Working Toward Whiteness:

How America's Immigrant's Became White: The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs

Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrant's Became White At the vanguard of the study of race and labor in American history, David R. Roediger is the author of the now-classic The Wages of Whiteness, a study of the role of racism in the development of the white working class in nineteenth-century America. In Working Toward Whiteness, he brings that history forward into the twentieth-century. Roediger recounts how American ethnic groups considered white today—including Jewish-, Italian-, and Polish-Americans—once occupied a liminal racial status in their new country, and only gradually achieved the status of “white” Americans. From ethnic slurs to racially restrictive covenants—the racist real estate agreements that kept immigrants out of white neighborhoods—Roediger explores the murky realities of race in twentieth-century America. A masterful history by an award-winning writer, Working Toward Whiteness charts the strange transformation of these new immigrants into the “white ethics” of American today.

“If race is real and not just a method for the haves to decide who will be have-nots, then all European immigrants, from Ireland to Greece would have been ‘white’ the moment they arrived here. Instead, as documented in David Roediger's excellent Working Toward Whiteness, they were long considered inferior, nearly subhuman, and certainly not white.”
—Mother Jones

“David Roediger has given us another of our most compelling, incisive, and elegant analyses of racial subjugation and privilege-in-the-making in the United States. Working Toward Whiteness is a brilliant investigation of that historical zone where institutions, ideas, and street-level experiences meet and give form to one another. It may be Roediger's most powerful contribution yet. An exemplary work.”
—Matthew Frye Jacobson, author of Whiteness of a Different Color and Roots Too: White Ethnic Revival in post-Civil Rights America

Working Toward Whiteness is a tour de force…this book will be the point-of-departure for future studies of ‘whiteness.’”
—Rudolph J. Vecoli, professor of history, University of Minnesota

New York: Basic Books, 2005

ISBN: 9780465070749