ORGANIZED LABOR AND THE BLACK WORKER BEFORE WORLD WAR I
The status of the black worker in the American labor movement during the era from 1900 to 1920 frequently was a contradiction of ideals and practice. Although the American Federation of Labor called for the organization of all workers “without regard to creed, color, sex, nationality, or politics,” and barred the admission of unions with restrictive clauses in their constitutions, by 1900 the firm imposition of these ideals had been either convoluted or ignored. Thus, where white unions refused admission to blacks, they either remained unorganized or were organized into unions chartered by the AFL rather than the union with jurisdiction over the particular trade. The pitfalls in this policy are illustrated by the efforts of the black AFL organizer James E. Porter to get a charter for an all-Negro council of dockmen’s unions in New Orleans. When their white counterparts in the city objected, the AFL refused the charter (Doc. 24–28). Samuel Gompers’ acceptance of discrimination did not go unnoticed by black workers, however. Booker T. Washington outlined the reasons for their disenchantment with the American labor movement in a widely circulated article which criticized unions for barring Negroes, and then abusing them for becoming strikebreakers. Under these circumstances blacks had a moral obligation to reject such unions (Doc. 22).
In New Orleans, blacks and whites were equally divided on the docks and levees. Consequently, neither race could extract concessions from their employers without the cooperation of the other. Following the Civil War, the two groups had successfully formulated work-sharing agreements, and a central labor council in which unionists worked out a common strategy for labor-management relations. This type of racial coalition among workers came under serious challenge in 1907 when 10,000 black and white levee workers went on strike. The city’s major newspaper characterized Negro strikers as “uppity” anarchists, while the employers refused to negotiate with a racially-mixed strike committee. When the labor unions refused to break under the pressure, however, the employers were forced to yield to the strikers’ demands (Doc. 36–42).
Such was not the case with the 1908 United Mine Workers of America strike in Alabama, a classic illustration of how a union could be destroyed by the race issue. Half of the UMWA membership in Alabama was black, and a Negro served as district vice president, while several others held seats on the district board of directors. Labor solidarity, however, soon was transformed into an issue of “social equality.” The populace was horrified by the specter of idle black men meeting openly with their white counterparts, and white unionists were dismayed when armed black deputies showed up to guard the picket line. The Birminghan Age-Herald further aggravated the apprehension by focusing on racial cooperation among the strikers. Ultimately, abhorrence of “social equality” sapped public support for the miners, and produced a climate which enabled the governor to order in the militia and assist the companies in crushing the strike (Doc. 43–83).20
The Georgia Railroad Strike of 1909 dramatically illustrated once again the potential effects of injecting the race issue into a labor dispute. The strike began as a protest by the white Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen that the line employed too many blacks as firemen. Because the BLFE excluded Negroes, and since Negro firemen earned less than white firemen, the union’s wage structure was depressed. Rather than open its membership, however, the BLFE decided instead to “drive all the colored firemen from the southern roads.” Against a background of white violence against black firemen, the company resisted the elimination of its cheap labor, and reminded the BLFE that they could be replaced completely by blacks. The strategy backfired, however, because the union was all white and public opinion was against the employment of blacks in jobs desired by whites. Therefore, the labor dispute polarized public opinion against the company, and forced the railroad to undertake a gradual replacement of black firemen with whites (Doc. 84–114).
White Employees of a Glass Company Object to Working With Colored Men
Stroudsburg, Pa., Sept. 13—All the white employees of the Black Diamond Glass Company South Stroudsburg quit work yesterday, giving as their reason the employment of colored men as blowers. The following statement was given out: “The white men employed at the Black Diamond Glass factory quit work because of the employment of colored men as blowers. We were given to understand that the colored men were not to be put to work today, but as they were assembled at the office, we resolved to quit. The men claim that they don’t object to the colored men as helpers, but when it comes to have them handle the same tools, etc., they thought it was too much to ask.” Milton Yetter, one of the company officers said: “It was our intention to operate the South Stroudsburg plant with colored men, and a number of whites at the factory were aware of it. I am at a loss to know what the quitting of the men is for.”
Boston Evening Transcript, September 13, 1900.
In view of the action of the Alabama State Federation of Labor in electing to its first and second vice-presidencies colored unionists, and there demonstrating their position toward colored workers, as toilers and wage-earners, and the mooted question in our beautiful southland of the competition of negro labor with white labor, the following from the American Federationist, the official journal of the A.F. of L., will be read with interest.
“For years the American Federation of Labor has declared in favor of, and the necessity for, the organization of all workers, without regard to creed, color, sex, nationality, or politics. In making the declaration for the complete organization of all workers, it does not necessarily proclaim that the social barriers which exist between the whites and blacks could or should be obliterated; but it realizes that when white and black workers are compelled to work side by side, under the same equally unfair and adverse conditions, it would be an anomaly to refuse to accord the rights of organization to workers because of a difference in their color.”
This is an excerpt from a lengthy article on this subject which goes into many of the difficulties, and it states unmistakably the position of the American Federation of Labor.
Among the difficulties are mentioned some that arise from self-exalting meddling persons who think that the colored workers when organized should be taken under their superior wing, given special privileges, and otherwise fostered and fondled and given protection from the designs of the unions of white workers, which exist only in the imagination, or the fell purpose of these egotists and self-seekers.
The Federationist further says:
“For their protection, as well as for the promotion of their interests, the colored workers should organize and in all cases become affiliated with the organizations of white wage-earners or form colored workers’ unions in full sympathy and co-operation of the white workers unions.
“At the Louisville Convention of the American Federation of Labor authority was granted to organize and grant charters to separate local and central bodies of colored workmen, wherever such two bodies would promote the interests of all the workers.
“The American Federation of Labor has a large number of unions affiliated, composed exclusively of colored workers, who feel that their interests are safeguarded by the officers of our movement as justly and wisely as the organizations of any other toilers.
“Again, we have unions composed of whites and blacks, and generally these work together without any friction at all.
“When a white man desires to become a member of an organization he is proposed for membership and is required to submit to rules which experience has demonstrated to be necessary. Certainly, no greater privilege can be conferred upon a negro simply because of the color of his skin. We repeat that he ought to ask and be accorded equal rights and privileges; certainly, no more.”
This is cleancut and covers the whole ground. This has been our opinion for a long time, and as we have no copyright on our opinions we are glad to see the Federationist express them so clearly and so forcibly. In this district, where the whites and blacks are organized in one union or meet in mass conclave, both parties to the arrangement are well satisfied, and it is certain that the colored element would not change it were it in their power, while in the case of the whites it is a problem of conditions to which there is no other solution, and they accept the inevitable with ready grace and strive to better the condition of the negro by every means, knowing that in so doing this is the only way to better their own condition. The only friction that occurs or is likely to occur—and for the life of us we can’t recall a case in point at this time—is when social equality is expected or sought, and to the credit of the colored man can it be said that those worthy of having in the movement do not seek or expect this unobtainable boon.
The only thing that remains is for the colored race to wake up to the benefits of unionism, and embrace the opportunity offered with a full sense of what he is doing and a determination to live up to his obligation, without fear of discrimination on account of color, creed or political beliefs.
Birmingham Labor Advocate, April 27, 1901.
The strike of the railroad employes in this city resulted from the refusal of the company to discharge a number of non-union men who have been working (some of them) for the company for years. Among them, I understand, is a colored man, a speel winder, who thoroughly understands his business and because the company refused to pay 20 cents per hour to all motormen, linemen, and 17-1/2 cents per hour to pitmen’s helpers. The company was firm in its refusal to accede to these demands. Its employes were equally firm in their refusal to work for less. To operate the road to accommodate the public, the company sent for outside help. Their presence in the city and in places of its former employes, resulted in the strike and the loss to the company of thousands of dollars and to the business interests of the city of other thousands of dollars, to say nothing of the losses of the working men themselves in wages. The money thus shamelessly wasted on all sides would more than pay the increase in wages demanded by the strikers, and their demands would doubtless have been acceded to could the company have foreseen the consequences of the strike.
The importation of troops into the city to put down lawlessness will cost the county of Albany from $50,000 to $100,000.
The strikers, however, have triumphed (?), as the company has agreed to meet their demands for an increase in wages and to do other things “stipulated in the bond.”
Public sympathy was with them, and they very naturally feel that they have won a great victory. An important clause in the agreement signed by the strikers’ representatives and the company’s representatives is one giving it the right to employ non-union labor and to retain all such employes now in the service. This is the joker in the agreement. It reads as follows: “Seventh. The right which already exists, it chooses, and to discharge any union for cause
The United Traction Company represents millions of dollars. Without it there would be no strikes in this community among street railroad men. The tendency of strikes of this character is to discourage capital from investing in communities where strikes are fashionable. Unionized communities, like lynching communities, make capital timid and are more injurious than beneficial to the greatest number. The labor barons are not only autocratic and ever-bearing, they are narrow, dictatorial and full of prejudice. By their dicta no Negro, however well qualified, can be employed either as a motorman or conductor on the street railway systems of the great cities. The employment of one Negro in such capacity would precipitate a strike and tie up all the street railways in this country. Herein is discovered the prejudice and narrowness of the white labor unions. They deny to the negro laboring man the right to labor, and to capital the right to buy his labor when it wants to.
The leaders of the labor trust in America are largely men of foreign names and antecedents. Men who are intolerant of the rights of others and insistent upon securing for themselves and those they represent what they are pleased to denominate as their rights. Who gives them the right to discriminate against the Negro in the labor market? To make him an industrial Pharaoh when he is ready and willing to work? The trade and labor unions are the greatest enemies of the Negro in America and are doing more to foster and encourage race hatred and the caste spirit than any other agency I know of. They are not honest, and hence not fair, for honest and fair men believe in honest methods and fair practices. I have no sympathy with strikers anywhere and the time is coming in this country when the American people will lose all sympathy for and patience with these disturbing elements, whose sympathizers, with their knowledge and consent, destroy public and private property, disturb trade conditions, injure business prosperity, and tear down that which they have neither the intelligence nor the capacity to build up.
The average intelligence of the striker is below par and in these periodical strikes, in which they engage when one of their number is discharged or when they want an increase of pay or to divide profits with employers, one does not have to scratch far below the epidermis to find a social iconoclast or a treacherous demon. In a given number of years, ten, I think, it has been shown that the amount of public and private property destroyed by white workingmen in strikes is $10,000,000. While professing to be opposed to lawlessness and disorder they have winked at all the crimes that have been committed in the name of outraged labor and have profited by them. My objection to labor unions is based on their opposition to the Negro. They are against the Negro and I am against them.
Their power is increasing in this country and they are becoming more and more dangerous year by year to the peace and perpetuity of government of the people, by the people and for the people. The greatest trust in this country today and the most dangerous to the interests of the common people is the labor trust, which shuts its doors in the face of every Negro who seeks to earn his bread as God commands, “by the sweat of his brow,” and it is a sad commentary in this green land, where every man is said to be the peer of every other man, that the barriers in the domain of labor are raised by men of foreign birth or ancestry and that these men, through their organizations, can arbitrarily stop at their own sweet will every industry which contributes to the greatness and glory of the Republic, by going on strike, and that the great captains of industry, whose capital is invested in the countless enterprises which make this country the great commercial center of the Western world are compelled to stand and deliver to these highwaymen who rob the Negro of the right to work—go broke, go out of business, or go to Europe.
The Albany strike will have a deteriorating effect upon the business and commercial future of this city. It will throw it back a dozen years or more and will be a warning to men with money to invest in business and manufacturing enterprises to steer clear of a city in which an irresponsible mob may at any moment, for real or imaginary causes, assert its right to dictate terms to employers of labor, and to interfere with the orderly discharge of business involving the loss of thousands of dollars daily to the country and State and to the men who are necessary to their existence. Most of these strikers come from countries in Europe, where starvation wages are paid and would remain in those countries if they could do half as well as they do in America in the matter of wages. Employing capital will ultimately combine against this restless element, and this will precipitate the fiercest and bloodiest and bitterest revolution that this country has ever witnessed. All signs point to it and nothing is more surely written in the book of fate than that the irrepressible conflict of the future will be that between capital and labor, and that the Negro, the “stone that the builders rejected” will become the head of the corner—the bulwark of the Republic. “God’s purposes are ripening fast,” etc.
Colored American, May 25, 1901.
Providence never creates a vain thing. The great steel strike is not without divine purpose. It is serving a mission, the extent of which is not perceptible. The fact is being demonstrated that in the hour of trial, the Negro is the safest American. He is always on the side of law and order, and is the handmaiden of the standard interests of the country. The mischief makers, walking delegates, union tyrants, anarchists, socialists and enemies to the peace and dignity of society are invariably white men. When capital is in distress, when corporations in the assertion of their rights as owners desire to fill contracts for their patrons, and when agitators grasp them by the throat merely because they can, the magnates appeal at once to the Negro for help. The Negro responds to the call, because he needs the bread that labor will bring to himself and loved ones at home. It is not that he wishes to defeat any just demand made by white workmen. It is not that he is the servant of those who would grind the poor to powder. He is not the tool of soulless operators. It’s because the white labor organizations refuse to make common cause with him and decline to give him the opportunity that is rightfully his to provide for his family. It is because his sympathy is alienated by treatment that drives him to the capitalist in self-defense. The corporation offers bread. The labor unions turn him away with a stone. Who can blame the Negro for thanking the Almighty for the situation that grants him what the unions deny, and establishes his power as a labor factor among those who think more of quality of service than of the color of the servant. We are glad that the steel strike has taken place despite the loss and suffering it must bring to the business interests of the land. The contention of the workers is poorly founded, and is the outgrowth of the tyranny that is making for the undoing of unionism. Two of the greatest men in the world are J. Pierpont Morgan and John D. Rockefeller. The Negro is their friend, because they rise above the pettiness of race prejudice, and ask for merit, pure and simple, rewarding it regardless of the hue of skin. When we can rally such forces to us, and can invoke their aid in the matter of protection while enjoying the right to work, we have scored a point that will shake the industrial world from center to circumference. The entering wedge is sinking deep. If the laboring unions are so besotten that they cannot see their folly in ignoring the skilled Negro, they deserve the disaster that is rapidly overtaking them. If we are not permitted to make common cause with the middle classes, we must, in the light of self-preservation, cast our allegiance with the rich.21
The steel strike is a boon to the black people. It may mean an alliance of the capitalist and Negro North and South against the reactionary forces that would govern intelligence and wealth by mere numbers and disregard of law. The hand of God is in it all.
The Colored American, August 31, 1901.
The Negro labor question will not down. This fact is amply evidenced by the cowardly evasion of the real issues within the past few days by the great assembly of the American Federation of Labor at Scranton, Penn. Separate unions may deter the settlement of the problem of industrial relations between the races, but there can be no permanent settlement until the adjustment is effected upon right lines. There can be no peace until every industrious man is given the fullest opportunity to acquire a knowledge of the trades and business callings and is permitted to reap the rewards of his skill, untrammeled by restrictive laws.
