cover image Working Class New York

Working Class New York

Joshua B. Freeman. New Press, $35 (432pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-575-6

In this absorbing and beautifully detailed history, Freeman charts the postwar rise and eventual fall of Manhattan working-class life and culture: ""a story of massive movements of population and industry, tenacious struggle for rights and equality and ongoing discrimination and inequity."" In 1946, 2.6 million men and women (out of 3.3 million employed) were working-class or blue-collar workers, many belonging to strong unions. By 1960, ""white-collar workers outnumbered blue-collar two-to-one,"" yet on the average grossed less income. An associate professor of history at Queens College, Freeman ranges widely--from television shows like The Honeymooners and films like On the Waterfront to city planner Robert Moses's massive restructuring of New York's physical landscape; Cardinal Spellman's red-baiting of unions; the role of rent control in building and sustaining working-class neighborhoods and identities; and the role of the city in promoting opera and the arts for low-income and working people. His nuanced discussion of organized labor forms the backbone of the book, supplemented by a vivid and moving portrait of ethnic, immigrant and white culture and communities that no longer exist. Strong narrative drive, attention to detail and historical insight make this a superb addition to studies of postwar culture, urbanology and labor history. Photos not seen by PW. (May)