Big city days race and labor in early Miami 1914-1925

Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor's Name

Alex Lichtenstein

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Brian Peterson

Third Advisor's Name

Clarence Taylor

Date of Defense



The purpose of this study was to recast Miami's social history during the first three decades of the twentieth century through an examination of working class life. The thesis attempts to fill a gap in the literature while also expanding on the advances made in race and class studies of the United States. Through an analysis of local newspapers, minutes of a carpenter's union, and other archival sources, the thesis demonstrates how white workers obtained a virtual monopoly in skilled jobs over black workers, particularly in the construction industry, and exacted economic pressure on business through the threat of work stoppages. Driven by the concern to maintain smooth and steady growth amidst a vibrant tourist economy, business reluctantly worked with labor to maintain harmonious market conditions. Blacks, however, were able to gain certain privileges in the labor market through challenging the rigid system of segregation and notions of what constituted skilled labor. The findings demonstrate that Miami's labor unions shaped the city's social, cultural, and political landscape but the extent of their power was limited by booster discourse and the city's dependence on tourism.




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