The Negro boy is denied the white boy’s chance as an apprentice by the dictum of the labor organizations. By the same token, the Negro who happens to pick up a trade, largely by working with those of his own race, is not generally permitted to utilize his talent in the printing offices controlled by unions, or in the massive buildings that are going up every day in our great commercial centers. A Negro bookkeeper, salesman, telegraph operator or section chief, in the employ of the rich corporations, is so rare as to make the few successful ones the subject of widespread remark. It is the protest of the white labor organizations that keeps them out. These bodies are powerful in politics, and a boycott at their hands can cause great financial loss to business men who dare to oppose them. But they are given a fictitious value by the abject fear of legislators and employers. If the heavy corporations—wealthy enough to be independent and fair—would “take the bull by the horns” and employ Negroes at will, and back their action by all the strength of their money and prestige, the labor unions would be compelled to submit, or allow their places to go to men of greater liberality of opinion on the color question. The white men who now work uncomplainingly beside Negro clerks in the departments at Washington would raise a terrible “fog” if they were asked to do the same thing in a State business house. They yield to the situation in the government service because they cannot help themselves. They would yield to the private employers if the latter would stand together as manly men and display a rigid backbone. The Negro is not half as much in need of charity as he is of an opportunity to work. He is the most reliable American, and his contribution to the moral forces of the land is growing larger as the years go by, despite the obstacles placed in his pathway. The Negro, to the manor born, certainly deserves to be shown as much consideration as the foreigner who finds a congenial home upon our shores and who is granted an equal chance in the battle for bread.
This is an important question and the American Federation of Labor must develop more breadth and a kindlier spirit of brotherhood for all wage earners if it would live up to what it professes to be.
The Colored American, December 28, 1901.
In the industrial schools the colored people are being taught to become good members of the working class. They are taught to think of themselves as negroes, rather than as workingmen. The idea of class consciousness is carefully avoided and suppressed. They are taught to regard the capitalist as their friend and by implication, to regard the trade union as their enemy.
A great responsibility rests upon the white workingman, North and South, in dealing with this question. The negroes are here and they are here to stay. It is for the white workers to say whether they shall be friends or enemies. The responsibility rests upon the white worker, and more especially upon the trade unionists, because they have already learned that the colored workers have had no chance to learn the lesson of the solidarity of labor—that whenever one set of workers are badly paid or overworked, the white working class must suffer for it, that the true interests of all workingmen are always identical and opposed to the interests of the capitalist class, and that organized action of the working people of all trades, without regard to race, sex, or religion, is necessary for the advancement of their own common interests.
The trade unions of all crafts and in all parts of the country can do much to solve the negro problem by putting aside the race prejudice which some of them will entertain and regarding the colored people simply as fellow workingmen, having exactly the same rights and duties as themselves; by making especial efforts to organize them and teach them how foolish and how shameful a thing it is to act as a “sucker” or a scab for the capitalist, and how much better for themselves as well as for the white workers it will be for them to act as class-conscious workingmen; by encouraging them in the defense of their rights and lending them active aid in every attempt to improve their condition.
The organized working class alone has the interest as well as the power to settle the race question by the exercise of patient and class-conscious intelligence and the teaching and practicing of proletarian solidarity. It is gratifying to know that many trade unions have already recognized this interest and duty and are accomplishing good results. Undoubtedly the work will be carried on, and Socialists should lend all the aid in their power.
The Worker, May 18, 1902.
The coal strike ought to be an inspiration to the Negro to organize for self-protection, and to sustain capable and honorable leadership. We have churches and secret societies galore, and their influence could be wielded to immense advantage, both in holding on to what we have, and in gaining more. We have repeatedly urged ministers and grand masters to use their followers as a lever for temporal and general race elevation, but they have not taken kindly to the idea—presumably for the reason that they regard politics and business apart from their sphere of action. Be that as it may, it is our opinion that by inaction along material lines they are frittering away an incalculable amount of kinetic energy, and neglecting a great opportunity.
Considering organization abstractly, it is now essential to any large undertaking, and to produce concrete results the united counsel and services of many shrewd leaders are needed. We have the organizations in embryo, and we have the timber for leaders, but we are just as near having a building as a pile of stone; brick, mortar and lumber constitute a temple. We have resources in abundance but to be effective they must be put together in a comprehensive and symmetrical form. Our organizations are working independently, and frequently shooting into the air. Our leaders are advising at cross purposes, and we are jealous and suspicious of one another. No lasting good can come to the race as long as this is true.
Look at John Mitchell, the head of the United Mine Workers! Was his success due to his own unaided efforts? Not at all. His strength was in the massive organization behind him, standing like a stone wall. His wisdom came in his capacity to receive and act upon the concentrated wisdom of his advisers. A composite army of determined men, bent upon a set purpose, and prepared to sacrifice even life itself, gave the miners their power to hold up the entire coal output for five months.22
Why cannot ten millions of aggressive, earnest Negroes, by union of forces, do something to better their condition, just as these miners have done? We can organize as compactly as those men, and we have leaders as intelligent as Mitchell and his cabinet. What is the matter with us anyway? Here is a vast field—a magnificent opportunity for the National Negro Business League and for the National Afro-American Council.23
For instances: A federation of our business men, waiters, cooks, porters, mechanics, farmers and laborers generally, on the one hand, and our ministers, educators and professional men on the other, could accomplish results almost beyond imagination. Not only could industries be developed by the patronages of the race itself, but by reciprocity where possible, and by withholding custom from undesirable firms of the other race when necessary, we could secure paying places in mercantile establishments, lower prices for goods, new openings in the labor world, a more liberal sentiment on the part of newspapers, and control legislation for our benefit, politically and civilly.
Are we to continue this neglect of an opportunity that is ours?
Are we to forever remain blind to the practical value of an organization and leadership that mean something?
The Colored American, November 8, 1902.
The great coal strike is not settled by any means. The commission has been hearing a mass of testimony of every kind bearing upon the situation and promises to reach a conclusion soon.
In the meantime, actual suffering is evident in many localities. In New York the supply of coal is so meagre that it is difficult for many poor people to obtain it even by the bucket or basket.
The Reading Railroad is the great coal road of this section and it has not been able to meet the demand.
The unusual cold weather of the past few days has intensified the suffering and at the same time has sent the price of coal soaring upward.
Where and when will this serious condition end? The President asked that commission to be as expeditious as possible, but it has allowed long-winded attorneys to prolong its sessions and the end is not yet in sight.
Enough evidence has been produced to show the justice of the miners’ demands. The dangerous character of coal-mining, the inadequate wages paid, the system of cheating the miner by wrong measurements, etc., have all been fully demonstrated before the commission. It has been clearly shown that the tone of coal which the miner gets paid for digging, weighs several hundred pounds more than the tone which the operators well to the dealers. But the inquiry still goes on and anyone can now see that the operators’ aim is the total destruction of the Miners’ Union.
To do this they are perfectly willing to let the innocent public suffer. Mr. Baer, the head and front of this fight on the part of the operators, in a speech in New York last week, clearly intimated that the fight was against the Union.
No one can blame the miners for fighting to preserve their Union, for it means everything to them. No one but the operators will deny to labor the right to organize. If the Congress will act favorably upon the President’s recommendations regarding trusts, there will be fewer such conditions as we are now experiencing.
If capital can organize for protection, why cannot labor do the same? The spirit of fair play, common to all Americans, will side with the miners in this fight and the day may not be far distant when that spirit will take things in its own hands and right the wrongs of the oppressed.
This strike should be ended at once, for the public should not be made the victims of conditions for which it is in no way ressponsible.
The Christian Recorder, December 18, 1902.
A good many Northern people will probably be surprised to learn that “the negro is a blessing to the South,” and that “the Southern people would not consent to his removal”; yet we are assured by Dixie, an Atlanta monthly devoted to Southern manufacturing interests, that such is the case. The editor declares:
“There is no spirit of antagonism between our people and the negro. On the contrary, there is mutual understanding and mutual regard. The trouble, when such exists, comes from outside influences, from the meddling of well-meaning but mistaken citizens of other sections, or else from meaner sources, too frequently from designing men who seek to use the negro to gain selfish ends, and when these ends are gained the negro, debauched and degraded, is left to his own resources, and thus he becomes a burden, not so much upon the white man as upon his own race, for every mischief-making, worthless negro stands as a stumbling-block in the way of race progress; for every such negro helps to destroy the confidence and good feeling that exists between the white man and the black man, and without this mutual confidence there can be no progress for the Southern negro.
“The white men of the South will work out their own salvation. Let alone, the negro will share in the general progress. If false prophets shall lead him away from the white man, his fate is sealed. The white man can do without the negro, but the negro is too near the jungle to stand alone; barbarism is only a few generations behind him, and it would be still fewer generations ahead of him without the white man’s uplifting influence.”
The negro is a blessing to the South because his presence there “is a permanent guaranty against vicious labor organization.” The editor explains this statement as follows:
“Labor organization must deal with three separate and distinct classes: First, the worthy artisan, capable, sober, and industrious; second, the lazy craftsman, who is without ambition, and works merely that he may live; the envious man, whose mean nature breeds anarchy and socialism. These three classes make up the great army of workmen that must be reckoned with today in the consideration of any and all industrial problems.
“We have two of these classes here in the South. The third, thank God, has remained away, and the presence of the negro will hold us free forever from this objectionable factor in the industrial problem. Indiscriminate and unguarded foreign immigration has cursed many sections of our good land, but its blight has never fallen upon the South, and it never will, for the negro will be with us always.
“Left to work out the problem, the whites and the blacks of the South will labor in harmony. There may be labor organization, and it is well that there should be. But labor organization, minus the man of socialistic tendencies, will not retard industry. Leave out the embittered, envious outcasts of Europe, and the labor organizations of the land would be useful agencies for the nation’s progress. But so long as these organizations are led and controlled by men who seek only to destroy, who depend upon brute force rather than right argument to carry their cause, just so long will labor organizations be harmful alike to the men who work and to the men who pay.
“But we have no fear of wild-eyed anarchists here in the South. Occasionally one finds his way across the line. But the problem of organization of the sort he desires, is a staggering proposition. If he organizes the whites, the negro stands ready to turn the wheels of industry, not so well as the white man would do it, but well enough to keep the ball rolling. If the negro be organized—but the thought of such a thing is ridiculous. The negro is not serious enough for that. He is not vindictive, he is not ambitious, and having neither of these qualities the doctrines of anarchy are not for his consideration.
“But what is most astonishing about this talk of deporting the negro is the fact that advocates of the plan do not seem to consider the very important questions of the negro’s citizenship. He is a citizen of the United States. He has constitutional rights that must be respected, and his right to remain here, if he chooses to do so, cannot be questioned by any sane person.”
The Literary Digest, 29 (February 7, 1903): 176.
“There is no section of country in the world embracing so large an amount of territory, employing in proportion to the population so many wage-earners, and where such extensive money interests are involved, which has been so free from labor strikes.” Thus The Tradesman (Chattanooga) remarks in an editorial in which it shows that labor and capital are working harmoniously in the South. We learn from the same paper that with the exception of four minor disagreements during last year, the South has been practically exempt from strikes, boycotts, lockouts, and other labor disturbances. What brings about this harmony between labor and capital in the South? The most important factor, we learn, is the presence of the negro. Next in importance is the gathering in, in the ranks of labor, of thousands of white women and children of once wealthy families, mountaineers and “piney-woods and sandhill people” known as “Crackers,” to work in the textile plants. In the third place, wage-earners are generally well satisfied with their wages, because a dollar in the South will buy as much of the necessities of life as $1.50 will in the North. The land is cheaper and more fertile, and many work their own farms. In the fourth place, labor-unions have made little headway in the mining portions of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama; and an additional fact is that most of the Southern laborers work on farms. Just how these conditions affect the labor problem is shown by The Tradesman. In regard to the presence of the negro:
“There are more than 2,000,000 negro laborers tilling the cotton, corn, sugar-cane, and rice-fields, in the timber-forests and lumber-mills, in the cotton-seed oil factories, in the iron and coal-mines, in the brick and coke-making establishments, and in all vocations requiring muscular strength and physical endurance.
“In all of the above-named kinds of work they are far superior to white labor, and possibly superior to any other labor in the world. Racial antipathy and social ostracism prevent admission of the negro to white labor organizations. Unsystematic, and not being an organizer himself, the negro is a free lance in the labor field, and stands as what the labor-unions designate a ‘scab,’ an irreconcilable and constant menace to the trade-unions.
“The negro wage-earner is a strenous believer in the doctrine of the survival of the fittest. He is for number one against the world, and when, by his labor, he is earning from $1 to $5 per day, according to his skill and industry, with that labor always in demand, he cannot understand why he should voluntarily tax himself for the benefit of a less thrifty workman. Improvidence is his greatest weakness, and the rainy day has no terrors for him until it arrives, and then the clouds are soon dispelled through the medium of sated hunger. Amiability is a prominent characteristic when he is in his normal state, and when he is at peace with himself and with the world, the blandishments of the walking-delegate cannot propagate in his breast seeds of dissatisfaction toward his employer.”
Speaking of the workers in the textile-plants, The Tradesman declares that “they have found their employment in the cotton-mills far more satisfactory and superior to the conditions that confronted them in their impoverished and isolated homes.” Under previous conditions they barely managed to live and “were without educational advantages, refining or sanitary enjoyments, religious or civilizing influences.” Happy and contented in their new surroundings, “they are loath to antagonize their employers, and show scant courtesy to labor agitators who would engender strife between them.” That the labor organizations have been unable to make any progress among the agricultural element is attributed to the size of the plantations and to the fact that the farm hands are too widely scattered for cooperation. Besides, these laborers have little education and are satisfied with their present lot.
But how is the South to guard against the labor agitators and maintain the present peaceful understanding between labor and capital? The Tradesman says on this point:
“It is to meet these new and inevitable conditions that the Southern employer must show wisdom, tact, and justice, meeting the pending aggressiveness of the labor-unions in a spirit of kindliness and concession. . . . Instead of inciting enmity and passing laws for the destruction of corporations, let the Southern people take heed lest they destroy themselves and retard the progress of their unexampled prosperity. Let labor and capital grasp hands and reconcile their constantly conflicting interests by amalgamating their interests. Both sides, capital and labor, must be content to make concessions—to give and to take. Capital should be satisfied with a reasonable annual return, and labor should be satisfied with such a reasonable compensation for its services as is justified by its intrinsic productive value to the employer, and by the great law of supply and demand.”
The Literary Digest, 26 (May 2, 1903): 643.
Labor Organizations Strong in Executive Departments at Washington
WASHINGTON, Aug. 25.—The agitation that has followed the reinstatement of Miller, the assistant foreman in the bookbindery of the Government Printing Office, gives interest to the data which have been collected by one of the officials of the Federation of Labor about the number of union men in Government employ in Washington. It has been rumored that a settled policy of repression has been decided on among the various department heads, and that wherever the labor unions attempt to dictate to a member of the Cabinet or to the President about rules in regard to employees, or as to who shall be permitted to work, there will be a firm and uncompromising resistance to such encroachments on official prerogatives. This is a matter that is being discussed among the unions.
