Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Making It in America

6:00 pm - 7:15 pm
Portland Campus (WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion )
Rachel Slade

In this lecture, Rachel Slade will share the story of manufacturing in America, examining whether it can ever successfully return to our shores, and why our nation depends on it, through the experience of one young couple in Maine as they attempt to rebuild a lost industry. The lecture will introduce Ben and Whitney Waxman—owners of Westbrook, Maine’s American Roots—who set out to prove union-made, all-American-sourced apparel manufacturing is possible in the 21st Century. Their story takes us across the nation, from the cotton fields of Mississippi to the hollowed-out garment district in New York City to a family-owned zipper company in Los Angeles to the enormous knit-and-dye houses in North Carolina. While battling anti-immigrant hostility, trade wars, and a global pandemic, the couple grapples with the true meaning of “made-in-USA” in our globalized world. Through telling this story, Slade will offer a new take on free-trade economics and manufacturing history. Along the way, she will discuss the essential role of textiles in shaping capitalism, explaining how demand for cheap cloth sparked the industrial revolution and how the brutal conditions in New England’s textile mills first drove workers to organize. As she tells this still-evolving story, Slade will offer a deeply personal account of how individual choices shape a nation and a compassionate look at what came before, where we are now, and where we’re going—through the people, places, and ecologies that produce the fabric of our lives.


Rachel Slade spent a decade in the city magazine trenches at Boston magazine—first as the design editor, ultimately as executive editor. In 2015, she helped steer Boston to a top national award from the City and Regional Magazine Association. In 2016, Yankee magazine ran Slade’s long-form narrative about the sinking of the container ship El Faro. A CRMA finalist for reporting, the story led to the national bestselling book, Into the Raging Sea. Slade’s second book, Making It in America: The Almost Impossible Quest to Manufacture in the USA (and How It Got That Way) was released in January of 2024. In addition, Slade’s editing and writing have won national awards in civic journalism, reporting, criticism, and reader service. Since 2021, she had been a lecturer in political science and journalism in the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Studies at Tufts University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Barnard College and a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. She splits her time between Brookline, Massachusetts, and Rockport, Maine.

Suggested Reading

Slade, Rachel. Making It in America: The Almost Impossible Quest to Manufacture in the U. S. A. (and How It Got That Way). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2024.


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