History

Dr. Peter Cole

Professor

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College Faculty Mentoring Award Winner

Peter Cole.

Dr. Peter Cole is a historian of the twentieth-century United States, South Africa  and comparative history who teaches the Department's  courses on African American History [History 314], Urban America [History 300], Civil Rights [History 402G], and the Gilded Age/Progressive Era [History 353], as well as the US survey course [History 106], graduate seminars [History 510 and 511], special topics courses on South Africa and comparative history, and the undergraduate historical methods course [History 201 and 491]. Prof. Cole also holds an appointment as a Research Associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

His latest book is  Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area (University of Illinois Press, 2018). Often missed in commentary on today's globalizing economy, workers in the world's ports can harness their role, at a strategic choke point, to promote their labor rights and social justice causes. Cole brings such overlooked experiences to light in an eye-opening comparative study of Durban, South Africa, and the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Pathbreaking research reveals how unions effected lasting change in some of the most far-reaching struggles of modern times. First, dockworkers in each city drew on longstanding radical traditions to promote racial equality. Second, they persevered when a new technology--container ships--sent a shockwave of layoffs through the industry. Finally, their commitment to black internationalism and leftist politics sparked transnational work stoppages to protest apartheid and authoritarianism. A portion of this research, on how San Francisco longshore workers participated in the struggle against apartheid, is available as a poster.

Dr. Cole also is the author of   Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia (University of Illinois Press, 2007), editor of  Ben Fletcher: The Life & Writings of a Black Wobbly  (Charles H. Kerr, 2007), and co-editor of Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW (Pluto Press, 2017). His scholarly work has been published in journals including International Review of Social History, Journal of Civil and Human Rights, Safundi:  The Journal of South African and American Studies, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Working USA:  The Journal of Labor and Society, and various anthologies and encyclopedias. Cole also writes for popular magazines and newspapers online including  Washington Post, TIME, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg), Boom, Africa Is A Country, Jacobin, In These Times, JSTOR Daily, Black Perspectives , and more.

Dr. Cole has won multiple awards and grants. At WIU, these include an International Faculty Fellowship, University President's Excellence in Diversity Award (for Teaching), Research Council Grant, Faculty Summer Research Stipend (three times), and College of Arts & Sciences Faculty Mentoring Award. In June 2018, Cole taught at the University of Tübingen, having won the Germany Residency in American History jointly presented by the Organization of American Historians, Fritz Thyssen Foundation, and University of Tübingen. He won a Rotary Internation fellowship to participate in a Group Study Exchange to Thailand in 2008. He also participated, in 2000, in a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute on "The Civil Rights Movement" at Harvard University. 

Dr. Cole was born and raised in South Florida. When not working, he enjoys trail running, rock climbing, road biking, yoga, backpacking, vegan cooking, and traveling. Did he mention traveling?  He joined the Department of History in 2000. He tweets from @ProfPeterCole

Dr. Cole present at 2016 Presidential Election Panel

Dr. Cole presents at a panel on the 2016 Presidential Election