The strongest union in any government bureau is the typographical union known as Columbia No. 101. There are over 1,000 members. Allied to Columbia No. 101 is the Bookbinders’ Union, embracing 700 members, of whom 400 are women and 300 men. In the pressmen’s union are 250 members; in the sterero-typers 40, in the electrotypers 30, and in the feeders 100.
There are fifty carpenters, plumbers, and electricians also in the printing offices and the departments who belong to labor unions. The strong labor organization at the navy yard is Washington Lodge No. 138, which has about 1,000 members, a large part of whom are employed in the yard. In the Bureau of Engraving and Printing the plate printers’ union has 150 members. There are 200 printers’ assistants, all women; 50 pressmen, and 100 feeders in the bureau who belong to the union. Connected with the Library of Congress are said to be 500 printers, binders, and mechanics of various sorts who belong to unions.
In view of the strength of the unions in these different branches of the government service the labor leaders are talking of taking their grievances to Congress next winter and insisting on an investigation.
New York Call, August 26, 1903.
By John R. Commons24
On September 9, 1904 the Executive Board of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America “called off” the strike of their 50,000 members against the five packing companies. In the Chicago stock yards, where 22,000 came out, followed by 8,000 allied trades, this was the third general strike. For fifteen years after the Knights of Labor strike in 1886 every man or woman who ventured to start an organization was discharged; and after 1890, when the “combine” of packers became effective, many of them were blacklisted. The strike of 1894 was sympathetic and unorganized. The strike of 1904 was a mistake on the part of the union; for the employers had offered arbitration sixteen hours before the men went out, and arbitration was what the leaders had asked for. They were out eight days, and went back on an agreement to arbitrate, but were again called out after an hour’s work on the ground of discrimination. This was in violation of the agreement just made, which bound them and their employers to submit discriminations and all other grievances to arbitration. The mistake was natural. It followed a history of grievances on both sides, and a conviction on the part of the workmen that the packers were determined to destroy their union. . . .
Perhaps the fact of greatest social significance is that the strike of 1904 was not merely a strike of skilled labor for the unskilled, but was a strike of Americanized Irish, Germans, and Bohemiams in behalf of Slovaks, Poles, Lithuanians, and negroes. The strike was defeated by bringing in men from the companies’ own branch houses for the skilled occupations and negroes and Greeks for the unskilled occupations.
This substitution of races has been a continuing process for twenty years. At the time of the strike of 1886 the men were American, Irish, and German, and the strike was defeated by splitting their forces rather than by introducing new nationalities. After that date the Bohemians entered in large numbers, although a few of them had begun to work as early as 1882. Bohemians have worked their way forward until, of the 24 men getting 50 cents an hour in two of the cattle-killing gangs, 12 are Bohemians, and the others are German, Irish, and American. The Bohemian is considered to be the coming man in the business. The Americans as wage-earners have practically been driven out of the stock yards, and are being followed by the Irish and Germans. Those who have accumulated money leave for something more certain. The Germans are held mainly by the large number of homes they have purchased in the neighborhood; and this has seemed to be the future of the Bohemians and Poles, who have been purchasing homes for several years, and of the Slovaks and Lithuanians, who have begun during the past two years. The feeling of security since the union was established three years ago has stimulated the tendency to home ownership among all these nationalities, although as yet there are many Slovaks and Lithuanians who return with their savings to their native land. The Irish show wide diversities of character, noticeable in contrast with the uniformity of other races. In general there is a rising class and a degenerating class. Neither class shows any inclination towards home ownership. But the Irish of the rising class have a much stronger desire than the Germans or Bohemians to educate their children rather than put them to work. This class of Irish have been leaving the industry, except as held back by a foremanship or skilled trade or by a salaried position in the union, of which they have been the aggressive organizers and leaders. With the defeat of the union, doubtless many more of them will leave. The other class,—the degenerating Irish,—displaced by the Slav, have become casual laborers, without definite place in any industry.
The older nationalities have already disappeared from the unskilled occupations, most of which, now are entirely manned by Slovaks, Poles, and Lithuanians. The Poles began to appear at about the same time as the Bohemians, though not in as large numbers; and they have not advanced in the same proportion. The Slovaks and Lithuanians were first seen in 1899. One Slovak who has been in the yards ten years has worked himself up to a 50-cent job; but he is exceptional, and these two races have as yet only shared with the negroes the unskilled positions. The negroes first came during the strike of 1894, when many were imported from the South and large cities. An intense race hatred sprang up among the Americans and Europeans, who thought the negroes were favored by the employers; and this seemed to be leading to a race war. The conflict was averted by the union, which admitted the negroes on equal terms with the whites. This hatred has been renewed during the recent strike, when several thousand negroes were again imported. Notwithstanding the alleged favoritism towards the negroes, they have not advanced to the skilled positions, mainly because they dislike the long apprenticeship and steady work at low pay which lead to such positions. As strike breakers, they were attracted by the easy work, free board and lodging, and wages of $2.25 day instead of the $1.85 asked by the union; but in times of peace they are not steady workers at the low wages of the Slav.
Italians have never found a place in the trade; and the experience of the Greeks, who first appeared in 1904, has been curious. Several hundred Greeks in Chicago have established themselves as fruit dealers. When 300 of their countrymen, recently landed from Macedonia, entered the yards, these storekeepers were boycotted, and several of them bankrupted. Through the Greek consul and the Greek priest the merchants endeavored to persuade the Greeks to withdraw from the yards; but they did not leave until the strike was settled, and then they went in a body to another part of the country.
It will be seen that the mingling of races in the stockyards is similar to that in other large American industries, and the problem is a trying one both for the civic neighborhood and for the union organizers. Unlike the union in 1886 under the Knights of Labor, the present organization sprang from the butcher workmen themselves: the former had been officered from without. In the union meetings the speeches are translated often into three or four languages, and much trouble has been occasioned by dishonest or prejudiced interpreters, though with experience these are weeded out. The races are brought together; and, where four years ago scarcely a Polish, Slovak, or Lithuanian family had a member who could speak or understand English, now nearly all have each at least one such member. Race conflicts were infrequent because the races were kept apart by language, distrust, and the influence of the priests; but there were frequent factional fights between religious societies of the same race, especially among the Poles, each society having its own patron saint. There were also many arrests for drunkenness, wife-beating, and neighborhood quarrels. Curiously enough, these disorderly acts dropped off entirely from the date when the strike took effect, and the arrests fell off 90 per cent. The strike continued eight weeks, and the police inspector in charge of the district is reported as saying: “The leaders are to be congratulated for conducting the most peaceful strike Chicago has ever had. Compared with other big strikes, such as the railroad strike of 1894, the teamsters’ strike of 1902, or the stock yards strike of 1886, there was no violence.”
The substitution of races has evidently run along the line of lower standards of living. The latest arrivals, the Lithuanians and Slovaks, are probably the most oppressed of the peasants of Europe; and 18 cents for a day of 12 or 14 hours in the Carpathian foot-hills becomes 18 cents an hour in the stock yards. Even with only four days work a week the Slovak’s position is greatly improved; for in Uhrosko he had no work in winter. Yet his improved position shows itself, not in more expensive living, but in fabulous savings gained by packing sometimes as many as 12 persons in 3 rooms, taking in boarders, and sending his children to work. The new arrivals of this class of labor swell the ranks of the thousands waiting at the packing-house gates every morning, and to them there is little difference between 18 cents and 16 cents an hour. Yet it is most remarkable that those already on the ground came out with the union, and did not go back until the strike was declared off.
It is not surprising that, with wage conditions, racial elements, and former grievances such as they were, the union, when it acquired power, should have carried a high hand. Besides the restrictions themselves, the manner in which they were enforced was irritating. Every department or division had its “house committee” of 3 stewards, who often acted as if they had more authority than the foreman or superintendent; and frequently, when a union rule was violated, they stoped the work “in the middle of the game.” When it is stated that the superintendent of one of the largest firms had to deal with 120 of these committees, it need create no surprise to learn that he felt relieved when the strike came. The principal grievance was the violation of their own constitution and agreements, which forbade locals or house committees to stop work and required all matters to be referred to higher officers for settlement with the company. The rank and file and the lower officers were insubordinate. Yet the superintendents observed that the unions, as they gained experience, were electing more conservative leaders and that petty troubles were being more easily handled. This encouraging prospect for the union was blighted by the blunder and disaster of the strike.
“Labor Conditions in Meat Packing and the Recent Strike,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 19 (November 1904): 1–2, 28–32.
It was a dramatic occasion on that evening, when the first colored girl asked for admission. The president, an Irish girl whose father . . . had left his job because a colored man had been put to work with him, was naturally expected to be prejudiced against the reception of a negro woman. Hannah, as doorkeeper, called out in her own social way, “A colored sister is at the door. What’ll I do with her?” “Admit her,” called back the president, “and let all of ye’s give her a hearty welcome.” The tall, dignified, good-looking, well-dressed colored girl, much frightened walked down the center aisle of the gymnasium, while the room rang with cheers and the clapping of hands. One felt that here was a law stronger than that of Roberts Rules of Order.
Soon after a meeting, when the question in the ritual “Have you any grievances?” was put to the house full of girls, black and white, Polish, Bohemian, Irish, Croation, and Hungarian, a shy sensitive colored girl (morbidly sensitive black girl) arose and said “A Polish girl was always taunting her on her color.” The union demanded that the Polish and the colored stand and each give a reason for this unseemly conduct. “Well,” says the Polish girl, “I did tease her, but she called me a Polock, and I won’t stand that.” The hearty, good-natured laugh from their fellow workers cleared the international atmosphere, and they were told to cease teasing each other. “Ain’t you ashamed of yourselves?” said the President. “You promised in the union to be sisters and here you are fighting. Now shake hands and don’t bring any more of your personal grievances here. Tell it to your shop steward and remember this is where only shop grievances are to be brought.”
Mary McDowell Papers, Chicago Historical Society.
On last Thursday [July 5, 1906] New York was treated to the extraordinary spectacle of white union men striking to compel a company of contractors to recognize the Afro-American members of the union.
The Cecelia Asphalt Paving company, which has the contract for paving the square around Cooper Union, began by filling the places of the Afro-American pavers and rammersmen with Irish and Germans. Immediately Mr. James S. Wallace, the Afro-American agent of the International Union of Pavers and Rammersmen, reported to the officers of the union that his men were not getting a square deal.
“Then we’ll call out all of our union members,” replied the officers; and in a short while nearly all the white workmen laid down their tools.
The superintendent of the company hustled to the spot posthaste and tried to persuade the white men to go back to work.
“Beat it,” replied they, “unless you give us a written guarantee to recognize all the members of our union, black as well as white.”
“I’ll give you the letter tomorrow at 10 o’clock,” conceded the contractor.
“Then we’ll go back to work tomorrow at 10 o’clock,” said the union men.
The next day the letter was forthcoming, and all the men triumphantly went back to their tools.
New York Age, July 12, 1906.
Since I [James S. Wallace] have been brought in touch with so many prominent men of both races who seem to be engaged in uplifting the Negro race, and as each seems to have a different idea to express, it seems that I am called upon to say something on a question which most of our well-wishers seem to overlook or ignore. Years of experience have impressed upon my mind that a mutual understanding between the white and Negro men whom you may call the laborers and mechanics or the common people, would have a good and wholesome effect upon both races. . . .
There are in New York many unions, viz., plasterers, carpenters, printers, teamsters, pavers, engineers, drillers, longshoremen, cigarmakers, etc., and I find in no instance that a Negro has committed any breach of etiquette. These unions have a large Negro membership, and they are treated as men. Labor and capital will never be reconciled, and he who advances the capitalist ideas cannot be looked upon as a friend of labor. . . . When the millions of poor working people recognize that the interest of one poor man is the concern of all, and that a blow struck at the Negro’s progress affects the entire working class; when they agree to stand for one object, and let that object be better conditions, racial troubles will be reduced to the minimum. . . . In the paving industry Negroes, Italians and other nationalities are in an international union with a Negro Third Vice-President, myself, in New York, and a Negro Fifth Vice-President in Chicago, Mr. Theodore Payne. Wages are now unprecedented for the Negro—$4.96 per day of 8 hours. Engineers, plasterers and all men who have joined mutually in unions are getting good wages, but still nonunion advocates menace the interest of all.
New York Age, August 30, 1906.
The Laborer, (Dallas, Tex.) Feb. 20.—There is now before the House of Representatives at Austin a proposition to establish an educational test for voters in Texas. This can be done only by amending the constitution by an election, but if the question is submitted it will have a very good chance of carrying. The machine politicians will support it, for there is nothing they fear like real democracy, real people’s rule. The franchise grabbing capitalists will favor it, for they can handle a select number of men [the United States Senate] so very conveniently. The capitalist newspapers will advocate it, for what their masters, the big capitalists, want, they, too, want and work for. Yet not one good reason can be alleged for the restriction, if we take as our point of view that of a believer in the people’s rule. . . . The “Negro domination” fraud has been worked out. In combination with misrepresentations as to the real purpose of the poll tax amendment, the Negro vote was used to fool many an unthinking voter eight years ago. Now many a working man who voted to cut out the Negro vote has found that the same poverty that keeps the Negro from paying $1.75 for a vote, keeps him also. And this in the face of the fact that we have never had any danger of “Negro domination.” The real reason for this proposition of an educational test is the same as the real reason for the poll tax infamy. It will cut out some voters. Every single voter so cut out is a working man. The capitalist class is daily assuming more complete control of the State of Texas, and every workingman’s vote destroyed, makes the complete control by the owning class easier. Every working man, every ideal or union of workingmen in Texas, ought to agitate and protest against this proposed infamy.
The Public, March 12, 1909.
Taft and His Colored Henchmen Tell Views at Commencement Exercises
Washington, D.C., June 19.—John Brown’s body must have turned a few times in its grave yesterday when one of President Taft’s henchmen made the open declaration which practically amounts to stating that the negro kept in a state of subjection as a producer means the elimination of the labor problem in the south. Taft was present at the time and afterwards praised his henchman’s speech.25
Taft handed out diplomas to the graduates of the local colored high school.
Charles W. Anderson, colored collector of internal revenue, played upon the old theme of education, while veiling his statement that the educated race of the south must rule the south, and that the negro must bear the burden and prevent the invasion of organized labor.26
Anderson admitted that the educated negro was all right, that such negroes as he had appointed to office were all right, that the educated negro should have everything, but the uneducated negro—well, he should be made to play the part of the strike breaker and the destroyer of workingman’s homes.
Must Be Taught Hope
President Taft told the graduates that the great problem of the colored races was with the great uneducated part of the race in the south, who “must be taught hope, and that each negro carries in himself the power to make the race respected by the whites.”
Referring to Anderson, who is collector of internal revenue in New York city, who had delivered an address previously, the president declared that he was “proud to have him in his administration and that he was as good a collector as he was an orator.”
