UPDATE: [Cultural-Historical] EXTENDED DEADLINE: Labor & Working-Class Activism in the U.S. Popular Press,1860-1900 (9/20/07

full name / name of organization: 
Sari Edelstein
contact email: 

Labor and Working-Class Activism in the U.S. Popular Press, 1860-1900

“Politics and Propaganda”
Nineteenth Century Studies Association (NCSA)
April 3-5, 2008
Florida International University, Miami, Florida

In the wake of the national railroad strike of 1877, the St. Louis journalist J.A. Dacus imagined
the protestors, citizens, and agitators that propelled the massive work stoppage and uprising as
“mighty masses of strange, grimy men, excited by passions, dark and fearful, surging along the
streets.” Diverging from this gothic vision, a reporter for Henry Ward Beecher’s newspaper
Christian Union noted that the strikers were “thoroughly organized, and generally were orderly in
their movements. They refused to allow the trains to be run, but they did not destroy property; in
many instances they organized to protect it.” Figuring workers as “strange” and “fearful,” or
“orderly” and “organized,” these accounts point to the tensions and contradictions shaping the
popular representation of the working classes in an era that saw drastic economic instability,
wide scale labor organization, and violent social conflict.

This panel will address the divergent ways that the U.S. popular press imagined workers,
industrial work, and labor movements during and after the Civil War, as class conflict and the
conditions of proletarian life took on new importance in the public imagination. In keeping with
the theme of the 2007 NCSA conference, “Politics and Propaganda,” we are seeking papers that
consider the political work of the representations of workers, labor, and activism that appeared
in American newspaper journalism, sensational pamphlets, serialized fiction, reformist essays
and editorials, illustrated magazines, photography, chromolithographs, and cartoonsâ€"among
other popular print venues.

As J.A. Dacus’s vision of “dark” and “grimy men” suggests, postbellum representations of
workers were invariably racialized and gendered constructions; accordingly, papers that address
the racial and gender politics of the figure of the laborer are especially welcome.

Please email an abstract (250 words) and a one-page c.v. by September 20 to:

Sari Edelstein
Department of English and American Literature
Brandeis University

Ross Barrett
Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts
National Gallery of Art

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Received on Wed Sep 12 2007 - 18:24:29 EDT