Black Masculinity under Pressure in William Attaway’s Blood on the Forge
William Attaway understood the ways workers were being absorbed into a military-industrial complex by way of two world wars and the Wagner Act. With the controversies over a worker’s right to strike in the backdrop, Attaway troubles the American masculine ideals of war and work through “steel feeling.” Attaway’s great skill is in using steel feeling to allow the reader to sense masculine pressure everywhere as the Moss brothers move from the red hills of Kentucky to work in the Allegheny mills. Steel feeling emerges when the inevitable accidents of work in a pressure furnace happen alongside the freak actions of men under all sorts of other pressures: the pressures to be black, to be American, to be free, to be male.
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