Born in Chicago and educated in city parochial schools and at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Married Jenny Wong, 1971. After three years teaching in North Carolina at North Carolina State University and as a visiting assistant professor at UNC, Chapel Hill, moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1981. Active in labor and socialist movements in Chicago and Champaign, IL. Since retirement at the end of 2014, Scholar in Residence at The Newberry Library and resident between Chicago and Champaign. Cancer survivor.
Immigration, race and ethnicity in US cities.
US working-class history, nineteenth and twentieth century.
The radical tradition in the US.
The rise and decline of labor radicalism in Chicago, 1900-1920s.
Racial integration of Chicago's lakefront.
(with Jenny Barrett) A Peoples' History of Chicago.
University of Illinois at Chicago, BA, Honors, History, 1972.
Center for the Study of Social History, Warwick University (Coventry, UK), Comparative Labor History, MA, 1974.
University of Pittsburgh, PhD, History, 1981.
Lloyd Lewis/NEH Senior Fellowship in American History, Newberry Library, 1990-1991.
Fellowship, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, 2012.
Awards and Honors
Distinguished service award, Labor and Working Class History Association, 2019.
Watt Professorial Scholar, 2006-2014; Richard J. and Carole G. Cline University Scholar, 1990-1993.
Dean's Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching, 1990, 2010; Graduate College Menotring Award, 2000.
Qualey Article Award, Immigration and Ethnic History Society , 1998, 2006.
Additional Campus Affiliations
Professor - African American Studies
Barrett, James R The Irish Way: Becoming American in the Multi-Ethnic City New York Penguin Press 2012.
William Z. Foster and the Tragedy of American Radicalism Urbana U of Illinois Press 2000.
Hapgood, Hutchins The Spirit of Labor Edited by James Barrett, Urbana University of Illinois Press 2004.
Barrett, James R History from the Bottom, Up: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in Working Class History Durham, NC Duke University Press 2017.
Barrett, James R "Was the Personal Political? Reading the Autobiography of American Communism" International Review of Social History 2009.
"Rethinking the Popular Front" Rethinking Marxism 2009.
Barrett, James R "The Blessed Virgin Made Me a Socialist Historian: An Experiment in Autobiography and the Historiography of Race and Class" Faith in History Urbana University of Illinois Press 2007.
Barrett, James R “The Heritage of Social Class and Class Conflict on Chicago’s South Side” On Location: Historic Cities and Sites edited by R. Ruggles. Geneva Springer 2011.
"Gate Keepers and Americanizers: Irish American Workers and the Creation of a Multi-Ethnic Labor Movement," in Greg Patmore and Shelton Stromquist, eds. Frontiers of Labor: Comparative Histories of the United States and Australia (University of Illinois Press, 2018)
"What Went Wrong? The Communist Party of the USA and the Comintern," American Communist History, 17:2 (2018): 176-184.
"Making and Unmaking the Working Class: E.P. Thompson and the 'New Labor History' in the United States in the United States," Historical Reflections/Reflexions Historique, 4 (2015): 7-18.