As autoworkers strike across the country, “Hillbilly Highway” and “Black Folk: The Roots of the Black Working Class” offer two views of the search for a better life by working-class migrants in the middle of the 20th century.
When we think of “the American working class,” we think of whites, historian Blair L.M. Kelley notes. But much of that class is Black, and, compared with white laborers, a higher proportion of all Black people are part of it. Kelley, a professor of Southern studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tells the poignant story in “Black Folk” of her grandfather John Dee, the son of a Georgia sharecropper.