The former spoke of the colored laborer as compared with the foreign laborer, declaring that he is of more aid to business prosperity because he spends his money more freely and because he is not hoarding any of it to take out of the country. He said that as long as the south used negro labor it would not have the union and the walking delegate to disturb its industrial peace.
Chicago Daily Socialist, June 19, 1909.
18. NIAGARA MOVEMENT ADDRESS27
The annual address of the Niagara Movement (vol. xi, p. 587), authorized by the convention, held at Sea Isle City, N.J., August 15–18, has just been published. It describes the purpose of the Movement as being—
to make ten million Americans of Negro descent cease from mere apology and weak surrender to aggression, and take a firm unfaltering stand for justice, manhood and self-assertion.
Pointing to the progress of the Negro-American, this address explains:
We are accumulating property at a constantly accelerating rate; we are rapidly lowering our rate of illiteracy; but property and intelligence are of little use unless guided by the great ideals of freedom, justice and human brotherhood. As a partial result of our effort we are glad to note among us increasing spiritual unrest, sterner impatience with cowardice and deeper determination to be men at any cost. Along with undoubted advance and development within, there continues without unceasing effort to discourage and proscribe us. We not only travel in public ignominy and discomfort, but at the instance of some of our weak-kneed leaders, the Interstate Commerce Commission has recently sought to make a pitiful apology for this disgrace. Our right to work is questioned not only by some who are attempting to fight the great battles of labor, but even by those very people who declare us fit for nothing else. We are glibly told to deserve before we complain; yet those of us who do deserve are proscribed along with the least, by men who know that ability and desert come oftenest through freedom and power.
Turning to the labor question in its relation to the Negro-American, the address makes this impressive appeal:
Do men forget that the wages of white Americans cannot permanently rise far above the wages of black Americans? And do they not know that the half-drunken Senator who can today slap a black laborer’s face may tomorrow kick white laborers down stairs? And yet who are they that too often lead the fight against us? Poor and ignorant whites, spurred on by the richer and more intelligent who hide behind the mob and fatten on its deeds. Small wonder that Negro disfranchisement is practically coincident with those regions where white ignorance, political fraud and murder are greatest. That black men are inherently inferior to white men is a widespread lie which flatly contradicts, and the attempt to submerge the colored races is one with world-old efforts of the wily to exploit the weak. We must therefore make common cause with the oppressed and down-trodden of all races and peoples; without kindred of South Africa and the West Indies, with our fellows in Mexico, India and Russia, and with the cause of the working-classes everywhere. On us rests to no little degree the burden of the cause of individual Freedom, Human Brotherhood, and Universal Peace in a day when America is forgetting her promise and destiny. Let us work on and never despair. Though pigmy voices are loudly praising ill-gotten wealth, big guns, and human degradation, they but represent back eddies in the tide of Time. The causes of God cannot be lost.
The Public, September 10, 1909.
Regardless of our [Blacks] opinions as to the merits of the particular case of the recent strike of the Waist-Makers in New York and Philadelphia, it cannot be gainsaid that the matter of the attitude of “Union Labor” toward our people, and of our people toward it, is of great and growing importance.
The following letter from one of the officers [Elizabeth Dutcher] of the Women’s Trade Union League speaks for itself and should be carefully pondered, especially by those persons and editors who, some unwittingly are assisting in the present insidious effort to make our people Ishmaelites in the world of labor.
February 23rd, 1910
To the Editor of the Horizon,
Dear Sir:—I note in an issue of the New York Age, of Thursday, January 20th, 1910, an editorial on the Waist-Makers Strike. In this editorial it was stated that the editor of the paper had refused to induce colored girls to join the union and had also refused to dissuade other colored girls from taking the place of those on strike because they had no assurance that the union would in the future admit without discrimination colored girls to membership. The editorial goes on to say that “Trade Unionism is hostile to the colored race and that the Negro will continue to be the pivot upon which future strikes will turn so long as labor will ignore his right to work and thwart his ambition to advance in the mechanical world.” I cannot help feeling that the editor of the Age was misinformed. In both Philadelphia and New York, some of the most devoted members of the Ladies Waist-Makers Union are colored girls. In Philadelphia several of the girls going on strike were colored girls and two of these were the best pickets the union had in that city. They were not only able to persuade the girls of their own race and color from acting as strikebreakers, but they were able to keep wavering white girls from going back to work.
In New York, colored girls are not only members of the union but they have been prominent in the union. One colored girl has been secretary of her shop organization all through the strike and has been very frequently at the union headquarters doing responsible work. The editor should also know that meetings were held during the strike at the Fleet Street Methodist Memorial Church (colored) in Brooklyn and St. Marks Methodist Church in Manhattan and that in both, members of the Ladies Waist-Makers Union said definitely and publicly that colored girls were not only eligible but welcome to membership. . . .
It is not our purpose now to discuss, with those who may be inclined to doubt, the advisability of our people joining the ranks of “Union Labor” but to throw a little light on the question brought forward by the [N.Y.] Age; whether or not, as is persistently claimed, “Trade Unionism is hostile to the colored race,” and the further claim that the Unions will not take us in.
The Horizon (Washington, D.C.), 5 (March, 1910): 9.
The Wheeling (W. Va.) Majority (official organ of the Ohio Valley and Belmont Trades Assemblies and Tin Plate Workers’ International Protective Association of America), Aug. 11.—Twenty thousand more American citizens have been deprived of their vote. This time it is in Oklahoma. And the shame of it is that the people themselves are guilty. Twenty thousand workingmen have been disfranchised by their fellow workingmen. A referendum vote so amending the constitution carried by a small majority. Members of both old parties voted for the amendment. This means that the working men did it. They voted to disfranchise 20,000 of their number and thus put themselves 20,000 votes farther away from getting what they want by political action. Of course, they had a racial reason. The 20,000 were Negroes. The white working men thought that a sufficient reason for taking away their votes. They thought that, somehow, they were better than the black men; that God in his wisdom had made them capable of governing themselves, and had denied that ability to the black man. But by this action they have shown themselves incapable of governing themselves. The black men are workingmen. The time is rapidly coming when the working men will need every vote they can muster. They have now cut themselves off from just that much of their strength. And they so sadly need it all! When the white workingman deprives a black workingman of a vote he is depriving himself of half a vote. For the black men are not capitalists. This is in the line of economic truth. It is a cold materialist proposition. It is clearly beside sentiment, though sentiment should be enough. A man without a vote is a slave, for his vote is that which gives him voice in the conditions under which he must live, and without that voice he is a slave of those conditions, whether the master is a capricious man or a money-making machine.
The Public, September 16, 1910.
By J. Dallas Bowser
Don’t curse him in advance
He cannot lift a white man’s load
Without a white man’s chance.
Shut out from mill and workshop
From counting room and store
By caste and labor unions
Is closed Industry’s door.
Excerpt of Poem in Cleveland Gazette, April 5, 1913.
By Booker T. Washington
When the Negro boy from the Southern states leaves the plantation or the farm and goes up to the city, it is not work, in many cases, that he is looking for. He has labored in the field, beside his father and his mother, since he was old enough to hold a hoe, and he has never known the time when he, and every member of the family, could not find all the work they needed and more than they wanted. The one thing of which he has always had plenty at home has been work. It is very likely that a promise that he would earn more and do less has turned his steps from the farm; but at bottom it is not the search for easier work or higher wages that brings the country boy to town; it is the natural human desire to see a little more of the place he has heard of over yonder, beyond the horizon—the City.
The thing that takes the country boy to the city, in short, is the desire to learn something, either through books and in school, or in actual contact with daily life, about the world in which he finds himself. One of the first and most surprising things the country boy learns in the city is that work is not always to be had; that it is something a man has to go out and look for. Another thing he very soon learns is that there is a great deal of difference between skilled and unskilled labor, and that the man who has learned to do some one thing well, no matter how small it may be, is looked upon with a certain respect, whether he has a white skin or a black skin; while the man who has never learned to do anything well simply does not count in the industrial world.
The average Negro learns these things, as I have said, when he comes to the city. I mention them here because in considering the relation of the Negro to the labor unions it should be remembered that the average Negro laborer in the country districts has rarely had the experience of looking for work; work has always looked for him. In the Southern states, in many instances, the employment agent who goes about the country seeking to induce laborers to leave the plantations is looked upon as a kind of criminal. Laws are made to restrict and even prohibit his operations. The result is that the average Negro who comes to the town from the plantations does not understand the necessity or advantage of a labor organization, which stands between him and his employer and aims apparently to make a monopoly of the opportunities for labor.
Another thing which is to some extent peculiar about the Negro in the Southern states, is that the average Negro is more accustomed to work for persons than for wages. When he gets a job, therefore, he is inclined to consider the source from which it comes. The Negro is himself a friendly sort of person, and it makes a great deal of difference to him whether he believes the man he is working for is his friend or his enemy. One reason for this is that he has found in the past that the friendship and confidence of a good white man, who stands well in the community, are a valuable asset in time of trouble. For this reason he does not always understand, and does not like, an organization which seems to be founded on a sort of impersonal enmity to the man by whom he is employed; just as in the Civil War all the people in the North were the enemies of all the people in the South, even when the man on the one side was the brother of the man on the other.
I have tried to suggest in what I have said why it is true, as it seems to me, that the Negro is naturally not inclined toward labor unions. But aside from this natural disposition of the Negro there is unquestionably a very widespread prejudice and distruct of labor unions among Negroes generally.
One does not have to go far to discover the reason for this. In several instances Negroes are expressly excluded from membership in the unions. In other cases individual Negroes have been refused admittance to unions where no such restrictions existed, and have been in consequence shut out from employment at their trades.
For this and other reasons, Negroes, who have been shut out, or believed they had been shut out, of employment by the unions, have been in the past very willing strike-breakers. It is another illustration of the way in which prejudice works, also, that the strikers seemed to consider it a much greater crime for a Negro, who had been denied an opportunity to work at his trade, to take the place of a striking employee than it was for a white man to do the same thing. Not only have Negro strike-breakers been savagely beaten and even murdered by strikers or their sympathizers, but in some instances every Negro, no matter what his occupation, who lived in the vicinity of the strike has found himself in danger.
Another reason why Negroes are prejudiced against the unions is that, during the past few years, several attempts have been made by the members of labor unions which do not admit Negroes to membership, to secure the discharge of Negroes employed in their trades. For example, in March, 1911, the white firemen on the Queen and Crescent Railway struck as the result of a controversy over the Negro firemen employed by the road. The white firemen, according to the press reports, wanted the Negro firemen assigned to the poorest runs. Another report stated that an effort was made to compel the railway company to get rid of the Negro firemen altogether.
Shortly after this there was a long controversy between Public Printer Donnelly and the Washington Bricklayers’ Union because, so the papers said, Mr. Donnelly would not ‘draw the color line’ in the employment of bricklayers on a job at the Government Printing Office. It appears that an additional number of bricklayers was needed. Mr. Donnelly drew upon the Civil Service Commission for the required number of men. A colored man was certified by the Commission, whereupon the white bricklayers struck, refusing to work with a Negro. Other Negroes were hired to take the strikers’ places. The labor union objected to this and threatened to demand that President Taft remove Mr. Donnelly. These are some of the reasons why Negroes generally have become prejudiced against labor unions.
On the other hand, many instances have been called to my attention in which labor unions have used their influence in behalf of Negroes. On the Georgia and Florida Railway the white and colored firemen struck for higher wages. Mobs composed of both white and black men held up trains. It was reported that the Negroes were as violent in their demonstrations as the whites. In this instance the strikers won. A recent dispatch from Key West, Florida, stated that the white carpenters in that city had struck because two Negro workmen had been unfairly discharged. The members of the white Carpenters’ Union refused to return to work until the Negroes had been reinstated.
At the 1910 National Council of the American Federation of Labor, resolutions were passed urging Negroes and all other races to enter the unions connected with the Federation. Since that time I have learned of activity on the part of the Federation in organizing Negro laborers in New Orleans, Pittsburg, Pensacola, Richmond, and several other Southern cities. In spite of the impression which prevails generally among colored people that the labor unions are opposed to them, I have known several instances in which Negroes have proven enthusiastic trade-unionists, and in several cases they have taken a leading part in organization and direction, not only in the colored, but in the white unions of which they chanced to be members.
Notwithstanding these facts, some of which seem to point in one direction and some in another, there seems to be no doubt that there is prejudice against Negroes among the members of labor unions and that there is a very widespread prejudice against labor unions among Negroes. These are facts that both parties must reckon with; otherwise, whenever there is a strike, particularly among those trades which have been closed to Negroes, there will always be a considerable number of colored laborers ready and willing to take these positions, not merely from a desire to better their positions as individuals, but also for the sake of widening the race’s opportunities for labor.
In such strikes, whatever disadvantages they may have in other respects, Negroes will have this advantage, that they are engaged in a struggle to maintain their right to labor as free men, which, with the right to own property, is, in my opinion, the most important privilege that was granted to black men as a result of the Civil War.
Under these circumstances the question which presents itself to black men and white men of the laboring classes is this: Shall the labor unions use their influence to deprive the black man of his opportunity to labor, and shall they, as far as possible, push the Negro into the position of a professional ‘strike-breaker’; or will the labor unions, on the other hand, admitting the facts to be as they are, unite with those who want to give every man, regardless of color, race or creed, what Colonel Roosevelt calls the ‘square deal’ in the matters of labor, using their influence to widen rather than to narrow the Negro’s present opportunities; to lessen rather than to magnify the prejudices which make it difficult for white men and black men to unite for their common good?28
In order to get at the facts in reference to this matter, I recently sent a letter of inquiry to the heads of the various labor organizations in the United States, in which I asked the following three questions:—
Do Negroes, as a rule, make good union men? If not, what in your opinion is the cause?
What do you advise concerning the Negro and the Trade-Unions?
I confess that I was both interested and surprised by the number and the character of the replies which I received. They not only indicated that the labor leaders had fully considered the question of the Negro laborer, but they also showed, in many instances, a sympathy and an understanding of the difficulties under which the Negro labors that I did not expect to find. A brief summary of these letters will indicate, better than anything I can say, the actual situation.
In reply to the question, ‘What are the rules of your union concerning the admittance of Negroes?’ nine unions, all but two of which are concerned with transportation, stated that Negroes are barred from membership. These unions are: the International Brotherhood of Maintenance-of-Way Employees, Switchmen’s Union, Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Order of Railway Conductors of America, Order of Railway Telegraphers, American Wire Weavers’ Protective Association, and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders and Helpers of America.
Fifty-one national labor organizations, several of which are the strongest in the country, reported that there was nothing in their constitutions prohibiting the admittance of Negroes. In fact, many of the constitutions expressly state that there shall be no discrimination because of race or color. This is the case, for example, with the Wood, Wire and Metal Lathers’ Union. The constitution of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners contains the following statement: ‘We recognize that the interests of all classes of labor are identical regardless of occupation, nationality, religion or color, for a wrong done to one is a wrong done to all.’
