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The Fruits of Their Labor: Atlantic Coast Farmworkers and the Making of Migrant Poverty, 1870-1945 Paperback – April 21, 1997

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Editorial Reviews


Finely crafted."Labour"


[Hahamovitch] accomplishes a rare synthesis that skillfully weaves together the strands of agricultural history, immigration history, labor history, southern history, and history of the state. . . . Historians of all these specialties will be pushed into the interrelated corners of their fields and should be inspired to ask some creative new questions.--Agricultural History

|[This book] fills an important gap. . . . [Hahamovitch] has thoroughly mined manuscript and oral history collections, contemporary newspapers, and government archives to develop a readable, chronological narrative. . . . [This book] breaks important ground in understanding rural class relations and the role of the federal government in shaping the face of modern agriculture.--Journal of Southern History

|Cindy Hahamovitch has put together a masterful history of the relationship between Atlantic Coast farmworkers, the growers for whom they labored, and the state. This study is valuable not only for its synthesis of extensive primary source material, but also for its lessons regarding the relationship between capital and the state.--Labor History

|[This book] charts a course toward a new and robust synthesis of rural, labor, and policy history.--Journal of Interdisciplinary History

|Finely crafted . . . Details how changing agricultural markets and production practices combined with labour distribution efforts of private, government, and union agencies to create a permanent migratory labour force deprived of power and mired in poverty.--Labour

|A compelling reinterpretation of the world made by the state, labor, racism, and big agricultural capital from the end of Reconstruction to the end of World War II. Always looking at the bigger picture, Cindy Hahamovitch takes us beyond the tragic exteriors of migrant farm labor memorialized in Depression photojournalism or the novels of Zora Neale Hurston and into the boardrooms and lawmakers' galleries. Written with eloquence and sympathy, The Fruits of Their Labor is essential reading for historians, policy makers, and labor activists.--Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression

|[A] well-crafted, deeply-researched, clearly-written, comprehensive narrative-analytical history.--Journal of Southwest Georgia History

|An important contribution to our understanding of agricultural labor relations and, more generally, is important in its observations about the weighted actions of allegedly neutral government programs.--Labor Studies Journal

|Hahamovitch's engaging prose and tight conceptualization carry us across virtually uncharted terrain. The Fruits of Their Labor perceptively maps that territory, penetrating the nexus connecting reformers, the state, the technology and economics of truck farming, and the lives of migrant workers on the East Coast.--James Grossman, The Newberry Library

|This is a timely and powerful book about some of this country's most powerless people. The literature on farm laborers has been written mainly by muckrackers and reformers, and the history of the East Coast migrant stream has barely surfaced at all. Hahamovitch succeeds brilliantly in moving this turbulent story out of the no-man's land of poverty studies and into the mainstream of a new social history that puts the state back in. She makes migrant workers actors in their own lives and traces their continuing inability to reap the fruits of their labor to the success of the growers in hijacking the apparatus of the state. At the same time, she neither treats the state as a monolith nor underestimates the importance of the state's protective wing. The Fruits of Their Labor is sweeping, vivid, and richly detailed. It should be required reading, not only for students of American history but for all those who dream of a revitalized labor movement and an immigration policy that does not exploit and punish at the same time.--Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, coauthor of Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World

|Brings together excellent historiography of the understudied East Coast migrant stream. . . . This excellent historical analysis is particularly timely.--Industrial and Labor Relations Review

|[Hahamovitch] tells a powerful story of how the actions of the state affect people's day-to-day lives. In doing so, she puts the state back into history and produces a book that is a crucial work for anyone interested in American political history and the development of the twentieth-century nation-state.--Florida Historical Quarterly


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Edition edition (April 21, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807846392
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807846391
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, Cindy Hahamovitch writes about migrant farmworkers in the U.S., and international labor migration. Cindy has a B.A. from Rollins College, a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is past-president of the Southern Labor Studies Association. She taught for two years at York University in Ontario before coming to Williamsburg, Virginia in 1993. She is Professor of History at the College of William & Mary, where she teaches courses on modern US history.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer on March 25, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Raw Deal

Once in a while you read a book chock full of information you didn't know that you didn't know, or more importantly that you didn't know you needed to know. "The Fruits of Their Labor," by Cindy Hahamovitch, is such a book. The subtitle - Atlantic Coast Farmworkers and the Making of Migrant Poverty, 1870-1945 - only hints at the breadth of the subject matter, which stretches to include an economic and social history of agriculture in states from Maine to Florida and the Deep South. Though the author traces the changes in farming and truck-gardening that resulted from the partial mechanization of the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the focus of the book is on the conversion of traditional year-round farm-hands into seasonal laborers, and thus to the lowest-on-the-totem-pole migrants whose welfare was of minimal interest to ever-larger farm businessmen. More than half of the book deals with the twelve years of the New Deal and the Second World War, revealing how ineffective the "reformers" were in the face of opposition from racists and conservatives of both parties. It's no surprise to learn that FDR threw farm labor to the wolves, excluding it from the benefits of collective bargaining. Likewise, it's hardly shocking to realize how little understanding of rural realities the urban reformers of the era were, in their hopes that paternalism and a little health education would restore the agrarian paradise envisioned by Tom Jefferson. The value of this book comes from observing the mechanisms of interest groups - owners, to be blunt - in turning the efforts of government at all levels to the service of their selfish interests.
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