Dr. Peter Cole
College Faculty Mentoring Award Winner
Dr. Peter Cole is a historian of the twentieth-century United States, South Africa and comparative history who teaches the Department's courses on Urban America [History 300] and the Gilded Age/Progressive Era [History 416(G)], 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 researches the history of social movements, especially how workers and labor unions organize in ethnically and racially diverse societies. He also maintains scholarly interests in the history of deindustrialization, African Americans, South Africa, cities, technology, popular culture and the maritime world. He holds a 3-year appointment as a Research Associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.
His current book project is Labor, Race & Technology on the Durban and San Francisco Bay Area Waterfronts, 1950-2010. Dockworkers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Durban, South Africa have played important, if under-appreciated, roles in their cities and nations. Starting in the 1950s, important labor, race, anti-colonial and other social movements exploded, forever changing each place. Also in this era, an important new technological process, called containerization, revolutionized marine transport and, as a result, the entire world economy has been remade. Simultaneously, labor unions in many places have been dramatically weakened; however, dock unions have proved surprisingly resilient though this power largely has been ignored. His research positions dockworkers and their actions (strikes, unions, boycotts, alliances) at the center of both these "global cities" using comparative and transnational methods in order to demonstrate the centrality of longshore unions to local and global events. A portion of this research, on how San Francisco longshore workers helped fight against apartheid, is now available as a poster at Just Seeds.
Dr. Cole’s earlier research resulted in two books: Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia (University of Illinois Press, 2007) and Ben Fletcher: The Life & Writings of a Black Wobbly (Charles H. Kerr, 2007). His scholarly work has been (or will be) published in 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, Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, International Labor and Working-Class History, Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Left History, Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society, and various encyclopedias.
Dr. Cole has won several awards and grants at WIU, including an International Faculty Fellowship, University Research Council Grant, President's Excellence in Diversity Award (for Teaching), two Faculty Summer Research Stipends and a CAS Faculty Mentoring Award. He also participated 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 and received his B.A. from Columbia University and his Ph.D. from Georgetown University. Before coming to Western, he taught at Georgetown, Washington College, Western Maryland College, and Boise State University. When not working, he enjoys trail running, rock climbing, road biking, yoga, backpacking, vegan cooking, and traveling. He joined the Department of History in 2000.