Academic Historian

Peter Cole is a professor of history at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois.  He holds a Ph. D. in history from Georgetown University and a B.A. from Columbia University.  He has published two books and numerous articles on the World War I era’s most inclusive labor union, Local 8, a part of the Industrial Workers of the World: Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007) and Ben Fletcher: The Life & Times of a Black Wobbly (New York: Charles H. Kerr Press, 2007).  His current book project is a comparative history of longshore workers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Durban, South Africa.


African Americans and the Knights of Labor (1869-1949)

Founded in Philadelphia in 1869, the Knights of Labor (KOL) was the largest, most important labor union in the 19th century United States. Unlike most unions (and predominantly White institutions), then, the KOL opened its membership to African Americans and women workers. Prior to the … Read MoreAfrican Americans and the Knights of Labor (1869-1949)

Tefere Gebre (1968–)

American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) “Image Ownership: Cfiles-aflcio“ Labor leader Tefere Gebre fled Ethiopia at fourteen years of age, moved to the United States, and was elected years later, in 2013, executive vice president of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial … Read MoreTefere Gebre (1968–)

Leo Lythel Robinson (1937–2013)

“Image Courtesy of David Bacon” A rank-and-file activist in the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), Leo Robinson was best known for fighting apartheid by helping lead a massive boycott of South African cargo that galvanized anti-apartheid movement in California‘s San Francisco Bay Area in … Read MoreLeo Lythel Robinson (1937–2013)

William H. Chester (1914-1985)

Dr. Martin Luther King with Bill Chester, January 25, 1963 “Image Courtesy of Anne Rand Library, International Longshore and Warehouse Union” William “Bill” Chester, Vice President and Assistant to Harry Bridges, President of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU), was the highest ranking African … Read MoreWilliam H. Chester (1914-1985)

Benjamin Harrison Fletcher (1890-1949)

Benjamin Fletcher, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1890, was the most important African American in the most influential radical union of his time, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Fletcher became active in the IWW while working as a longshoreman, loading and unloading cargo … Read MoreBenjamin Harrison Fletcher (1890-1949)

Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian (1924-2020)

The life of the Reverend Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian is in many ways the story of the modern black freedom struggle.  Vivian actively participated in the Nashville desegregation movement, Freedom Rides, Birmingham, Selma, Chicago, and other chapters of the fight for equal rights. Born Boonville, … Read MoreCordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian (1924-2020)

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Local 8 (1913-ca. 1928)

Local 8 was an interracial, multiethnic local that was part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a militant, left-wing labor union. From its inception, the IWW has been committed to racial equality, though African Americans played a relatively small role in the organization. … Read MoreIndustrial Workers of the World (IWW) Local 8 (1913-ca. 1928)