Mr. Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, replying to the question concerning the admission of Negroes to labor unions wrote: ‘Realizing the necessity for the unity of the wage-earners of our country, the American Federation of Labor has upon all occasions declared that trade unions should open their portals to all wage-workers irrespective of creed, color, nationality, sex, or politics. Nothing has transpired in recent years which has called for a change in our declared policy upon this question; on the contrary, every evidence tends to confirm us in this conviction; for even if it were not a matter of principle, self-preservation would prompt the workers to organize intelligently and to make common cause.’29
With two exceptions the answers to my question, ‘Do Negroes in your opinion make good Union men?’ were that they do.
Mr. Ralph V. Brandt, of Cleveland, secretary-treasurer of the Wood, Wire and Metal Lathers’ Union, wrote: ‘I regret to say I must answer “no” to this question. We have had several locals in the South,’ he continues, ‘where the membership was made up either exclusively of Negroes or a large majority, and we have had only two out of the entire number that have made a success. One of these locals is in Savannah, Georgia, and the other in Charleston, South Carolina, and, as it happens, both of these are among the earliest locals chartered by our organization. I have had this situation come under my personal observation in our locals in this city, of which I am a member, and I must say that the Negro lathers in Cleveland have failed absolutely in meeting the general requirements of union men.’
The letter goes into details, describing the various efforts, all of them unsuccessful, which the local unions made to induce the Negro lathers to re-affiliate. They were promised recognition in the governing board of the union and, at the suggestion of some of the colored lathers, one of their number was recognized as a contractor, but these measures also failed of their purpose.
Another letter to much the same effect was received from the secretary of the Tobacco Workers’ International Union. The secretary wrote: ‘Our experience has been that very few of them have turned out to be such [good men]. They have a large union in Richmond, Va., all colored men, and only a few of the whole membership are what I would call union men. They do not seem to grasp the significant feature of the trade-union [movement].’
Mr. B. A. Larger, general secretary of the United Garment Makers of America, said: ‘I think the Negroes working in the trades do make good union men, but I do not think that the Negro waiters make good union men, as I have had some experience in trying to organize them. They would be well organized and apparently have a strong organization, but in a short time it would go to pieces. Among them there would be some good loyal members, but not sufficient [in numbers] to keep up the organization.
‘I am unable,’ he adds, ‘to give a definite reason except, perhaps that it might be the fault of the head waiter, who would induce some person to go into the organization and break it up. Nevertheless, it is true that they are the most difficult to organize of any class of people.’
A somewhat different light is thrown upon the situation by a letter from Mr. Jacob Fisher, general secretary of the Journeymen Barbers’ International Union. This letter is so interesting that I am disposed to quote from it at considerable length. ‘In my opinion,’ Mr. Fisher writes, ‘Negro trade-unionists make as good members as any others, and I believe that the percentage of good trade-unionists among the Negroes is just as high as of any other class of people; but the percentage of Negroes of our trade belonging to our organization is not as high as among other classes. One of the greatest obstacles we have to confront, in inducing and urging the Negroes to become members of our organization, is a general current rumor that the white barbers are trying to displace and put out of business the Negro barbers. There is no foundation whatever for the rumor, but it has become generally spread among the Negro barbers, and this feeling has been urged upon them more strongly than it would otherwise be, by Negro employers, who do everything they can, as a general rule, to keep their employees from joining our trade-union. We have tried for years to impress upon the minds of Negro barbers that their best hope for better conditions lies in becoming members of our organization. But the feeling that exists among them has been so impressed upon their minds by no one else except the Negro employer, as to make it a very difficult matter to induce individual Negro barbers to become members of our organization.’
Mr. Fisher adds that a few years ago a large percentage of the barbers were Germans. In more recent years Jews and Italians have been getting into the barber business in large numbers. Barbers of all of these nationalities are ‘rapidly becoming educated’ in the trade-union movement, and are active in bringing other members of the trade of their nationalities into the union. ‘On the other hand,’ he continues, ‘the Negro barbers, while loyal to the movement and active in the affairs within the organization, do not direct their attention to the unorganized Negro barbers and use their endeavors to educate them in trade-union matters.’
The Mine Workers’ Union has the largest Negro membership of any of the labor unions. Mr. John Mitchell, the former president, states that, ‘while there are no exact statistics as to the number of Negro members of the United Mine Workers of America, it is safe to say that not less than 30,000 of the 300,000 members are Negroes. Many important offices are filled by colored members.
“The Negroes who are mining coal in the Northern states,’ he adds, ‘make first-class union men. In the Southern states where Negroes are employed in large numbers in the mining industry, unionism is not so strong. This, however, is in part accounted for by the fact that the mine-owners oppose strongly the organization of their workmen, and the miners are so poor that they cannot contend successfully against the corporations unless they are supported financially by the organized men in other states.’
Mr. Edwin Perry, secretary-treasurer of the United Mine Workers of America, replying to the question, ‘Do Negroes make good union men?’ wrote: ‘I say unequivocally, “yes,” and point with pride to the fact that the largest local branch of our organization has at least 80 per cent colored men. It is progressive and up-to-date in all things. This local is located in my home state at Buxton, Iowa.’
‘It is possible,’ he adds, ‘that misguided individuals may, in some isolated instances, discriminate against the Negro, but when our attention is called to the same, we endeavor to overcome that condition by the application of intelligence and common sense. The time is not far distant when the working men and women of our country will see the necessity of mutual cooperation and the wiping out of existence of all class lines.’
Mr. John Williams of Pittsburg, president of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers, stated that the laws of his association provide that ‘all men working in and around rolling mills are eligible to membership.’ No line of demarcation is drawn. He was of the opinion that Negroes, if given the opportunity, make good union men. He also advised that Negroes should be educated in the principles and ideals for which the labor-union movement stands.
In view of the newspaper reports from time to time concerning the discrimination against Negro chauffeurs, the statement of Mr. Thomas L. Hughes, general secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Stablemen and Helpers, concerning Negroes in labor-unions is particularly interesting.
‘I have had considerable dealing with colored men as members of our trade-unions,’ he writes. ‘In every instance where the colored men have been organized, we find them to be loyal to our union in every shape and manner. To say that they make good union men is only putting it too lightly. We have, local unions composed entirely of Negroes in certain parts of the country that are a credit to our international union.’
In many localities Negroes, Mr. Hughes asserts, belong to the same organization as white men and get on satisfactorily. In many of the large local unions, where there are both, the colored membership is large. The officers of the organization are also colored.
The secretary of the Amalgamated Meat-Cutters and Butchers’ Workmen, replying to my question, ‘Do Negroes make good union men?’ said, ‘I will say that the Negro averages up with the white man and I cannot see any difference, as it is all a matter of education. Both classes improve as they become more familiar with the work. I might say, incidentally, that one of the best and most conscientious officials we have is a Negro member of our local union in Kingston, N.Y. He is a man who not only has the entire confidence of his associates in the organization, but is held in the highest esteem by the entire community and, as an officer, stands second to none.’
The answers to the question, ‘What do you advise concerning the Negro and Trade Unions?’ were practically unanimous in advising that the Negro be organized and educated in the principles of trade-unionism. Even the leaders of those unions which bar out the Negro advised that he be organized. The president of the Switchmen’s Union, Mr. S. E. Heberling, wrote: ‘The laws of our union will not permit Negroes to join, the constitution using the term “white.” However,’ he adds, “I advise that the Negroes in all trades organize to better their condition. This organization, in reference to Negroes following the occupation of switchmen, has advised the American Federation of Labor, with whom we are affiliated, to grant the Negroes charters as members of the Federal Labor Union. I hope your race will take advantage of the opportunities afforded them.’
Mr. H. B. Perham, of St. Louis, president of the Order of Railroad Telegraphers, wrote: ‘The Order of Railroad Telegraphers is a white man’s organization, that provision having been in its constitution since its inception twenty-six years ago. I advise the organization to help the poor man to a better standard of living, better education, resistance of injustice and the like. As the Negro, generally speaking, is poor, he needs organization.’
Mr. John J. Flynn, of Chicago, secretary and treasurer of the Brotherhood of Railroad Freight Handlers, wrote: ‘I believe that a campaign of education should be started among the Negro workers of the country, this education to dwell principally on the fact that in organization there is strength and that the surest way to rise above their present condition is to become members of labor organizations that their craft calls for. In short, the best way for the Negro to improve his present condition is to become a member of a branch of the labor movement which covers his craft.’
Mr. James Wilson, general president of the Pattern Makers’ League, said: ‘I would advise that the Negro be taught to join the union of whatever occupation he is following, and if there is no union of that calling, that he organize one, for there is no greater educational movement in the country for all wage-earners than the trade-union movement.’
Mr. E. J. Brais, general secretary of the Journeyman Tailors’ Union, wrote: ‘Our opinion is and our advice would be that the Negroes should organize trade-unions by themselves under the jurisdiction, of course, of the American Federation of Labor, being governed by the same rules in all their trades as the white mechanics. We believe in that case, if they organize into separate locals in the various trades and insist upon the same scale of wages as their white brethren, it would be a source of strength to both elements.’
Mr. James Duncan, international secretary of the Granite Cutters’ International Association of America, replied in substance as follows to my inquiry: ‘I advise concerning Negroes and trade-unions, that they be organized the same as white people are organized, mixed with white people, where that is advisable, but in local unions by themselves where circumstances make it advisable for white people and Negroes being in separate organizations.’30
Mr. Duncan stated that the rule did not prohibit Negroes joining the union, but throughout the South granite-cutting was usually considered a ‘white man’s trade.’ Because of the feeling in the South he believed that Southern granite-cutters would not be disposed to work at that trade with Negroes.
‘This,’ he added, ‘is sentiment, and forms no part of the rules of our association.’
I have quoted at some length the statements made by the labor leaders, because it seemed to me that these statements not only disclose pretty accurately the position of the labor organizations as a whole, in reference to the Negro, but indicate, also, the actual situation of the Negro at the present time in the world of organized industry. In this connection it should be remembered that the labor unions are not primarily philanthropic organizations. They have been formed to meet conditions as they exist in a competitive system where, under ordinary circumstances, every individual and every class of individuals is seeking to improve its own condition at the expense, if necessary, of every other individual and class. It is natural enough, under such conditions, that union men should be disposed to take advantage of race prejudice to shut out others from the advantages which they enjoy.
The leaders of the labor movement, however, see clearly that it is not possible permanently to close, to the million or more Negro laborers in this country, the opportunity to take the positions which they are competent to fill. They have observed, also, that race prejudice is a two-edged sword, and that it is not to the advantage of organized labor to produce among the Negroes a prejudice and a fear of labor unions such as to create in this country a race of strike-breakers. The result has been that in every part of the United States where Negro laborers have become strong enough in any of the trades to be able to hold their own, the Negro has been welcomed into the unions, and the prejudice which shut him out from these trades has disappeared.
As an illustration of this fact, I cannot do better than quote a few paragraphs from the report of the English Industrial Commission in 1911 in regard to labor conditions in the Southern states, which gives a very clear and, I think, accurate description of local conditions in cities to which it refers.
Concerning the Negro labor unions in the Birmingham district, the English Industrial Commission reported: ‘It is not owing to the existence of any very sympathetic feeling between the white men and the Negroes that the latter are allowed to join the union; it is simply because the white men feel that their interest demands that colored men should be organized, as far as possible, so as to prevent them from cutting down the rate of wages. Wherever a sufficient number of colored men can be organized, they are encouraged to form a union of their own, affiliated to the white man’s union, but where there are not enough to form a separate union, they are allowed in the South to become members of the white man’s organization.
‘The building and mining industries,’ the report continues, ‘are the two in which the white and colored races come into the most direct competition with each other, yet it cannot be said that in either of these industries a situation exists which occasions friction. No doubt in both industries the white men would like to monopolize the skilled work for themselves, but they recognize that that is impossible and make the best of the situation. . . . The white men make it quite clear that their connection with the colored men is purely a matter of business and involved no social recognition whatever. It is in the mining industry that the relations between the two races, though working side by side, in direct competition, are smoothest. They acted together in the great strike of 1902, and in fact the good feeling between the whites and the colored men was used with great effect by the opponents of the strikers, who charged the white miners with disloyalty to their race.’
In New Orleans the Commission found a very interesting situation which is described as follows: ‘It is probable that in New Orleans there is a larger number of white and Negro people in very much the same economic position than in any other American city, or anywhere else in the world. The industries of New Orleans are of a kind which employ mainly unskilled or semi-skilled labor, with the result that both white men and Negroes are found doing the same kind of work and earning the same rate of pay. . . . The various unions combine in maintaining the Dock and Cotton Council, which dominates the entire business of compressing, carting, and loading cotton. . . . By arrangement between the Dock and Cotton Council and the employers, work has to be impartially apportioned between the white compress gangs and the colored gangs.’
In the letters from which I have so far quoted the writers have been content, for the most part, simply to answer the questions asked them, and sometimes, when they have not come into contact with the racial problem involved, have been disposed to discuss the advantages of labor organizations in the abstract. More interesting are the letters which I have received from labor men who have come into close quarters with the problem, in their efforts to organize Negro labor in the face of existing conditions.
As these letters indicate better than any discussion on my own part, the way the problem works out in practice, it will be well, perhaps, to let the writers speak for themselves.
One of the most interesting letters which I received was from Mr. M. J. Keough, of Cincinnati, acting president of the International Moulders’ Union. Mr. Keough wrote that one of the national officers of the Moulders’ Association, who was a Southerner by birth, had been devoting a very considerable part of his time in trying to organize the Negro Moulders of the South. In Chattanooga, for example, there were between six and eight hundred moulders, whom they had been trying, with no great success, to get into the union.
‘Of course you are aware,’ he continues, ‘that there is a certain feeling in the South against the Negro, but we have succeeded in overcoming that, and have educated our members to the fact that if the Negro moulder of Chattanooga is not brought up to the level of the white men, he, the Negro, will eventually drag the white man down to his condition. It is our purpose to continue the agitation in order to have a thorough organization of the Negro moulders of Chattanooga.
‘We find there is considerable opposition on the part of the employers in Chattanooga to the Negro moulders joining the union. I might state we have a shop on strike in which practically all of the men were Negro moulders and are being supported by our organization. The employers are having these Negro moulders out on strike arrested for loitering, etc., and have put us to considerable expense in keeping our Negro members, who are on strike, out of jail. In conclusion let me state that we are very anxious that the Negro moulders should become members of our organization and enjoy all its rights and privileges.’
Another important letter in this connection was received from Mr. John P. Frey, editor of the International Moulders’ Journal. He said: ‘As I made many earnest efforts to organize Negro moulders in the South some twelve years ago and met with almost complete failure, owing to what appeared to be the Negroes’ suspicion as to the genuineness of our intentions, it is but natural that I should still be interested in the question. While a Northerner, I have spent sufficient time in the Southern states to become familiar personally with the several phases presented by the question of the Negro status, both socially and industrially.31
In his further reply to my question, Mr. Frey referred to an editorial in a recent issue of the iron-moulders’ official organ. In this editorial the statement was made that the fact that there were so few Negroes in the Moulders’ Union was due largely to race prejudice.
