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WIU Professor Lands Philip Taft Prize in Labor and Working-Class History for New Book

June 20, 2019

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MACOMB, IL – A book written by a Western Illinois University history professor has been awarded a labor history book prize.

Peter Cole's book, "Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area, has been honored with the Philip Taft Prize in Labor and Working-Class History. There were 45 books nominated for the prize.

"I am deeply honored to have my book awarded the country's oldest and most prestigious prize in labor history," said Cole. "The list of previous books to win includes many of the most important in my field. As a cute side note, the other book with which mine shared the prize was authored by one of my professors from my undergraduate days. Somehow that seems fitting."

To visit historical archives and libraries, as well as to conduct interviews, from 2009-2016 Cole undertook multiple, month-long trips to both Durban, South Africa, and the San Francisco Bay Area in California. This week, he will return to South Africa to be part of three events centering on his book, including one at the Durban Literary Festival Saturday, June 22.

The book centers on Cole's research, which delves into historical social justice themes and outlines the power dockworkers have exercised over time through their labor unions, particularly in the struggle for racial equality and other social justice issues.

Cole continues to receive impressive reviews of the book, including on from Erik Loomis, of the University of Rhode Island.

"Peter Cole's superb examination of dockworkers in San Francisco and Durban, South Africa, provides an excellent model of how to write comparative labor history, weaving together a compelling tale around issues of racial justice, international labor solidarity, and resistance to job-destroying technological change," said Loomis. "Building on his previous book on interracial unionism among Philadelphia dockworkers, Cole tells a story about some of the world's most militant workers fighting for justice through the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries."

For more information on Cole's new book, visit

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