For many African Americans, getting a public sector job has historically been one of the few paths to the financial stability of the middle class, and in New York City, few such jobs were as sought-after as positions in the fire department (FDNY). For over a century, generations of Black New Yorkers have fought to gain access to and equal opportunity within the FDNY. Tracing this struggle for jobs and justice from 1898 to the present, David Goldberg details the ways each generation of firefighters confronted overt and institutionalized racism. An important chapter in the histories of both Black social movements and independent workplace organizing, this book demonstrates how Black firefighters in New York helped to create affirmative action from the "bottom up," while simultaneously revealing how white resistance to these efforts shaped white working-class conservatism and myths of American meritocracy.Full of colorful characters and rousing stories drawn from oral histories, discrimination suits, and the archives of the Vulcan Society (the fraternal society of Black firefighters in New York), this book sheds new light on the impact of Black firefighters in the fight for civil rights.
About the Author
David Goldberg is associate professor of African American studies at Wayne State University.
What People are Saying About This
That we can know so much about Black firefighters in one locale—even during early years in which they constituted a literal handful of workers—is both a pleasant surprise and a tribute to the assiduous research of Goldberg in archives and in the mining of oral histories. The textured evidence, in terms of both policy decisions and personal experiences, is deeply impressive and persuasive. The characters that emerge here are compelling in a way all too rare in labor history."—David Roediger, author of Seizing Freedom