‘As the years rolled by,’ the editor continues, ‘our members in the South realized that the question of Negro membership was an industrial one. The castings made by the Negroes were worth as much as those made by white men, but they might be sold for less in the open market because the Negro was forced to work for much smaller wages. It was not a question of social equality, but a question of competition in the industrial field. Other trade-unions in the South have faced the same problem and have been even more ready, in some instances, to take the Negro mechanic or laborer into their ranks. Not long ago the largest union in the South, No. 255, of Birmingham, Alabama, gave the question thorough consideration, with the result that it decided to take qualified Negro mechanics into membership. Their action may not have been in line with the sentiment of twenty years ago, but it was in line with justice to themselves and to the Negro who had learned the trade, for industrial competition pays no heed to questions of social equality. In our trade, the Negro has become an industrial factor in the South, and the wise policy of giving him the benefit of membership in our organization will not be of value to him alone, but to every one who works at moulding. To expect that race prejudice and social questions will be eliminated or adjusted in a generation or two, is to expect too much; but the question of the Negro moulder is neither one of race nor of social equality; it is purely one of industrial competition.’
Mr. Frey referred, also, to an article by Mr. Nick Smith, who is a Southerner by birth and training, has worked all his life as a moulder in the South, and is now organizer of his union. In this article Mr. Smith said in part: ‘If we want to make the Negro a good union man, we will have to grant him the same privileges and the same treatment in the shop that is enjoyed by the white moulder. Treat the Negro square; allow him to work in our shops when he presents his union card, and we will take away from the foundryman his most effective tool, the Negro strikebreaker. Refuse the Negro this privilege and the foundryman will continue to use him to trim us with when we have trouble. The Negro is here, and here to stay, and is going to continue to work at moulding, and it is for us to say whether he shall work with us as a union moulder, or against us as a tool in the foundryman’s hands and a strikebreaker. When a Negro comes to your town, do what you can to see that he gets a job, and is treated as a union man should be treated. Refuse to do this and you force him to allow the foundryman to use him as a club to beat us into submission. The I.M.U. has spent considerable money and time to get the Negro moulder educated up to the point where he is today, and the refusal of the white moulder to work with the Negro will undo all that has been accomplished. Brothers, it is up to us to think it over.’
Mr. William J. Gilthorpe of Kansas City, secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders and Helpers, said: ‘Being a Southern man myself, in breeding and education, I naturally think that I am acquainted with the colored people. I served, in 1880, in New Orleans with the colored delegates to the central body, and I want to say that the colored delegates were as true and loyal to the principles of true labor movement as any delegate in that body. They make the best of union men. There is no trouble with them whatever. In answer to your question I say this: The rules of this organization do not permit them to be initiated into this order. Now I am one of those who advocate the organization of the colored men, as well as the white men. I possess a few followers, but this is a principle that is going to live, and it is going to be an established fact, in this order, sooner or later. As far as my advice goes, and humble efforts, I would say organize them in every case where they are eligible.’
Mr. Frank Duffy, general secretary of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, wrote: ‘I wish to inform you that we do not draw the color line in our organization, as is evidenced by the fact that throughout the Southern states we have in the United Brotherhood twenty-five unions composed exclusively of colored men. We have found in our experience that where there are colored carpenters in great numbers, it is an absolute necessity both for their advancement and for the welfare of the white carpenters as well, to organize them. We have a colored organizer in the South, Mr. J. H. Bean, who has done splendid work in getting the colored carpenters together.’32
In order to find out what were the experiences and views of colored union men, I communicated with Mr. Bean and received a very interesting reply. He wrote that he had been connected with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America for more than twelve years and had been a delegate to every national convention but one since 1902. Since October, 1908, he has been continually engaged as general organizer for colored carpenters in nine Southern states. ‘During that time,’ he added, ‘I have met with some opposition brom both races, until they saw that one carpenter is largely dependent upon another, and to organize our forces in the right way is not only helpful to one but to all engaged in similar work. Then their opposition ceased.’
One of the easiest things in the world, I have found, is prophecy, and there have been a good many prophecies in regard to the Negro. Some persons have said there is no future for the Negro, because in the long run, he cannot compete with the white man, and, as a consequence, in the course of time the Negro will be crowded out of America and forced to go to some other country.
Other persons say that the future is dark for the Negro because, as soon as it appears that the black man is actually able to live and work alongside of the white man in competition for the ordinary forms of labor, racial prejudice will be so intensified that the Negro will be driven out of the country or he will be reduced to some form of industrial servitude and compelled to perform the kind of work that no white man is willing to do.
While the letters I have quoted do not tell the whole story of the Negro and the unions, they at least throw some light upon the value of the predictions to which I have just referred. They indicate, at any rate, that the Negro, as a matter of fact, can and does compete with the white laborer, wherever he has an opportunity to do so. They show also that, on the whole, the effect of this competition is not to increase but to lessen racial prejudice.
It is nevertheless true, that the prejudice of the Negro against the unions, on the one hand, and of the white man against the black, on the other, is used sometimes by the unions to shut the Negro from the opportunity of labor, sometimes by the employer to injure the work of the unions. In the long run, however, I do not believe that, in the struggle between capital and labor, either party is going to let the other use the sentiment of the community in regard to the race question to injure it in an industrial way.
When, for example, the capitalist, as has sometimes happened, says that Negro and white laborers must not unite to organize a labor union, because that would involve ‘social equality,’ or when, as has happened in the past, the white laborer says the Negro shall not work at such and such trades, not because he is not competent to do so, but because he is a Negro, the interest in ‘social equality,’ so far as it refers to those particular matters mentioned, tends to decrease.
So long as there is any honest sentiment in favor of keeping the races apart socially, I do not believe the unions or the public are willingly going to permit individuals to take a dishonest advantage of that sentiment. On the contrary, so far as the labor unions are concerned, I am convinced that these organizations can and will become an important means of doing away with the prejudice that now exists in many parts of the country against the Negro laborer. I believe that they will do this not merely, as Mr. Gompers has said, from ‘principle,’ but because it is to their interest to do so. At present, however, that prejudice exists and it is natural that individuals should make use of it to their own advantage. If proprietors of Negro barber shops seek to prejudice their workmen, as is reported, against the white unions, so that they may pay them less wages, it is likewise true that some white unions take advantage of the existing prejudice wholly to exclude colored men from some of the trades in which they are perfectly competent to work.
There is, in my opinion, need for a campaign of education not only among Negro artisans but among white artisans as well. With every such effort of the labor leaders to create a sentiment among white men, as well as colored, which will permit both races to work together for their common good, I am heartily in sympathy.
In spite of all that has been said to the contrary, we are making progress in the solution of this, as of other problems connected with the relations of the races in this country. To say that we are not is pretty much the same as saying that, in spite of all our efforts, the world is growing worse instead of better. Justice, fair play, and a disposition to help rather than to injure one’s fellow are not only good things in themselves, but in the long run they are the only things that pay, whether in the case of an individual, a group of individuals, or a race.
It seems to me that the letters to which I have referred in this article show clearly that the leaders of the labor organizations fully realize what the masses of laboring men must inevitably come to see, namely, that the future belongs to the man, or the class of men, who seeks his own welfare, not through the injury or oppression of his fellows, but in some form of service to the community as a whole.
Atlantic Monthly, 101 (June, 1913): 757–67.
Just why the Negro Press Association at its last meeting in Nashville made as its main business a slap at unionism among colored people is a question that calls for much pondering. But let no one believe it expresses the opinion of all the colored newspapers.
No one should know better than newspaper men the effect that organization has had upon labor in this country. In setting themselves squarely “against all forms of unionism and economic radicalism” whatever, the executive committee, headed by Editor B. J. Davis, Atlanta, Ga., attempts to yield body and soul to the interests in this country bent on keeping the working class in a state of economic slavery.33
For the last five years there have been insidious influences at work to keep Negroes out of the unions and use them as scabs to retard the progress of unionism. We wonder did not this influence in some way reach the resolutions committee of the Press Association.
The majority of Negroes belong to the working group. Their first battle was to whip union labor into including them into its organization. Now that this has been done it is to the interest of every working man and woman in this country that they join some organized movement to force better wages and better working conditions.
Unionism, organization and the strike might not be the best method, but experience has proved them to be an effective method of loosening the grip of the exploiters. If capital is organized, and it is, the only way to meet it with a fighting chance is with organization. That’s what unionism is.
Baltimore Afro-American, March 14, 1914.
New Orleans, La.
I wrote two letters relative to having a trades council of which I am Secretary of composed of five of the largest colored organizations in the city affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. You wrote me that you would consult with the representatives of labor in my city regarding same. If you will kindly write me what to do, or what can be done, as I have anxiously waited for some information to carry to my body. We are not antagonistic to our white brethren, but only want to be under your protection. We are working in perfect harmony, and have a joint committee between four organizations, Cottonyard Men and Longshoremen Associations.
James Porter, Organizer
Samuel Gompers Letterbooks, Library of Congress.
New Orleans, La.
Dear Sir & Bro.:
I have had some talk with James Porter in regard to organizing a colored central body here. He says he has several organizations ready to organize with, and also that matters can be arranged with the two branches of freight handlers. I am of the opinion that a good central body of colored workers can be organized here in time, but would ask you not to act until I return from Baton Rouge, as I wish to start them right and prevent any conflict between the white and colored associations, which will certainly occur if the proper precautions are not taken. . . .
James Leonard, General Organizer
Samuel Gompers Letterbooks, Library of Congress.
New Orleans, La.
In reply to your letter of April 25th, I desire to state that I have consulted with General Organizer James Leonard and also President Hughes of the Council in my city and they both heartily agree as to the benefits that will be derived in the formation of the Council, and there is fear that we cannot harmoniously work together by having a conference. In regards to the . . . freight handlers . . . I explained to Mr. Leonard that they have ceased to exist and so far as the Union of Longshoremen not being affiliated with the national union, we have the matter under consideration. I can say that the white Longshoremen’s Union, which is part of the white council is not affiliated with the national union. Mr. Hughes the president of the Council is Rec-[ording]Sec[retary] of the white Longshoremen’s Assoc. Mr. Leonard informed me that he would write you. My people are very anxious for the organization of the Council. We are having our regular meeting and I hope you will endeavor to communicate with me as soon as possible regarding the matter pertaining to the formation of the Council because there can be no possible reason for misunderstanding because the best part of the organizations that will be in both Councils are now working jointly together. You will greatly favor me and my associations which I represent if you can answer me before the fourth Sunday in May which is our meeting. Also please send me an organizers outfit as in moving, my folks through mistake in burning up old papers and books, destroyed mine.
Hoping this will straighten matters.
James Porter, Organizer
Samuel Gompers Letterbooks, Library of Congress.
New Orleans, La.
I wrote to say that I have waited and have seen Brother Leonard, and we have talked the matter over relative to the formation of the Council composed of Colored workmen. The Council of whites have not taken any definite action as yet. Bro. Leonard states to me that they will consider same at their next meeting.
My members are very impatient and I cannot understand the remark you made in your letter of May 23 to me that there is no use kicking against the pricks, and we cannot overcome prejudice in a day. I did not understand that there is prejudice where the wages and interest are the same, and can only be upheld by concert[ed] action.
Sir I wish you would tell us something definite as the seven organizations that I am representing are anxious to understand what you will do as they are all in Council, and if they cannot be affiliated, they want to know because I have given them all the information, shown them all your letters.
I have seen the white labor leader Mr. Hughes, the President of the Council, and he is very anxious but it seems that if objections are stated they must come from a few.
You will please write something definite as they meet the fourth Sunday in this month [of] June and I must give them an answer what they can expect in accordance with a motion passed in their meeting.
Hoping to hear from you, I am
Fraternally yours, James Porter, Organizer
Samuel Gompers Letterbooks, Library of Congress.
New Orleans, La.
Dear Sir & Bro.:
Yours of the 18th came to hand some few days ago, and in answer will state that I have been attending to the matter of organizing a C.L.U. [Central Labor Union] of the Colored Workers. The feeling here against a project of this kind is so great that I am afraid it would cause a great deal of trouble at this particular time. At the meeting of the C.L.U. this morning I brought the matter up for the second time and one delegate offered a resolution protesting against having anything to do with the colored workers. After some discussion, however, it was resolved to postpone action in the matter until the next meeting of the Council. In the meantime I was instructed to wait on Porter and get the letters you have written to him on this subject. It is a very delicate question to handle, considering the prejudice that exists here against the negro. I thought at one time that it could be accomplished, but I am very much afraid that the chances are growing worse every day. While I think the Central Union is not acting wisely, at the same time the conditions are such that if they are organized in defiance of them it will result in disorganizing the Central to a great extent. However, I am in hopes that some kind of an agreement may be reached whereby both races will act harmoniously together, but as I said before the chances are very poor at present. I will let you know what action is taken at the next meeting of the Central Union. . . .
James Leonard, General Organizer
Samuel Gompers Letterbooks, Library of Congress.
29. H. H. SPRING TO FRANK MORRISON, DECEMBER 16, 190034
Dear Sir & Bro.:
It’s been some time since you have received a letter from me, about fourteen months ago. I started an agitation here among the colored men in this city when there wasn’t one organization of the building trades in the city at that time. Shortly afterward the white men organized & they all made a demand for the nine hour work day which allmost resulted in a victory for the bosses leaving only two organizations at present working nine hours.
Now there’s one very important question. . . . I want to organize a body of colored carpenters & mechanics under the A.F. of L. & it is essential at this time that they be organized. I have the honor of setting up six colored in this city fourteen months ago & these organizations want to affiliate with the A.F. of L. Should this meet your approval you can send me one blank direct.
H. H. Spring, Organizer
Incoming Correspondence, A.F. of L. Archives.
My dear Sir & Bro.:
As I have been located in Lithonia, Ga., and hold a commission from you as organizer for that locality, is my commission valid at this place? This being my home at present. As I am the only Negro organizer in Georgia it is often that I could be of some benefit in organizing unions among my people in other cities if I was only able to go. What must I do on such occasions?
I am at present president of Laborers Protective Union #8485 and I believe we will make a mark in this city that will be an honor to organized labor though we are Negroes.
Hoping to hear from you soon.
C. H. Blasingame, Organizer
Samuel Gompers Letterbooks, Library of Congress.
St. Louis, Mo.
Dear Sir and Brother:—
Replying to your favor of the 14th ult. I note with pleasure your statement relative to the progress the A.F. of L. has made during the past few years, and hope the time is not far distant when all of the National and International Unions on the Continent, will be affiliated.
In regard to organizing the colored section men. There could be no objections to the A.F. of L. organizing them and educating them along the lines of Trades Unionism. While I consider selling labor a business proposition, I realize that a large percent of our people on the Southern Roads, would refuse to hold membership in their craft Organization, were we to admit the colored men to membership, but the world moves; bye and bye they will adopt practical ideas instead of being governed by race prejudice and local social sentiment that is equally detrimental to white and colored men, who are compelled to sell their labor for a living. . . .
