The Center for Working-Class Studies (CWCS) at Youngstown State University (YSU) was the first academic program in the U.S. to focus on issues of work and class. CWCS members have been at the forefront of “new working-class studies,” an international movement that brings together academics, artists, activists, students, and others who are interested in the history, experiences, stories, and politics of the working class. Started in 1996, the CWCS is housed in YSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and closely affiliated with the American Studies Program. The Center offers courses in American Studies, English, History, and Labor Studies, including a four-course graduate certificate and a focus area within the American Studies MA program. The Center has twelve faculty affiliates, and nine community affiliates.

Our Mission: To increase awareness of and respect for working-class life and culture through education, the arts, media, and research

Our Goals:

  • Provide models and resources for teaching about working-class life and culture in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and community settings
  • Promote awareness of and appreciation for writing, art, and other creative expressions of working-class experience
  • Advocate for public policies that serve the interests of working-class people
  • Support research that critically and respectfully analyzes the experiences, conditions, and needs of the global working class

History of the CWCS

The Center for Working-Class Studies was created in 1995.  After sponsoring two conferences, one on the 1930s and the first conference on working-class studies, a team of YSU faculty were awarded a grant from the American Association of Colleges and Universities to explore strategies for enhancing attention to class as part of the rise of multiculturalism on campuses.  The Center’s early projects included biannual conferences, a bibliography of books about the working class, a website of resources, offering labor-themed college courses “on turns” at a local steelworkers union hall, an annual lecture series, a newsletter, and Teaching About Class (i.e., summer institutes for K-12 teachers). The CWCS Archives, housed in YSU’s Maag Library, includes the proceedings from three of our conferences, newsletters dating back to 2004, and the working-class studies bibliography, created between 1995 and 2000.

In 2000, we received the first of two grants from the Ford Foundation, and a significant portion of those funds supported our efforts to build the interdisciplinary academic field of New Working-Class Studies.  Along with continuing to organize conferences, John Russo and Sherry Linkon spearheaded the creation of the Working-Class Studies Association and edited a book, New Working-Class Studies, published by Cornell University Press.  Linkon and Russo also created workshops and a digital archive focused on the working-class history and culture of the Mahoning Valley.