This is a great way to enter 2018. When Red Roof published my book last year, I hoped it wouldn’t be a one-off. So I was delighted when Mark Krantz got in touch. Mark’s pamphlet draws attention to an important, but often over-looked chapter in working class history. It records a powerful example of international solidarity which, as Mark says, has additional resonance in the Age of Trump.
For immediate release
1st January 2018
The Cotton Famine: Lancashire textile workers, Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War by Mark Krantz
(ISBN 978-0-9930198-2-1, 32pp, £4/$6)
Happy New Year! Red Roof is delighted to welcome-in 2018 with the publication of Mark Krantz’s The Cotton Famine. Mark’s thoroughly researched, but accessible, pamphlet describes a dynamic political process in which organised labour debated the most contentious issue of the time – and arrived on the right side of history.
On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln unveiled the Emancipation Proclamation, effectively ending slavery in the USA. But Lincoln’s historic announcement was the result of hugely complex socio-economic and political issues that swirled around the American Civil War.
As the bloody war entered its third year, the outcome was far from certain. The Union North had suffered repeated military setbacks and governments in other countries were unsure which side to back. Moral discomfort with slavery was tempered by economic interests in its preservation. Nowhere was this establishment uncertainty more pressing than the UK.
The Lancashire cotton industry was a significant part of the British economy. It relied on the import of cotton produced by slave labour in the US Confederate South. The Civil War threatened that supply through a combination of blockades, the chaos of conflict and the determination to be free of thousands of African-Americans who abandoned the plantations for the slavery-free North, often to join the Union army and fight for their freedom.
When the flow of cotton dried up, Lancashire cotton-mill workers faced redundancy and starvation. They had every reason to back the UK government’s position of moral equivocation on slavery which was leading it towards support for the Southern Confederacy.
But unlike the Tory government of Lord Palmerstone, the mill workers put moral principle above economic self-interest. How they came to that position is the fascinating subject of The Cotton Famine.
Using primary sources, recording powerful and moving arguments, Mark describes one of the earliest examples of international, industrial solidarity. 155 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, The Cotton Famine also shows the continuing relevance of the global fight against racism and injustice in the age of President Donald Trump and ‘Black Lives Matter’.
“I wrote this book because of Donald Trump. When he became President there were widespread protests against him and his declarations of racism and hatred. On one of the demonstrations against Trump I recalled that there had been a time when Manchester rallied not against an American President – but in support of an American President. On New Year’s Eve 1862 at a meeting at the Free Trades Hall in Manchester, six thousands workers declared their support for president Abraham Lincoln and the proclamation he had signed that freed the slaves during the American Civil War. This is a history that needs to be retold. How it came about that textile workers refused to spin cotton picked by slave hands has not been told in detail. I wrote The Cotton Famine to bring this little known but inspirational history to a new audience today.
1. Mark Krantz teaches for the Workers Education Association at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. He is an activist and a long standing campaigner against racism and fascism. His previous books chart the textile workers’ struggles at Peterloo in 1819 and of the Chartists in the 1842 General Strike.
2. To order a copy (and for bulk orders) call us on the number above or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Red Roof is an independent publishing house dedicated to telling the stories of working class people and their struggles for social justice.
4. Also available from Red Roof There’s No Place: The American housing crisis and what it means for the UK by Glyn Robbins.