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Gellman award

History professor receives national award for new book

Posted: 11/21/2012
Erik Gellman, associate professor of history at Roosevelt University, has won the national H.L. Mitchell Book Award for The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor’s Southern Prophets in New Deal America. (He is pictured above, right, at a reception and book-signing with co-author Jarod Roll).

Gellman, and co-author Jarod Roll of the University of Sussex in England, received the award in November in Mobile, Ala., from the Southern Historical Association, which recognized The Gospel of the Working Class as the best book on southern working-class history published in the last two years.

A dual biography as well as a cultural history, the book traces the influence of two southern activist preachers, one black and one white, who used their ministries to organize the working class in the 1930s and 1940s across lines of gender, race and geography.

The book was praised by the association’s award committee for the way it “skillfully blends intellectual and labor history to yield new insight into the everyday struggles of both farm and industrial workers during the 1930s and 1940s. The lives of activist preachers Owen Whitfield and Claude Williams, as fluently woven together by Gellman and Roll, dramatize the personal sacrifices and public risks that go into building a grassroots movement. This book also sheds timely light on the role that religious ideology has played in mobilizing working-class Southerners to combat racism and inequality.”
An expert in African American and labor protest movements of the 1930s and 1940s, Gellman is the associate director of the University’s St. Clair Drake Center for African and African-American Studies and also is the author of Death Blow to Jim Crow: The National Negro Congress and the Rise of Militant Civil Rights, a book that is part of the prestigious John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture.