Hammer and Hoe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression
Author Robin D.G. Kelley
Country United States
Language English
Subject Labor history of the United States, Alabama, Communism, anti-racism
Genre History
Publisher University of North Carolina Press
Publication date
Website http://uncpress.unc.edu/browse/book_detail?title_id=3710

Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression is a 1990 book on U.S. history by Robin D.G. Kelley, covering labor, racial and social history in Alabama.[1]

Development and publication[edit]

Kelley developed Hammer and Hoe during graduate school in the 1980s, "surrounded by activism. There was an uprising against police violence in Liberty City, Florida; multiracial coalitions propelled Harold Washington to the mayor’s office in Chicago; and the presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson was gathering steam. As a young activist and campus organizer, Kelley was part of the movement that pushed the University of California system to divest from its holdings in South Africa, but he was also discovering a tradition of black radical organizing closer to home,"[2] namely the Communist Party in Alabama, which became the topic of his dissertation and then the book.

Kelley published Hammer and Hoe with the University of North Carolina Press in 1990. A 25th anniversary edition, with a new preface, was published in 2015.[3]

Subject matter[edit]

Hammer and Hoe describes the Communist Party's role "in the fight for racial equality in the south, specifically Alabama, where segregation was most oppressive...[The] communist party tried to secure racial, economic, and political reforms."[4] Writing at The Nation, Sarah Jaffe says, "Kelley details in wonderfully vivid prose how black workers in Alabama made communism their own, blending the teachings of Marx and Lenin with those of the black church and the lessons of decades of resistance to slavery, segregation, and racist terrorism."[2]

Reviewing Hammer and Hoe for American Quarterly, historian David Roediger described Kelley's methodological approach: "Kelley asks not whether the Communist party was good (or correct or independent) but how the party came to attract a substantial number of African-American workers in Alabama and to energize their struggles [emphasis in the original]. Or, more exactly he asks how these black workers could embrace and use the Communist party as a vehicle for organizing themselves. He insists on measuring radicalism not by its ideological purity but by its ability to interact with a received culture to generate bold class organizations."[5]


Roediger praised Hammer and Hoe as "superbly crafted...a story that is fresh in every way."[5]

For Hammer and Hoe, Kelley won the Elliott Rudwick Prize from the Organization of American Historians, the Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America, and the Francis Butler Simkins Award from the Southern Historical Association.[6]

In 2015, Jaffe wrote that the book on "what might have seemed to be a fairly esoteric topic yet offered lessons that activists have been drawing on for twenty-five years. Throughout that time, the book has remained in print, winning awards and, more important to Kelley, a place in the hearts and strategic thinking of decades of young organizers struggling with the questions of race, gender, class, and solidarity."[2]


  1. ^ Kelley, Robin D.G. (2015). Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depressio. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-4696-2548-5.
  2. ^ a b c Jaffe, Sarah (August 31, 2015). "What a Band of 20th-Century Alabama Communists Can Teach Black Lives Matter and the Offspring of Occupy". The Nation. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  3. ^ Kelley, Robin D.G. "The Black Belt Communists". Jacobin. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  4. ^ Martin, Michele (February 16, 2010). "How 'Communism' Brought Racial Equality To The South". NPR. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b Roediger, David (March 1992). "Where Communism Was Black". American Quarterly. 44 (1): 124. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Awards: The Francis B. Simpkins Award". thesha.org. Southern Historical Association. Retrieved 9 August 2016.

External links[edit]