Nichter Receives Best Article Award from WCSA

June 27, 2022

By Stephanie Rizzo ’09

Sociology professor Matthew Nichter’s article on Emmett Till has received recognition from the Working Class Studies Association.

Matt Nichter
Photo by Scott Cook.

Assistant professor of sociology and coordinator of the African and African American studies program Matthew Nichter’s article titled “Did Emmett Till Die in Vain? Organized Labor Says No!: The United Packinghouse Workers and Civil Rights Unionism in the Mid-1950s” has received a top award from the Working Class Studies Association (WCSA). The piece was awarded the John Russo & Sherry Linkon Award for Published Article or Essay for Academic or General Audiences.

The article originally appeared in Labor: Studies in Working-Class History, a journal published by Duke University Press. It traces the origins of organized labor’s involvement in the famous Emmett Till case, including scores of United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) marching, petitioning, and rallying to demand justice for Till. From the stockyards of Chicago to the sugar refineries of Louisiana, the UPWA organized the first mass meeting addressed by Till’s mother, Mamie Bradley, and traveled to Mississippi with an interracial group of union activists to observe the trial of Till’s killers firsthand, flouting segregation inside and outside the courtroom.

In a press release praising Nichter’s work, WCSA said, “This article’s repositioning of the Emmett Till case in the context of working-class studies is insightful and seamlessly unites civil and labor rights. Both the substantial research and the engaging style of writing made this article outstanding. It is particularly relevant to our current social moment and demonstrates the immense solidarity that can occur when labor fights racism. It is also an important reminder to working-class studies scholars that the often-noted racism of white working-class workers can be, and has been, overcome to spectacular effect.”

Nichter, who frequently teaches courses related to civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement, specializes in research on the relationship between the African American freedom struggle, labor unions, and the socialist movement. To date, the article is one of the most-read articles in the journal’s archives.

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