Workers in Brazil and the United States have followed parallel and entangled histories for many centuries. Recent experiences with progressive, popular presidents and authoritarian, populist presidents in the two most populous countries in the hemisphere have underscored important similarities. The contributors in this volume focus on the comparative and transnational histories of labor between and across Brazil and the United States. The countries’ histories bear the marks of slavery, racism, transoceanic immigration, and rapid urbanization, as well as strong regional differentiation and inequalities. These features decisively shaped the working classes. Brazilian and US labor history debates have erupted and subsided at different times. This collection synthesizes those debates while adding new topics and new sources from both countries. The international group of historians’ methodologically innovative chapters explore links, resonances, and divergences between US and Brazilian labor history. They widen the scope of analysis for themes and problems that have long been familiar to historians of work and workers in the two countries, but have not provoked close dialogues between scholars in the respective places. Though the histories themselves were often entangled, the debates about them have too rarely intertwined.
Fernando Teixeira da Silva is professor of Brazilian history at the State University of Campinas.
Alexandre Fortes is associate professor of contemporary history at the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
Gillian McGillivray is associate professor in Glendon College’s Department of History at York University.
Thomas D. Rogers is associate professor in the Department of History at Emory University.
Introduction. Connections, Comparisons, Inspirations: Overcoming a Dichotomous View of the History of Labor in the United States and Brazil, Fernando Teixeira da Silva, Alexandre Fortes, Gillian McGillivray, and Thomas D. Rogers
Part I: Immigration, Labor, and Feminism
Chapter 1: Immigration and Militance: Notes on Italians in São Paulo and the United States, Michael M. Hall
Chapter 2: International Feminist Connections in the Making of Labor Rights for Women, 1917–1937, Glaucia Cristina Candian Fraccaro
Part II: New Deal, New State, and World War II
Chapter 3: Labor’s New Deal: Corporatism and Politics in the US and Brazil, Fernando Teixeira da Silva
Chapter 4: Labor, Race, and Politics: US Views of Brazil in the Context of the Second World War, Alexandre Fortes
Chapter 5: Social Peace in a Time of War: Labor Justice and Foreign Policy in World War II Brazil, Rebecca Herman
Part III: The Cold War, Race, and Rural Workers
Chapter 6: An Engagé Intellectual in Brazil: Robert Alexander’s View of Brazilian Unionism during the Cold War, Larissa Rosa Corrêa
Chapter 7: Doormen and the Individualization of Segregation in Brazil, Jerry Dávila
Chapter 8: Real Labor Movements, Imagined Revolutions: The Northeastern Brazilian Sugar Zone Through US Eyes, 1955–1964, Gillian McGillivray and Thomas D. Rogers
Postscript: Entangling Labor Histories, Barbara Weinstein
About the Editors and Contributors
It would be an ironic but welcome development if the contemporary, coterminous affliction of both Brazilian and United States societies with right-wing populist regimes—Bolsonaro’s in Brazil, Trump’s in the U.S—should spur a wider intellectual focus on historical parallels and interactions across these two hemispheric behemoths. If so, The Entangled Labor Histories of Brazil and the United States will surely be counted an important step forward. Ranging from World War I through the Cold War era and mixing comparative with transnational approaches, this volume stirs fresh thinking about workers, race and gender, the military, and the state in both countries.
Offering fresh transnational perspective on the entangled labor histories of Brazil and the US, this eye-opening collection shows us what good things can happen when histories of labor are jolted from entrenched national frameworks. A must-read for anyone interested in the fascinating dynamics that have shaped these two most populous nations of the Western Hemisphere in each other’s reflection.