The Hamlet Fire and the Hidden and Deadly Costs of Cheap in Recent American History

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Bryant Simon

Professor of History, Temple University

In his new book and in this talk, Bryant Simon investigates the tragic 1991 chicken processing plant fire in the small town of Hamlet, North Carolina. This was one of the worst accidents in recent American history, causing twenty-five deaths behind their locked doors. Simon’s interviews with survivors, first responders, workplace safety experts, and local business professionals give a hard-hitting social autopsy of this gruesome event. The book shows in vivid detail how this fire was the nearly inevitable product of what we eat, the rush for deregulation, and the even larger American obsession and devotion to the values of cheap, values that we can’t seem to shake in the ‘Wal-Mart world” of today.

Bryant Simon is the award-winning history professor from Temple University and author of two books: Everything But the Coffee: Learning About America from Starbucks and Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America.