John T. Wilson,
International Brotherhood of
Incoming Correspondence, A.F.L. Archives.
Dear Sir & Bro.:
I have your favor of July 7th informing me that you have received an application for a charter from Moberly, Mo. from a union of colored men with just enough members to secure a charter, that is seven, and one of the applicants is a painter.
I also note you state that Organizer Willott of Moberly, who forwarded the application states that there is no objection upon the part of the Local Unions in the trades at which these men are employed, to their organizing in direct affiliation with the A.F. of L., and you have the assurance that if there are no objection upon the part of our Local Union in the city of Moberly to the admitting of the colored painter in the Federal Labor Union, we have no objections at these offices.
I am of the opinion, however, that by admitting this colored painter to a Federal Labor Union, it will cause some trouble for our members there, as he would put up the claim that he was a union man affiliated with the A.F. of L. and entitled to all the privileges with the right to work upon any job regardless of where it may be, or who were employed thereon. If he becomes a member of the Federal Labor Union, he will certainly be required to demand the same scale of wages which is paid to our Local Union in the city of Moberly, Mo.
J. C. Skemp,
Brotherhood of Painters,
Decorators, and Paperhangers
Incoming Correspondence, A.F.L. Archives.
I am in receipt of information from the Tobacco Workers’ International Union, to the effect that they have been endeavoring for some time to have your firm agree to unionize its establishment, but thus far you have been disinclined to consider the proposition favorably, as your employes are mostly colored, and you are under the impression that they are incapable of assuming the responsibility of a Union. I beg to state, however, in this regard, that there are a number of firms in your industry employing colored labor, conducting union establishments on an entirely satisfactory basis. While there may be an irresponsible element among this class, yet this fact should all the more urge the advisability of organizing them. A well-ordered union seeks to establish the highest satisfactory relations between a firm and its employes, and the existence of agreements, which it is the aim of a union to place in operation, restrains the employes from precipitous action, and thus insures the firm against strikes. Further, these locals are subject to the laws of the International Organization, the officers of which exercise a supervision and care to see that the locals live up to their agreements, and to have the members realize their full duty to the firm, as employes.
It is the object of the American Federation of Labor to organize the wage workers, irrespective of class, race, or creed; and as the competition of colored labor in all fields of industry is steadily growing, it has been necessary to give special consideration to the organization of this class, and provision is made for the formation of separate unions to comprise colored workers exclusively, where it is deemed to the best interests of the trade union movement to do so.
While of course this letter is written in the interest of the Tobacco Workers’ International Union, which is engaged in the effort to promote the general welfare of the workers of the craft throughout the country, yet if your firm will give an opportunity to the officers of this organization to take this matter up with you, I have no doubt that they will be able to fully demonstrate the advantages of such a step from the standpoint of the interests of your firm.
Trusting that you will see your way clear to give this your favorable consideration, and thus actively manifest your sympathy with the cause of labor, I am,
Samuel Gompers, President,
American Federation of Labor
Samuel Gompers Letterbooks, Library of Congress.
EDITOR AMERICAN FEDERATIONIST:
After spending four months of active work in the south, I feel that I am in a position to appreciate the condition of the general movement in that section of the country.
The international organizations have paid little and in some instances no attention to the south, treating that territory as though it were a plague-striken spot, and where organization does exist there it is maintained in the face of heavy odds.
There is no section of the country that needs organization more, or where the crafts are more willing to organize, than in the south. Nor is there anywhere any class of laboring men or women who think more of their organization, or who adhere more strictly to the principles of trade unionism, than our southern trade unionists. Not only are few attempts made to organize the unorganized, but frequently we find locals rather neglected by their internationals.
The existing conditions are assuming dangerous proportions, and unless some decided effort is made by our international unions to organize the south the entire movement in that section will be seriously jeopardized.
There is another matter of grave importance to this section which should receive consideration. That is the organization of the negroes. The trade union movement of today specifically declares against discrimination on account of creed, color, or nationality.
It is well to impress upon the international organizations the fact that the greatest competition we have in this section is the negro. In many instances the negroes are skilled workmen and unorganized. This places a dangerous weapon in the hands of the employer.
I trust the question of the organization of the south will receive the careful consideration of the international organizations, and that shortly steps will be taken to build up and strengthen the trade union movement of the southern states.
GEORGE B. SQUIRES
American Federationist (June, 1904): 507.
The speaker declared he was always ready to assert his patriotism on behalf of the colored man, saying: “Tis true that some white men have been angered at the introduction of black strikebreakers. I have stood as a champion of the colored man and have sacrificed self and much of the movement that the colored man should get a chance. But the Caucasians are not going to let their standard of living be destroyed by negroes, Chinamen, Japs, or any other.”
American Federationist (September, 1905), p. 636.
P. Abner, a colored delegate from Groveton Federal Labor Union No. 11,444, and the only one in the convention, gave the convention a touch of flowery oratory and then settled down to a recital in terse diction, of great interest to the convention, of the virtual chattel slavery conditions which today afflict labor in the piney wood of Texas. He said wages average from 80 to 90 cents per day. That since the visit of Organizer C. W. Woodman the bosses had given up the metal check system and now issued a paper check for wages which is discounted 10 per cent for merchandise and 12-1/2 per cent for cash. The speaker said the Negro, when organized, is a loyal union man. He has nothing but his labor power to sell and in that way he is equal to any other laborer with naught but muscle. In cities where organized, the Negro will stay out in labor trouble until starvation comes to him and his family to protect the white union man’s cause. He said that in the piney woods now the married men of that section during the winter never see their wives and children as the hours of labor are so long. He offered some strong resolutions dealing with the labor question in the lumber camps.
Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Convention of the Texas State Federation of Labor, 1904, p. 32.
Mr. Lawhon: I would like to say a word in behalf of these colored members of Denison. They are the only colored league in the State, and I suppose in the United States. They are doing good work, and I want to say that I believe they are doing better than our white league. This man has attended conventions and paid his own expenses, and he has also organized unions,—five, I believe —in the last year. I would like to see this convention help the negroes to organize all over this country, and in this State especially. We have these colored workers, and we ought to have them in an organization. It is going to take time to do it. It is going to take education. We must first educate them up to what organization can do for them. At the present time there are so many of them, and they take striking workers’ places. We should assist them to do what we can. Now, we have another colored organization in Denison, the Barbers. I tried to get them to send a delegate down here. They promised me they would, but so far they have not sent him. I think this convention should seriously consider the organization of the Negroes. Whenever they come to your city, help them out in every way you can. If it is within the province of this convention, I would like to see some means adopted whereby we could arrange to give financial assistance in organizing our colored workers.
Proceedings of the Fourteenth Annual Convention of the Texas State Federation of Labor, 1911, p. 48.
Report of B. F. Shearod, general organizer for the Black Workers of Texas to the Fifteenth Annual Convention of the Texas State Federation of Labor, 1912
“This makes the fifth time I have attended the convention. I have attended them regularly every year since I have been in the work. I am going to lay down my life for my race. I was raised in the white people’s houses. I am certainly glad that I have lasted until now. Since I have been serving in the labor movement I find that everything that is produced is produced by labor. I wish to say that my race of people are in bad condition.”
He then thanked the convention for what the Federation had done for him in the past, and expressed the hope that it would continue to assist him in the future
Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Convention of the Texas State Federation of Labor, 1912, p. 61.
A resolution presented to the Seventeenth Annual Convention of the Texas State Federation of Labor, 1914
Whereas, The Legislature of the State of Texas has passed the separate coach law of this State prohibiting whites and blacks from riding together upon the common carriers of this State, namely, railroads, and street cars; and
Whereas, The law is plain and explicit in saying that equal accommodations are to be given to both races alike, which means equal rights; and
Whereas, This part of the law is not being enforced in regards to the Negro traveler, not even when the lawmakers or railroad commissioners’ attention are called to this fact, but on the contrary, are continually forcing the Negro and his family to ride in smoking cars and day coaches, and charging him at the same time the same percentage per mile as is charged the white brother who is at liberty to ride in chair cars and sleeping cars and on street cars alike in all of the cities of this State, which under the law and according to our fares charged, should be given us also if the law stands for anything at all which law applies to both races alike.
First, as a Negro, second, as a citizen, qualified under the laws of this State and on behalf of Local No. 851, of which I am a member and a delegate, we denounce such actions as are forced upon us in regards to our railroad accommodations, not only upon the common carriers, but at the railroad stations, restaurants, ticket offices, waiting rooms throughout this State, and ask the cooperation of this convention to assist us in removing these evils that are not in keeping with the State law.
We are not asking the elimination of the separate coach law, we rather prefer it; but only want equal accommodations in all departments in order to provide comfort to ourselves and families when traveling, and especially when we are charged the same per cent per mile to travel.
In the street cars of this State, there are no partitions used, but signs; this is done in order to cut the expense of the company and is not in keeping with the law. As Negroes, we are forced to fill in from the back seats, while our white brother is allowed to sit all over the car, notwithstanding the city ordinance is based upon the State law, which requires that both white and black fill from each end to the center of the car.
Therefore, be it
Resolved, That our labor representative at Austin or those who are asking the support of the laboring people in the future of this State and who will also pledge themselves to this convention to look after the interest of labor and the laborers in general along all lines, be instructed to urge, and if possible enforce this law for the people and by the people of this State.
Samuel T. Browning, Delegate Local No. 851, Galveston;
Monroe Brown, Bar Porters Union Delegate, Local No. 873, Waco.
Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual Convention of the Texas State Federation of Labor, 1914, pp. 114–15.
A report by B. F. Shearod, Negro organizer for the American Federation of Labor, to the Eighteenth Convention of the Texas State Federation of Labor
Mr. President, Officers and Delegates: I beg to submit the following report:
What I want to say I cannot say it. I would like the best in the world to be in this convention, then I could speak for myself. But I am grateful for the fair amount of support I received from the Waco and Austin Trades Councils. So now I want this body to know that I am a union man, and will be until death.
The Waco convention adopted a resolution to help me organize my people in Texas. I have never got any support from it yet, so now if that be true look it up and see if you can give me a little support. You can find that resolution on page 48 in the proceedings of the Fourteenth Annual Convention that was held at Waco, Texas, April 5, 1911. I ask this convention to take the matter up with the American Federation of Labor. I can do much good with a little help. I have two or three unions on the way in Austin, but I am not able to be there now. It is going to take some time to educate my race to let them know what organization can do for them. So now I ask this convention to receive this little report, and think my condition over. With best wishes, I am, fraternally yours,
B. F. Shearod, Organizer A.F. of L., Waco, Texas
Proceedings of the Eighteenth Annual Convention of the Texas State Federation of Labor, 1915, p. 122.
A resolution presented to the Eighteenth Annual Convention of the Texas State Federation of Labor, 1915
Whereas, Most Hod Carrier Unions of the State of Texas have been having such hard times to be properly recognized: We take this method of calling it to the attention of those who are interested in Unionism.
It is not a question of race or color. As a citizen qualified under the laws of this State and in behalf of Local No. 268 of Hod Carriers, of which I am a member and a delegate to this convention; as a Union Organization, founded from the International standpoint, and being affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, we denounce such actions that are forced upon us, for we have not yet received a square deal along these lines according to the stipulated rules of Unionism.
Be it resolved, That our delegates should be seated in the Central Body as all other central bodies recognize the same. We think we are entitled to the same recognition.
We have sent a committee to the Building Trades Council at three different times from about May 1st to July 1st, 1914, with fees of $1 per month to pay monthly dues, but were refused at each time.
We Pray this convention will give this matter their earnest consideration.
G. W. Jones, Delegate of Local No. 268
I.H.C.B. and C.L.U. of A.
Referred to Grievance Committee.
Committee recommends that this resolution be referred back to Local No. 268 of the Hod Carriers, with instructions to take the matter up with the American Federation of Labor through their International Union.
Proceedings of the Eighteenth Annual Convention of the Texas State Federation of Labor, 1915, p. 105.
A resolution presented to the Nineteenth Annual Convention of the Texas State Federation of Labor, 1916
Resolution No. 52 was reported by the Resolutions Committee and, there being no objection to the report, same stood adopted. Said resolution and report are as follows:
To the Officers and Members of the Texas State Federation of Labor here assembled, Greetings:
We, the colored delegations from various parts of the State for the betterment of union labor feel that this convention should go on record as placing a colored organizer in the field.
Whereas, In the competitive field of Texas this means there is a trend at all times toward lowering the standard of living, the standard of wages and the standard of hours; be it
Resolved, That the Texas State Federation of Labor, in nineteenth convention assembled, appoint one organizer of this race, who shall be regularly employed for a period of twelve months, this in order for the benefit accruing from the organizations of the colored race be carried into every community where such wage earners may be found.
We, your committee, beg to recommend that every effort be made by the incoming executive board to assist the colored brothers in their efforts.
Report of committee adopted.
Proceedings of the Nineteenth Annual Convention of the Texas State Federation of Labor, 1916, p. 93.
By Oscar Ameringer35
Work in breweries is slack in winter, heavy in summer; work on the levees, or docks, is heavy in winter and slack in summer, so many dock workers found employment in breweries during the summer, while many brewery workers were to be found at the docks in winter. Out of this situation developed the exchange of union cards. By simply depositing his dock worker’s card with the Brewery Workers’ Union, the dock worker became a brewery worker in good standing and entitled to all the rights. By the same token, brewery workers who deposited their cards with dock unions became dock workers in good standing.
The Brewery Workers Union, true to its international faith, admitted Negroes, although up to then all A.F. of L. international unions, except the United Mine Workers, barred them. There was one other exception. On the docks of New Orleans, Negro unions affiliated with the A.F. of L. had reached a working agreement with white unions affiliated with the A.F. of L. They had, after many bitter struggles, been driven together by the inexorable law of survival. At one time the whites had owned virtually all the jobs on the docks. The all-white port bosses had broken one of their strikes by the importation of Negro strike breakers from cotton and sugarcane fields of the Delta. Thereafter Negroes held the dock jobs. Now Negroes certainly have stomachs just like white folk, and these stomachs, strange as it may seem, preferred chicken to swine’s bosom. So when the blacks had established their monopoly on dock jobs they banded together in unions and struck for chicken.
When the Negroes struck, the cry went up from the white man’s sanctum, rostrum and pulpit: “White-men, assert your supremacy, rescue your jobs from the niggers,” and the white dock workers asserted their supremacy by scabbing and breaking the strike. This went on until both whites and blacks got down to sow-belly wages. In one of the last of these affairs, the white-supremacy strikers killed some ninety black strike breakers, whereupon the white-supremacy militia of white-supremacy Louisiana shot hell out of a similar number of white supremacy strikers.
The upshot of the shooting was that whites and blacks agreed to quit scabbing on each other, to recognize one another’s unions, and go fifty-fifty on dock jobs.
