Provost's Office

Distinguished Faculty Lecture

Fall 2024
Distinguished Faculty Lecture

Class-Conscious Coal Miners: The Rise and Decline of a Working-Class Conscious Movement 

Alan Singer

presented by
Alan Singer, PhD
Professor of Teaching, Learning and Technology
School of Education

Wednesday, October 16, 2024
1-2:15 p.m.
Guthart Cultural Center Theater, First Floor, Axinn Library

This presentation examines the historical, social, and demographic factors that shape political consciousness with a focus on militant working-class consciousness in the 1920s with implications for understanding voting patterns in the 21st century. It is based on Class-Conscious Coal Miners: The Emergence of a Working-Class Movement in Central Pennsylvania (SUNY, 2024). The research project began in the 1970s as doctoral research and draws on interviews with former bituminous coal miners and union activists from the post-World War I era, census records, library, union and government archives, cultural artifacts, union and leftwing publications, and newspaper and magazine coverage of events.

Between 1920 and 1950, Central Pennsylvania bituminous coal miners were among the most militant and class-conscious workers in the United States. They led radical movements within the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and were instrumental in the organization of the United Steel Workers Union and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. They received national attention during World War II when they periodically launched work stoppages in violation of federal wartime no-strike policies and against the official union leadership.

In the second half of the 20th century and into the first decades of the 21st century, Central Pennsylvania miners and their families suffered a series of economic and social catastrophes including renewed anti-union activities by coal companies, mine closings, exodus of young people, debilitating medical issues, and the opioid epidemic. Institutions that contributed to the militant working-class consciousness of the 1920s and sustained families through dark times in earlier decades, work, union, and community, diminished or disappeared. These losses fed into a sense of malaise in those who remained in blue-collar communities in the area that led to anger at betrayal and a profound shift in political allegiance. An area once noted for working-class consciousness and union militancy became a conservative political stronghold.

As the United States prepares for the 2024 Presidential and Congressional elections, one of my questions in writing the book was “Why did a region that produced such a militant working-class movement become a bastion of rightwing conservativism in the 2016 and 2020 elections?” It is something the Democratic Party will have to address if it wants to hold onto the Senate and the Presidency and reclaim a majority in the House of Representatives.

Dr. Alan Singer is a social studies educator and historian in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Technology. He is a former New York City high school teacher and regularly blogs on about education, history, and political issues. Dr. Singer is a graduate of the City College of New York and has a PhD in American history from Rutgers University. He is the author or co-author of nine books including Social Studies for Secondary Schools, (5th Edition, Routledge, 2024), Teaching Global History, (2nd Edition, Routledge, 2020), Teaching Climate History (Routledge 2022), New York’s Grand Emancipation Jubilee (SUNY, 2018), and Class-Conscious Coal Miners (SUNY, 2024). As a Hofstra Professor, Dr. Singer mentors new teachers and student teachers and provides curriculum support to secondary schools in the New York metropolitan area.

About the Distinguished Faculty Lecture

In 1981, the University inaugurated the annual Hofstra University Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series. The lecture is typically scheduled midsemester during Common Hour.

All full-time Hofstra faculty members who have not received the award in the four years prior to their application are eligible to apply. Note that while a lecture is the standard format, fine arts faculty may opt to have a performance or exhibit followed by a discussion. The lecture is the fruit of original thought and research on a topic both representative of the faculty member's specialization and likely to attract and hold the interest of a wide, diverse audience. It is expected that this lecture will not have previously been delivered to the Hofstra community.

Calls for submission are sent out approximately six months prior to each lecture with specific application guidelines. We encourage your participation.

Past Lecturers

Academic YearLecturer(s)
1981-1982Mary Anne Raywid
1981-1982Mary Anne Raywid
1982-1983Frederick M. Keener
1983-1984John DeWitt Gregory
1984-1985Tadeusz K. Krauze
1985-1986William F. Levantrosser
1986-1987Charles F. Levinthal
1987-1988W. Thomas MacCary
1988-1989Dorothy Cohen
1989-1990John E. Ullmann
1990-1991Ignacio L. Götz
1992-1993Eric M. Freedman
1993-1994George D. Jackson
1994-1995Lesley H. Browder, Jr.
1995-1996Gary W. Grimes
1996-1997Laurie Fendrich
1997-1998Meena Bose
1998-1999Stanislao G. Pugliese
1999-2000Laura C. Otis
Fall 2000Charles Merguerian
Spring 2001Jacques D. Berlinerblau
Fall 2001Craig M. Rustici
Spring 2002Ronald H. Silverman
Fall 2002John L. Bryant
Spring 2003Richard J. Puerzer
Fall 2003Alan J. Singer
Spring 2004Joanna Grossman
Fall 2004Benita Sampedro
Spring 2005John Teehan
Fall 2005J. Herbie DiFonzo
Spring 2006Alafair Burke
Fall 2006I. Bennett Capers
Spring 2007Monroe H. Freedman
Fall 2007Julie E. Byrne
Fall 2008David Green
Spring 2009Meena Bose
Fall 2009Barbara Stark
Spring 2010Harold Hastings
Fall 2010Lisa M. Dresner
Fall 2011Elizabeth Glazer
Spring 2012Leslie Feldman
Fall 2012Vimala Pasupathi
Spring 2013Robert Brinkmann
Fall 2013Robert Leonard
Spring 2014Sina Rabbany
Fall 2014J. Herbie DiFonzo
Spring 2015No Lecture Held
Fall 2015Alafair Burke
Spring 2016John L. Bryant, Adam G. Sills, Vern R. Walker
Fall 2016David Henderson
Spring 2017Saryn R. Goldberg, Jennifer A. Gundlach, Amy M. Masnick, Jennifer A. Rich, Jessica R. Santangelo
Fall 2017Eric M. Freedman
Spring 2018Ethna Dempsey Lay
Fall 2018E. Christa Farmer, Elisabeth J. Ploran, Mary Anne Trasciatti
Spring 2019Linda A. Longmire
Fall 2019Shawn Thelen, Boonghee Yoo
Spring 2020Andrea S. Libresco (postponed; to be presented in spring 2021)
Fall 2021Simon R. Doubleday
Spring 2022Edward M. Segal
Fall 2022Javier A. Izquierdo
Spring 2023Gina Pontrelli, Christine Zammit
Fall 2023Ibraheem Karaye
Spring 2024Vicente Lledó-Guillem
Fall 2024Alan Singer, PhD