Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Erik S. Gellman  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;


-- Erik S. Gellman on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Gellman lives in Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Erik Gellman is a professor in the History and Philosophy Department at Roosevelt University in Chicago. He holds a B.A. from Bates College and Ph.D. in History from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Gellman specializes in the 19th and 20th Century United States. His research interests include African American and working-class history, social movements, and comparative ethnic and racial studies. He is the author of recent articles in the ''Journal of Southern History and Labor'' and is currently working on two forthcoming books, ''Labor's New Deal Prophets'' and ''Death Blow, Jim Crow!''

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor's Southern Prophets in New Deal America (Working Class in American History)
ISBN: 0252078403

University of Illinois Press. 2011

In this exceptional dual biography and cultural history, Erik S. Gellman and Jarod Roll trace the influence of two southern activist preachers, one black and one white, who used their ministry to organize the working class in the 1930s and 1940s across lines of gender, race, and geography. Owen Whitfield and Claude Williams, along with their wives Zella Whitfield and Joyce Williams, drew on their bedrock religious beliefs to stir ordinary men and women to demand social and economic justice in the eras of the Great Depression, New Deal, and Second World War.

Williams and Whitfield preached a working-class gospel rooted in the American creed that hard, productive work entitled people to a decent standard of living. Gellman and Roll detail how the two preachers galvanized thousands of farm and industrial workers for the Southern Tenant Farmers Union and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. They also link the activism of the 1930s and 1940s to that of the 1960s and emphasize the central role of the ministers' wives, with whom they established the People's Institute for Applied Religion.
This detailed narrative illuminates a cast of characters who became the two couples' closest allies in coordinating a complex network of activists that transcended Jim Crow racial divisions, blurring conventional categories and boundaries to help black and white workers make better lives. In chronicling the shifting contexts of the actions of Whitfield and Williams, The Gospel of the Working Class situates Christian theology within the struggles of some of America's most downtrodden workers, transforming the dominant narratives of the era and offering a fresh view of the promise and instability of religion and civil rights unionism.

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