Minchin, Timothy J. 1969–
Minchin, Timothy J. 1969–
Born February 4, 1969, in Cheltenham, England; son of Anthony J. (a vicar) and Christine E. Minchin; married September 12, 1992; wife's name Olga. Ethnicity: "White." Education: University of St. Andrews, M.A., 1991; Cambridge University, Ph.D., 1995. Religion: Church of England.
Home—Melbourne, Australia. Office—La Trobe University, History Program, David Myers Bldg. E119, Victoria 3086 Australia; fax: 613-9479-1942. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, historian, and educator. Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, Mellon research fellow, 1995-98; University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland, lecturer in history, 1998—; La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia, Associate Professor of History and Honors Coordinator.
Oral History Association, Southern Historical Association.
Hiring the Black Worker: The Racial Integration of the Southern Textile Industry, 1960-1980, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1999.
The Color of Work: The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Southern Paper Industry, 1945-1980, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2001.
Forging a Common Road: Labor and Environmental Activism in the BASF Lockout, University Press of Florida (Gainesville, FL), 2002.
From Rights to Economics: The Ongoing Struggle for Black Equality in the U.S. South, University Press of Florida (Gainesville, FL), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals and journals, including Australasian Journal of American Studies, Georgia Historical Quarterly, Journal of American Studies, North Carolina Historical Review, International Review of Social History, Oral History Review, Labor History, Florida Historical Quarterly, Journal of Policy History, and New England Quarterly.
Timothy J. Minchin is a British writer, historian, and educator based at La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia. As a scholar, Minchin focuses his attention on labor history in the United States, with an additional specialization on race-based issues in U.S. labor relations and in the southern textile industry. He also conducts research on the history of the U.S. South, on race relations and civil rights, and on general twentieth-century U.S. history.
In What Do We Need a Union For? The TWUA in the South, 1945-1955, Minchin offers a careful analysis of the conditions enjoyed by textile workers in the post-World War II American South, and of the difficulties faced by unions seeking to organize those laborers in the face of improved economic standing and agreeable working conditions. Minchin points out that despite its many efforts, The Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA) failed to create a union in the southern textile industry not because of lack of effort, but because the workers felt a union was unnecessary. "Minchin shows that the hardship of the Southern textile workers, so well known in the pre-World War II period, largely disappeared after the war," noted Clayton Brown, writing in the Mississippi Quarterly. "Wages and benefits continued to improve and thus workers felt no need to unionize. This is an important contribution to understanding New South (post-World War II) economic development," Brown continued. Further, higher wages and greater economic stability allowed workers to indulge their desires for material comfort. They purchased many homes, cars, and consumer goods on installment plans. This expanded consumerism, Minchin explains, further diminished willingness to engaged with the union. With much of what they owned being purchased payment by payment, workers would not support labor strikes or other activities that threatened their continued income and put them at risk of losing their hard-won material success. "Minchin makes his case with penetrating insights and shrewd observations," remarked a reviewer in Labour/Le Travail. The book "makes for important reading due to its resolute revisionism and its textured, fact-filled interpretation of a union of considerable import to the CIO's post-World War II southern organizing strategy," commented Larry J. Griffin in Work and Occupations.
With The Color of Work: The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Southern Paper Industry, 1945-1980, Minchin provides a "tightly-focused study of discrimination in the southern paper industry since World War II," noted Evan P. Bennett, writing on the H-Net Reviews Web site. He presents "an insightful examination of racial divisions in the southern paper industry and of the efforts of African American workers to break down the walls of segregation and end discrimination in the paper mills," stated Robert Korstad in the Journal of Southern History. Minchin takes advantage of primary source documents, including court records, as well as detailed interviews with participants to create a comprehensive account of labor conditions for southern blacks during the middle years of the twentieth century. He describes how, in the southern paper mills, jobs were often divided along racial lines, with blacks assigned to physically demanding and unpleasant tasks while whites were given easier, cleaner jobs such as machine tending. White workers, Minchin notes, also had greater advancement opportunity, whereas black workers found limited chances for promotion and better work conditions. It was only after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights act that black workers were able to impose beneficial changes in the workplace, often through class-action lawsuits and other legal means. Even then, Minchin shows, the struggle to overcome workplace segregation remained difficult. In many cases, white workers simply stopped using integrated facilities such as showers and cafeterias. In other cases, black workers who were given better jobs often endured merciless harassment, frequently leading them to abandon the new position and return to the less-desirable job they had left. Throughout the book, "Minchin paints a vivid portrait of segregation in the workplace and of black workers' growing determination to overturn the system that kept them subordinate," observed Bruce Nelson in a Labour/Le Travail review. Minchin's work "adds significantly to our understanding of the black freedom struggles of the late twentieth century," Korstad commented. With this book, Bennett concluded, "Minchin makes an important contribution to our understanding of southern labor and civil rights."
