University of Pittsburgh
May 2, 2013

Pitt Professor to Receive Labor History Lifetime Achievement Award From the Sidney Hillman Foundation May 7 in NYC

Marcus Rediker to be honored for expanding the scope of labor history

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—Pitt Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History Marcus Rediker, who has written extensively about working men and women and how they shaped the nation, will receive the Sidney Hillman Foundation’s 2013 Sol Stetin Award for Labor History at the foundation’s annual dinner May 7 in New York City.Marcus Rediker

The honor recognizes an individual’s lifetime achievement in the field of labor history.

Rediker, who grew up in a working-class family in Kentucky amid mines and factories, has chronicled the lives and struggles of working people in a number of widely acclaimed books. In doing so, he is credited with expanding the scope of labor history.

His first work, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates, and the Anglo-American Maritime World  (Cambridge University Press, 1987), took the study of labor out of the factories and onto the ocean, writing about the sailors and pirates who sailed the Atlantic in the 18th century. Using many previously unknown sources, Rediker reconstructed the social world of the poor, mobile workers who linked the continents of the world.  Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea won the 1988 Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians for the best work in American social history and the 1988 John Hope Franklin Prize from the American Studies Association for best interdisciplinary work in American studies.

Rediker worked with a team of scholars at the American Social History Project to write Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s Economy, Politics, Culture, and Society, Volume 1 (Pantheon Books, 1989). This reinterpretation of American history “from the bottom up” integrates the history of community, family, gender roles, race, and ethnicity into the more familiar history of politics and economic development.

Rediker cowrote The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Beacon Press, 2000) and wrote The Slave Ship: A Human History (Viking-Penguin, 2007) and The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom (Viking-Penguin, 2012).  The Slave Ship won the 2008 George Washington Book prize from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the C.V. Starr Center at Washington College, and Mount Vernon; the 2008 Merle Curti Award; and the James A. Rawley Prize from the American Historical Association. All three books explore the history of workers, free and unfree, in the making of Atlantic and American history. 


A scholar of early American history and Atlantic history, Rediker joined the Pitt history department faculty in 1994 and served as department chair from 2007 to 2010. In 2009, he was a senior scholar in residence at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. Prior to joining the Pitt faculty, Rediker taught history at Georgetown University. He earned his master’s and PhD degrees in history from the University of Pennsylvania.

About Sol Stetin and the Sol Stetin Award for Labor History
Sol Stetin was fond of saying he got his education in the labor movement. Born on April 2, 1910, near Lodz, Poland, he immigrated with his family to the United States when he was 10. He dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and took a job in a dye shop for 32 cents an hour. He became active in the nationwide textile strike of 1934 and rose up the ranks to become president of the Textile Workers Union of America. He led one of the most ambitious union organizing campaigns of its time at the J.P. Stevens textile mills and merged his union with the larger Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA). Eventually, 3,500 workers at 12 Stevens mills were union members. Stetin also cofounded the American Labor Museum in the Botto House National Landmark in Haledon, N.J., the former home of silk mill worker Pietro Botto and his wife, Maria. The Sidney Hillman Foundation, named after the first leader of the ACWA, inaugurated the Sol Stetin Award for Labor History following Stetin’s death in 2005.