Boyle, Kevin 1960–
Boyle, Kevin 1960–
PERSONAL: Born 1960. Education: University of Detroit, B.A., 1982; University of Michigan, M.A., 1984, Ph.D., 1990.
ADDRESSES: Office—Ohio State University, Department of History, 144 Dulles Hall, 230 W. 17th Ave., Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, assistant professor, 1990–94; University of Massachusetts, Amherst, assistant professor, 1994–97, associate professor, 1997–; Ohio State University, Columbus, professor of history; University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, Mary Ball Washington chair in American history. Member of advisory board, Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI; executive board member, Labor and Working Class History Association.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fellowships from Rockefeller Foundation, Fulbright Commission, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Sciences, and Guggenheim Foundation; National Book Award, National Book Foundation 2004, for Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age.
The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945–1968, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1995.
(With Victoria Getis) Muddy Boots and Ragged Aprons: Images of Working-Class Detroit, 1900–1930, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1997.
Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, Holt (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including Diplomatic History, Journal of American History, Labor History, and Michigan Historical Review. Editorial board member, Labor.
SIDELIGHTS: Kevin Boyle, a professor of history at Ohio State University, garnered the 2004 National Book Award for his nonfiction work Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age. Boyle, who writes widely on American history, race, class, and politics, is also the author of The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945–1968, and he served as the editor of Organized Labor and American Politics, 1894–1994: Labor-Liberal Alliance. In The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945–1968, Boyle provides an "exhaustively researched and lucidly written study of post-World War II labor liberalism," according to Robert H. Zieger in Labor History. In the work, Boyle highlights the legacy of United Auto Workers (UAW) president Walter Reuther, one of the most powerful figures in the history of trade unionism. Tracing the development of Reuther's social democratic agenda, the author "insists that into the 1960s the Reuther-led Auto Workers remained a vigorous and principled advocate of structural change in the political economy," noted Zieger. "Indeed, Boyle sees the mid-1960s rather than the immediate postwar years as the period of social democracy's greatest promise and accomplishment." Boyle also discusses the failures of Reuther's vision, particularly his reactions to the sweeping changes in American society during the late 1960s. "Reuther's support for the war in Vietnam long after his closest associates had broken with it, his often-imperious power brokering role in his dealings with black activists, and his misreading of the nature of the New Left challenge to conventional labor liberalism helped to fill his last years with uncertainty and anguish," Zieger stated. "Boyle has done a commendable job in this rigorously researched and carefully crafted work," Judith Stepan-Norris commented in Labour/Le Travail. "He has provided us with a powerful analysis of the important role the UAW and Walter Reuther played in post-war liberalism and substantial insight as to the reasons for its shortcomings. And importantly, he captures the largely ignored and forgotten contributions that this important union made to the civil rights movement and the liberal agenda."
Boyle presents a selection of articles concerning union efforts to shape both public policy in Organized Labor and American Politics, 1894–1994. According to Timothy N. Thurber, writing in the Industrial and Labor Relations Review, "this engaging collection of nine essays analyzes the formation and development of the political alliance between organized labor and the Democratic party during the twentieth century." The work is divided into two sections: the first, "Building the Labor-Liberal Alliance," focuses on topics of relevance before 1945, and the second, "The Labor-Liberal Alliance at Work," covers the post-World War II era. "Together, the authors probe the strengths and weaknesses of the labor-liberal alliance, particularly in its New Deal variant, and suggest the reasons for the dual decline. Their overall assessment is at once more sober about the alliance's historic possibilities and less critical of its leadership than several earlier interpretations," observed Business History Review contributor Aaron Brenner. Organized Labor and American Politics, 1894–1994 "strikes a refreshing balance on the important question of who gained what from this political marriage," Thurber noted. "As Boyle points out in his fine introduction, labor sacrificed some broader goals to gain access to power, but it also won some important victories." As Brenner concluded, "Boyle has brought together an explicitly 'eclectic' collection of essays and case studies, which does not present a perceptible single, comprehensive alternative interpretation. Instead, the contributions paint the century-long labor-liberal alliance as an intriguing mosaic: one can see the overall image, but the outlines of the individual pieces remain no matter how far one steps back to get perspective."
