The riveting portrait of an important unionist placed between the liberatory impulses of Pan Africanism and the imperial schemes of labor's Cold War chiefs, Maida Springer will be must reading for labor historians and aficionados of overseas intelligence operations.
Maida Springer was an active participant in shaping a history that involved powerful movements for social, political and economic equality and justice for workers women, and African Americans. Maida Springer is the first full-length biography to document and analyze the central role played by Springer in international affairs, particularly in the formation of AFL-CIO’s African policy during the Cold War and African independence movements.
Richards explores the ways in which pan-Africanism, racism, sexism and anti-Communism affected Springer’s political development, her labor activism, and her relationship with labor leaders in the AFL-CIO, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and in African unions. Springer’s life experiences and work reveal the complex nature of black struggles for equality and justice. A strong supporter of both the AFL-CIO and the ICFTU, Springer nonetheless recognized that both organizations were fraught with racism, sexism, and ethnocentrism. She also understood that charges of Communism were often used as a way to thwart African American demands for social justice. As an African-American, she found herself in the unenviable position of promoting to Africans the ideals of American democracy from which she was excluded from fully enjoying.
Richards’s biography of Maida Springer uniquely connects pan-Africanism, national and international labor relations, the Cold War, and African American, labor, women’s, and civil rights histories. In addition to documenting Springer’s role in international labor relations, the biography provides a larger view of a whole range of political leaders and social movements. Maida Springer is a stirring biography that spans the fields of women studies, African American studies, and labor history.
Maida Springer is an incredibly rich book, very impressive in its wide range of knowledge. A public rather than private biography, it charts the trajectory of an unusual black woman and the tensions she felt from being black and being an American trade unionist during the Cold War. Her story deserves telling for what it reveals about the roles of women and people of African descent in the trade unions as well as the AFL-CIO's policy in Africa and the activities of African Americans in Africa. Richards has produced a superb exploration of the relationship between anti-Communisim and anti-colonialism.
Richard's fascinating book chronicles Maida Springer's contributions to African workers' empowerment and the International Ladies Garmet workers Union.This volume significantly advances ongoing efforts to excavate the history of African Americans' contributions to the labor movement both in the US and internationally, and ameliorates the limited attention devoted to gender issues.
The book is fascinating reading. The detailed accounts of Springer's interactions with U.S. and African leaders provide essential information for understanding U.S.-African international relations. Every scholar of U.S.-African relations, labor's Cold War, African American labor, and women's history will appreciate Richards's research.
. . . a sensitive and compassionate portrayal of the life of Maida Springer . . . Richards has done a great service to historians . . . a fascinating treatment of an important champion of African freedom and justice that will help to change scholars' understanding of the intersections of African-American, labor, international, and gender histories.
Richards has done a compelling job here of showing how important Springer was, and of exploring the ways in which Spring navigated the upper worlds of the AFL and ALF-CIO as an African American woman.
Yevette Richards received a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. Her areas of interest include labor, African American, and women’s histories. She has published the book Maida Springer: Pan-Africanist and International Labor Leader as well as articles in the International Journal of African Historical Studies and the Journal of Women’s History.