Julie Greene is a professor of history at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of The Canal Builders: Making America's Empire at the Panama Canal (2009), which won the OAH James A. Rawley Prize. Her interests span labor and working-class history, immigration, the history of empire, and transnational and global approaches to history. With Ira Berlin, Greene is a cofounder (with Ira Berlin) and director of the Center for Global Migration Studies at the University of Maryland, devoted to understanding immigration and global migrations. She is currently working on two book projects. The first, entitled "Box 25: Exploring the World of Caribbean Workers," uses a set of remarkable memoirs written by canal workers as the starting point for recreating their travels and travails. The second, entitled "Movable Empire: Labor Migrations and the Making of U.S. Global Power, 1890–1934," examines the role of labor and migration in the making of the U.S. "New Empire," spanning the Caribbean, Central America, and onward to Hawaii and the Philippines. A past president of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, she is currently the president of the Labor and Working-Class History Association. Greene has written for a range of media outlets, including Huffington Post and Dissent; she has participated also in documentary films including the recent Panama Canal episode of "American Experience" on PBS.
This talk examines the building of the Panama Canal from 1904 to 1914 with an emphasis on race and diaspora. The project required the migration of tens of thousands of Afro-Caribbeans from Jamaica, Barbados, and other islands, as well as several hundred African-Americans. Both groups confronted a widespread system of racial segregation in the Canal Zone. Yet they naturally fit into the system in different ways and developed very distinct strategies for resisting or subverting the designs of U.S. officials or, alternatively, accommodating themselves to government policies.