Fighting against the Odds: A History of Southern Labor since World War II, contains Minchin's detailed history of labor in the American South in the latter half of the twentieth century. He "incorporates the most recent scholarship along with primary sources like oral history interviews to tell the story of southern workers," noted Donna M. DeBlasio, writing in the Oral History Review. However, "while organized labor does play a central role in this history, the author also includes what can be called working-class history, focusing on the experiences of the workers themselves," DeBlasio observed. Throughout, "Minchin guides the reader through the transformations wrought in the region by World War II, organized labor's failed attempt to organize the South in the postwar period, the tensions between black and white workers that accompanied the rise of civil rights agitation, and the contradictory apparition of yet another New South in the Sun Belt years," commented Brian Kelly, writing in the Journal of Southern History. In total, "Minchin's is a rich synthesis of an important period in southern and working-class history," DeBlasio concluded.
Don't Sleep with Stevens! The J.P. Stevens Campaign and the Struggle to Organize the South, 1963-80, "chronicles one of the most compelling stories in southern labor history," the attempts to unionize textile manufacturer J.P. Stevens, commented Michelle Haberland, writing in the Journal of Southern History. Minchin describes the company's attempts to hire southern workers who would be willing to work for less than workers in other areas of the country. He relates the Textile Workers Union of America's efforts to organize labor at Stevens, thinking that a victory there would not only be highly symbolic but would lead to more union success in the South. He describes the troubles faced by the TWUA, the union's early lack of success, and the later boycott and public relations campaigns the union staged against Stevens, which led to a union victory in 1980. Historian reviewer David J. Goldberg called the book "an extremely valuable study of a labor conflict in an industry that at one time played a pivotal role in the South."
Minchin once told CA: "I very much enjoy conducting oral history projects, and recording untold stories motivates me to write. As an Englishman, I have enjoyed traveling through the United States to collect the research for my books. Returning to Britain helps me to focus upon writing, as it is almost impossible for me to research in Britain. I therefore separate research and writing into two processes. I have a strong interest in social history and try to write history that explores new aspects of social history in the American South."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Environmental History, October, 2004, Christopher J. Huggard, review of Forging a Common Road: Labor and Environmental Activism in the BASF Lockout.
Historian, September 22, 2006, David J. Goldberg, review of Don't Sleep with Stevens! The J.P. Stevens Campaign and the Struggle to Organize the South, 1963-80, p. 587.
Journal of Social History, fall, 2004, Neil M. Maher, review of Forging a Common Road, p. 251.
Journal of Southern History, February, 2003, Robert Korstad, review of The Color of Work: The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Southern Paper Industry, 1945-1980, p. 226; May, 2006, Brian Kelly, review of Fighting against the Odds: A History of Southern Labor since World War II, p. 510; November 1, 2006, Michelle Haberland, review of Don't Sleep with Stevens!, p. 989; August, 2007, Daniel A. Clark, review of Forging a Common Road, p. 756.
Labor History, May, 2000, Gary M. Fink, review of Hiring the Black Worker: The Racial Integration of the Southern Textile Industry, 1960-1980, p. 232.
Labour/Le Travail, fall, 1998, review of What Do We Need a Union For? The TWUA in the South, 1945-1955, p. 278; spring, 2004, Bruce Nelson, review of The Color of Work, p. 301.
Mississippi Quarterly, winter, 1997, Clayton Brown, review of What Do We Need a Union For, p. 205.
Oral History Review, January 1, 2002, Joyce A. Hanson, review of What Do We Need a Union For?; summer-fall, 2006, Donna M. DeBlasio, review of Fighting against the Odds, p. 123.
Work and Occupations, November, 1998, Larry J. Griffin, review of What Do We Need a Union For?, p. 540.
EH Net, http://eh.net/ (May 12, 2008), Gerald Friedman, review of Fighting against the Odds.
H-Net Reviews, http://www.h-net.msu.edu/ (May 12, 2008), Evan P. Bennett, review of The Color of Work.
La Trobe University Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Web site, http://www.latrobe.edu.au/history/ (May 12, 208), biography of Timothy J. Minchin.