Thomas G. Young, Black Pragmatism, and the Routes of Social Democracy in New York City


  • Max Mishler University of Toronto



This article traces the activist career of Thomas G. Young. A Caribbean migrant, elevator operator, and socialist militant, he co-founded Local 32B and organized thousands of building service workers in New York City into a union. His experience as an organizer and trade-union leader, however, led him to eschew revolutionary transformation in favor of social democracy during the late 1930s and 1940s. Young’s pragmatic approach to the labour and civil rights movements crystallized a distinct political philosophy that the author calls Black social democracy. His political biography elucidates one possible route of Black social democracy in New York City.

Author Biography

Max Mishler, University of Toronto

Assistant Professor of History at the University of Toronto.