American Safety Razor

I am working on a labor-history article about the runaway American Safety Razor plant, which left Downtown Brooklyn in the mid-1950s for a segregated Virginia town, after a bitter struggle. As part of this struggle the workers staged a sit-in strike, which is widely considered one of the high points of labor activism in New York City in the decade. My article examines several aspects of the spatial relations of struggle: 1. how the workers imagined the possibilities of and enacted solidarities across territorial distance; 2. how existing uneven spatial development enabled the runaway; 3. how the federal tax code affected highly localized decisions of urban elites and corporate powerbrokers on plant location and relocation; 4. how the urban development visions of local elites and regional planners dovetailed with 1950s anticommunist anxieties about inter-racial labor organizing and shop-floor power, resulting in reimagined urban landscapes (the fruits of which have finally been realized in today's Downtown Brooklyn skyline). Beyond an empirical examination of the history of a fascinating labor struggle in Brooklyn and its relationship to the sanitized, gentrified, luxury North Flatbush Avenue corridor, this article offers a theoretical and methodological meditation on how studies of the domestic Cold War and the Long Black Freedom Struggle can be invigorated by attention to concepts from critical geography, including scale.

I am presenting an excerpt from this article at the 2013 North American Labor History Conference, in Detroit, Michigan.

© 2017 Stuart Schrader