cole discussing Ben Fletcher: The Life and Times of a Black Wobbly with the Tolpudddle Martyrs Radical History School in a virtual event on Tuesday, May 11th from 7pm to 8pm (GMT).
Ben Fletcher, an African American who helped lead the IWW’s most militant and effective interracial branch, epitomized the union’s brand of anti-capitalism and anti-racism. Fletcher (1890−1949) was a tremendously important and well-loved member of the IWW during its heyday, the first quarter of the 20th century. A brilliant union organizer and a humorous orator, Fletcher helped found and lead Local 8 of the IWW’s Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union. When founded in 1913, this union was a third African American, a third Irish and Irish American, and a third other European immigrants. Despite being hated by the bosses and redbaited by the government, Local 8 controlled the waterfront for almost a decade.
Peter Cole, a Professor of History at Western Illinois University and Research Associate in the Society, Work and Development Program at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is the author of Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive Era Philadelphia and the award-winning Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area. He also is the founder and co-director of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project (CRR19). He tweets from @ProfPeterCole.