The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002

Book Reviews

Using an innovative methodology of industry sampling, Starks examines the
plight of workers in various occupations found along the upper Gulf Coast
region. He shows a commonality of oppression that all felt, and how the south-
ern racial customs motivated some of these black workers to challenge Jim
Crow labor practices through unionism, though he merely cracks the door of
inquiry on the various industries along the Gulf Coast. Chapter Two, "Black
Longshoremen and the Racial Paradox," offers us a nuanced understanding of
the commonalties of black and white unionism. Though barriers imposed by
Jim Crow separated black and white workers, they were trapped in an uncom-
promising relationship with a profit-driven management who exploited racial
division to maintain control of the dockworkers. The development of Houston
as the emerging port in the upper Texas coast and the subsequent decline of
Galveston's port momentarily hurt the longshoremen's union. But a "Big
Strike" in 1934 gave black and white workers a sense of power and loosened the
management stronghold on worker rights and conditions. While he mentions
communist organizations, he offers little evidence of leftist leanings and influ-
ences on unions.
Starks's final chapter, "Black Unionism and the FEPC," introduces the effec-
tiveness of and yet the lack of commitment of the federal government to effect
dramatic workplace changes. The interposition of the federal government dur-
ing the World War II years to end some forms of workplace discrimination was
actually an effort to maintain wartime production quotas rather than racial lib-
eralism. Moreover, the FEPC moved slowly in order to not inflame the segrega-
tionist forces in Texas and Louisiana. Here the author fails to adequately
describe the government motivations for pushing for change, though he suc-
ceeds in a placing a face on the black workers who pushed a lazy government
bureaucracy to act. In conclusion, the book is a useful and important introduc-
tion to the fight against workplace discrimination along the upper Gulf Coast,
even as it fails in its effort to portray the plight of workers in the whole of the
industrial South.
Southwest Texas State University DWIGHT D. WATSON
Accidental Ambassador: Gordo. By Robert C. Harvey and Gus Arriola. (Jackson: The
University Press of Mississippi, 2000. Pp. vii+248. Preface, sources, notes.
ISBN 1-57806-161-X. $25.00, paper.)
A Cartoon History of Texas. By Patrick M. Reynolds. (Plano: Republic of Texas
Press, 2000. Pp. ix+342. Bibliography, index. ISBN 1-55622-780-9. $19.95,
paper.)
Are comics gaining some long-overdue academic respectability? It would seem
so, at least from the Studies in Popular Culture Series published by (of all
places) the University Press of Mississippi. The series was launched in 1989 by
M. Thoas Inge as general editor with a book called Comic Books as History: The
Narrative Art of ack Jackson, Art Spiegelman, and Harvey Pekar. I can remember how
astounded I was to learn that the author, Joseph "Rusty" Witek, had received his

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2001

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed September 22, 2014.