Boyle tells a true story of racial tensions in his award-winning Arc of Justice. In 1925 Ossian Sweet, an African-American physician, moved with his wife, Gladys, into an all-white neighborhood on Detroit's east side. Just after their arrival, the Sweets were surrounded by a large mob of angry whites who began pelting the couple's house with stones. Though he had been promised police protection, Sweet had taken no chances, stocking his home with guns and enlisting the help of nine friends and business associates, who now watched the crowd from the home's second floor. When a rock broke an upstairs window, shots rang out; one white man in the crowd was killed and another was wounded. Everyone in the house, including Sweet and his wife, were arrested and charged with murder. "The ensuing trial, in which the legendary defense lawyer Clarence Darrow gave one of his most spectacular courtroom performances, was in a sense a struggle over Detroit's future, and arguably one of the great civil rights battles of the century," New York Times Book Review critic Robert F. Worth stated. According to a critic in Publishers Weekly, the author "has brilliantly rescued from obscurity a fascinating chapter in American history that had profound implications for the rise of the Civil Rights movement." Boyle's "gift is to frame the story just right—large enough to encompass lynching, the immigrant experience in urban America, the politics of black uplift, the automobile explosion, ethnic politics in our cities, and so on, but small enough to permit one family's story to keep the reader enthralled," wrote Washington Post reviewer Timothy B. Tyson. "Here is a model of literary nonfiction, a fine piece of scholarship that challenges our preconceived ideas about civil rights, speaks to many of our current predicaments and holds the reader like a fast-paced detective novel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Political Science Review, March, 1997, Stephen Amberg, review of The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945–1968, p. 181.
American Prospect, March-April, 1996, Harold Meyerson, review of The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945–1968, p. 79.
Booklist, September 1, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, p. 26.
Boston Globe, October 31, 2004, Paul Butler, "Detroit Burning," review of Arc of Justice.
Business History Review, summer, 1999, Aaron Brenner, review of Organized Labor and American Politics, 1894–1994: Labor-Liberal Alliance, p. 285.
Entertainment Weekly, September 10, 2004, Raymond Fiore, review of Arc of Justice, p. 168.
Industrial and Labor Relations Review, July, 1999, Timothy N. Thurber, review of Organized Labor and American Politics, 1894–1994, p. 658.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, spring, 2000, David Montgomery, review of Organized Labor and American Politics, 1894–1994, p. 716.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2004, review of Arc of Justice, p. 668.
Labor History, February, 1999, Robert H. Zieger, review of The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945–1968, p. 111.
Labor Studies Journal, fall, 1997, Ken Fones-Wolf, review of The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945–1968, p. 103.
Labour/Le Travail, spring, 1998, Judith Stepan-Norris, review of The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945–1968, pp. 290-292.
Library Journal, October 1, 2004, Thomas J. Davis, review of Arc of Justice, p. 93.
Michigan Historical Review, spring, 1999, Warren Van Tine, review of Organized Labor and American Politics, 1894–1994, p. 142.
New York Times, August 26, 2004, Patricia Cohen, "When a Moving Van Could Spark a Neighborhood War," review of Arc of Justice, p. E8.
New York Times Book Review, September 12, 2004, Robert F. Worth, "I Swear It Was in Self-Defense," review of Arc of Justice, p. 30.
Political Science Quarterly, spring, 1997, Amy Bridges, review of The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945–1968, p. 172.
Publishers Weekly, August 2, 2004, review of Arc of Justice, p. 60.
Time, November 29, 2004, Richard Lacayo, "And a Taut Account of a 1920s Race Trial Gets the Nonfiction Prize," p. 146.
U.S. News & World Report, December 6, 2004, Marc Silver, "The Bitter Tale of Dr. Sweet" (interview), p. 20.
Washington Post, December 1, 2004, Timothy B. Tyson, "Jim Crow in Motor City," review of Arc of Justice, p. C1.
Ohio State University Web site, http://history.osu.edu/ (April 15, 2005), "Kevin Boyle."