Now the united black, white and yellow brothers were striking for chicken by way of a minimum wage of five dollars a day. The all-important task in this situation was to preserve the newly gained solidarity of the strikers. And as I the red-hot internationalist, had no prejudice against the black brethren, but, on the contrary, liked them, the board of strategy delegated to me the task of keeping the black boys in line.
What a book, what a whole library of enlightenment that experience was to me! It gave me my first insight into the true nature of the thing called the race problem. Among the many, many things I learned was that these black men were men even as you and I. Beneath their black skins beat the same ‘ hearts, gnawed the same hunger, circulated the same blood. Below their kinky hair lodged the same dreams, longings and aspirations. Like you and me, they sought pleasure and evaded pain. What they asked from life was living. Happiness within four walls, a loving mate, children, and the chance to rear them better than they had been reared. Health, laughter, beauty, peace, plenty, a modest degree of security in sickness and age.
Some were good, some bad; some stupid, some crooked. They were wise and foolish; there were heroes and cowards. Most of them were a combination of all these faults and virtues. Each had inside him his inherited angel and devil warring for supremacy.
The Negroes were more easily moved to song and laughter than their white fellow slaves. Beneath their monkeyshines was the wisdom born of suffering. For the submerged, it is wiser to amuse than to assert. Mentally they were the equal of the white strikers, and by the way, let me caution the reader that the poor whites of the South are not mentally inferior to other people. They often lack the balanced and sufficient diet to develop the energy and health required to withstand languor and disease, but mentally they are no more inferior to the average American than Swedes are to Norwegians, or vice versa. In some respects the blacks even surpassed the whites on their own economic level. Rules of the union required recipients of strike benefits to sign their names beside the amount stated on the books. And on those books I found a smaller percentage of “his mark” among the black strikers than among the whites.
One of my duties was to visit the Negro union in their own labor temple and urge them to hold out until victory was achieved. There was, let me say, considerably less danger of the Negroes deserting the whites than of the whites deserting the blacks. However, the white end was in other hands.
The Negro unions were conducted on the pattern of secret lodges. There was a great deal of ritualism to be observed. Coming to the door, behind which the union was in session, I would rap three times. A shutter would open. Through the round opening, two large white eyeballs and a husky voice would inquire who was the stranger knocking at the door, and what was his mission? The stranger was not a newcomer. The large white eyeballs had often beheld him through the same round opening.
There followed some sharp knocks on an inner door. More mysterious whispering. By and by, someone gave a little marble-topped table a number of sharp knocks with a wooden gavel, and shortly thereafter, four guards armed with long spears appeared at the outer gate and escorted me into the inner sanctuary. On my arrival in front of the presiding high mogul, the congregation arose. The mogul ceremoniously introduced the visiting brother to the audience for the ninth time, and I started to speak.
As the audience warmed up, there came responses such as “Now he’s talking, now he’s talking. Tell ‘em. Tell ‘em.” Their responses were harmonized somewhat in the manner of Negro spirituals. An eerie picture, these chanting black men, their white eyeballs shining under flickering gas jets. But once I heard them chanting, I knew they would stick for another week. Their unionism was far more than a matter of hours and wages. It was a religion, and their only hope of rising from the depths of a slavery more cruel in many respects than chattel slavery. For dock work is back-breaking work. It wears men out rapidly, is extremely seasonal, and at the wages these black men received before unionism came to their rescue, their standard of living was but little, if any, above that of the chattel slave. What emancipation had given them in mobility it had taken from them in security.
It was a good strike, as strikes go. There were a few breaks on the part of the white men; none on the Negro side. The railroad companies hauled in strike breakers in great numbers, but as fast as the railroad companies brought them in on the cushions, the railroad workers sent them out in box car and caboose on passes secured from the strike committee. Passes bore the inscription, “This is to certify that the bearer of this card was brought to New Orleans on the promise of a legitimate job. Discovering on his arrival that he was to act as strike breaker, he refused. We kindly ask all good union brothers to assist him in returning to his home in ______ .”
Most of the strike breakers came from the slums of northern cities, mainly Chicago. They were recruited from the human flotsam around the cheap employment agencies, in flop houses, Salvation headquarters and jails. There were some professional thugs and strike breakers supplied by the Thiel, Pinkerton, and Burns detective agencies, but the bulk of them was composed of unfortunate men to whom most any job anywhere held out the promise of three meals per.
The method by which some of these people were hired is illustrated by the following case. The I. C. Railroad had brought in a large consignment of “American heroes,” as President Eliot of Harvard had termed the most miserable of all Americans. In order to prevent contact between the new arrivals and the strikers, the “heroes” had been interned on a steamer anchored in the middle of the Mississippi River and after some days of confinement they got out of hand and were landed under police protection. Among that terrible, ragged, ill-smelling, unwashed rabble I spotted a small, delicate man, wholly unfit for dock work. He stank to high heaven, and his face had not seen a razor for some days, but his clothes were whole and there was no question but that they had been made by an excellent tailor. I was interested in the prospective dock walloper in tailor-made clothes, and asked him how he happened to get mixed up with that crowd.36
“How did I get mixed up with that bunch of bums?” he burst out in broken English. “That’s what I want to know. I’m from Chicago. I’m a respectable married man, with a wife and three kids. I own my own home. I’m a cutter in the most fashionable merchant-tailor establishment in Chicago, and here I am with that lousy, stinking bunch of hoboes to do what? Work on the docks loading ships—to break a strike? Me loading ships—me a strike breaker! Me, secretary of my union! Me, a class-conscious proletarian member of the Socialist Party! Me breaking a strike!”
The indignation of the good fellow was refreshing. As I pieced his story together in the nearest restaurant, the man had attended a birthday party. He must have drunk a little too much, as he put it. Something must have happened to him on his way home, for when he came to, he was in jail. Then, before he could collect his badly befuddled wits to ask for a lawyer or notify his people, the cops had loaded him and his jailmates into a closed van, pushed and jostled them into a waiting train, and here he was. In the process, somebody, in all likelihood the Chicago cops, had relieved my socialist comrade and union brother of purse, watch and chain. He gratefully accepted the few dollars I offered him for a shave and bath and to wire to his no doubt distracted spouse for transportation. He waited at the telegraph office for the reply, identified by the name and address he had luckily sewed in the breast pocket of his tailor-made coat, repaid the few dollars, and we parted auf baldiges Wiedersehen. . . .
The agreement between the black and white dock unions stipulated an equal division of jobs. This included equal wages and working conditions for both races. But the white and black unions still met in separate places, and out of this developed misunderstanding and friction. A unifying central body was needed in which both races were represented. Thus the Dock and Cotton Council came into existence, a representative body composed of an equal number of white and black delegates.
The seventy-two delegates, half white, half black, represented thirty-six unions of dock workers. And just as jobs on the docks had been divided fifty-fifty, between the races, so the offices of the Dock and Cotton Council were divided fifty-fifty. Delegates addressed each other as “brother.” The division of officers was on the following order: President—white, Vice-President—black; Financial Secretary—white; Corresponding secretary—black; and so on. At each annual election, the rotation of officers was reversed. From which it may be gathered that everything was done to preserve the equality and solidarity of the central body and to prevent friction between the two races. This was not a question of either social or political equality. Its basis was economic equality. The driving force was neither idealism nor sentimentalism, it was necessity. The two races could fight each other and go down together; or help each other and rise together. They preferred to rise together. The eternal urge for life, liberty and happiness had driven these men together and wiped out the Jim Crow law in the chief centers of their lives—working place and union hall.
Somewhere in the second month of the nine-week dock strike the legislature of Louisiana appointed a committee of eight to meet a committee of eight to be selected, or elected, by the Dock and Cotton Council, to find a basis for settling the strike. The legislative committee was composed of four members of the lower and four members of the upper house. The committee finally elected by the Dock and Cotton Council was composed of four white and four black brothers.
The hew and cry that followed the announcement of the make-up of the workers’ delegation came near to bringing the stars in their courses to fall on Louisiana.
“What! Meet with niggers in the same room, around the same table, discussing a problem concerning the superior race exclusively?” Was it not terrible enough to meet common dock wallopers, water rats, white trash, in the same room, around the same table, to discuss as equals—well, almost equals—the weal and the woes of an industry in which the workers had not invested a red cent? Was it not terrible enough that men could no longer run their own business as they saw fit? Now that riffraff had the effrontery to ask white gentlemen, honorable law makers of the great State of Louisiana, to meet with “niggers” in the same room, around the same table!
The real purpose of this turmoil was to destroy the solidarity of the two races. With sixteen white men behind closed doors and thousands of unrepresented Negroes on the outside, what could be easier than to make a deal on the inside leaving the blacks on the outside for keeps? What could be easier for the emissaries of the employers than to spread the idea among the blacks on the outside that they were being sold out by the conspiracy of white men behind closed doors? Isn’t the Negro always sold out when white men put their heads together? Don’t be fools, black men. Get your jobs back before those white men behind closed doors take yours. And hurry—hurry!
The Dock and Cotton Council stood pat. It had learned by bitter experience that once the two races permitted themselves to be divided, their strike was lost.
In an effort to persuade the council to withdraw the four Negro delegates, Mayor Baerman had appeared at one of its meetings. Mayor Baerman was well liked in labor circles. He had been fair to Labor. He made a subtle approach in this speech. To begin with, he had not come as the representative of the harbor bosses. He spoke for the city of New Orleans, at large. The whole population was suffering grievously on account of the strike. Tens of millions of dollars had already been lost to capital, labor and business in general. The great port of New Orleans was in danger of losing its position of importance in the United States. Shipping was being diverted to other ports. The loss inflicted might well cripple New Orleans for all time to come.37
He had no prejudice against Negroes. (I believe Mayor Baerman spoke the truth. He was a Jew, and there are no other people, unless it be the French, less susceptible to that particular aberration.) It was not the fault of the Negroes, the Mayor went on, that they were in this country. It is not their fault that they worked on the docks. White men had imported them in previous dock strikes to break the strikes of white dock workers. They had as much right to make a living as other people. They were hard-working, law-abiding folk and entitled to the same wages and working hours as white men performing the same labor. He was not asking the white delegates of the Council to withdraw the four black delegates. He asked the black men present to sacrifice their representation temporarily, in order that the peace, tranquility and prosperity of New Orleans might be restored.
The audience listened attentively to the plea of Mayor Baerman, and at its conclusion warmly applauded the speaker. A Negro delegate arose, asked for the privilege of the floor, and moved to reconsider the previous action, that is, the selection of the four Negroes. Another Negro delegate seconded the motion. In the discussion that followed, every white speaker declared himself opposed to the withdrawal of the four Negroes. Only a few Negroes had spoken in favor of it. There was no need for a roll call. The motion for reconsideration was almost unanimously defeated. All white men present had voted nay, and only a few Negroes had voted aye, some of those merely as a matter of confidence in the sincerity of the white brothers.
Shortly after this amazing exhibition of solidarity, the committee of eight selected by the legislature met with the committee of four white and four black dock workers elected by the Dock and Cotton Council.
In the capacity of editor of The Labor World and chief scribe of the great strike, I attended most of the meetings of the Committee of Sixteen. The outstanding personalities at those meetings were three: Ellis, a mulatto; State Senator Cordell; and Dan Scully, president of the longshoremen’s union, a red-headed Irishman in every sense of the word.
Ellis stood no more than five-feet-five and weighed about a hundred and ten. In his youth he had been a jockey and in that capacity had seen much of the world. When he had become too heavy for jockeying, a disaster which overtook him during a European tour, he secured a job on one of the boats of the Hamburg-American Line. His intention had been to desert after landing in God’s Country, but liking his job, and having no other in prospect, he had stuck. Later he had become a member of the German Seamen, the reddest of the German unions, had acquired a fair smattering of German, and more than a fair understanding of the Communist Manifesto. He had swallowed whole the theory of the class struggle and uncompromisingly regarded the Gompers notion of the identity of interest between capital and labor as high treason to the proletariat of the world.38
Dan Scully’s outstanding characteristics were a good dash of Irish wit coupled with an uncontrollable temper and an ingrown hatred of bosses, irrespective of race, nationality, religion, and state of moral turpitude.
Senator Cordell was the composite portrait of the Kentucky Colonel seen in whiskey advertisements. He was topped by a shock of beautiful silvery hair. He sported a silvery mustache and goatee. He had a florid complexion, suffered from high blood pressure, fell frequently into the role of Shakespearian hero, such as Mark Antony declaiming over the body of Caesar, and for the balance had a temper as uncontrollable as that of Longshoreman Scully, though somewhat more culturally restrained. The scene most frequently enacted by the three leading characters was something like this:
Senator Cordell, violently rising from his chair at the conference table, violently tearing his hair, and violently striding around the conference room:
“The ideah! The ve’y ideah! White men conspirin’ with niggas against the honah and prosper’ty of the gre-at po’t of N’yol’ns; against the honoah and prosper’ty of the gre-at State of Louisianah itself! The ideah, the ve’y ideah, white gen’lemen of honah compelled to heckle like penny-pinchin’ tradas ovah a few pennies mo’hless with a pa’cel o’ watah rats and niggas. Ah shall not continya this disgra-ceful, shameless bickerin’ fo’ anotha second. I am leaving. . . .”
Ellis: “Please sit down, Senator. We’re not here to save the honor and prosper’ty of the great State of Louisiana. We is here to settle the strike. That’s what they sent you down here for. Your job is to see to it that we work the longest possible hours at the least possible pay. Our job is to make your crowd pay us the highest possible wages for the lowest possible amount of work. Let’s get down to business. What’s more, we’ve won the strike already, else you gentlemen wouldn’t be here to talk compromise, honor, and prosperity.”
Dan Scully: “Oh, we’re water rats, are we? And white trash, are we? But you can’t run your goddam port without us. Can you? I guess before long you’ll call us nigger lovers, too. Maybe you want to know next how I would like it if my sister married a nigger? Well, go ahead ask me. But take it from me, I wasn’t always a nigger lover. I fought in every strike to keep the niggers off the dock. I fought until in the white-supremacy strike your white supremacy governor sent his white-supremacy militia down here and shot us white-supremacy strikers full of holes. You talk about us conspiring with niggers against the honor and prosperity of the state. But let me tell you and your gang, there was a time I wouldn’t even work beside a nigger. You got ‘em on the loose. You made me work with niggers, eat with niggers, sleep with niggers, drink out of the same water bucket with niggers, and finally got me to the place where if one of them comes to me and blubbers something about more pay, I say, ‘Come on, nigger, let’s go after the white bastards.’”
Oscar Ameringer, If You Don’t Weaken: The Autobiography of Oscar Ameringer (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1940), pp. 195–201, 214–19.
Nearly 10,000 Men Quit Work Last Evening Under the Cotton Council Order
Central Body, After Stormy Session, Determined to Call Out All Dock Workers
Beginning of the Great Struggle for the Parity of This Port Among Shipping
Ship Agents Will Import Men to Work Vessels and City and State Authorities Asked to Provide Protection
NUMBER OF MEN INVOLVED
The levee troubles culminated yesterday afternoon in the Dock and Cotton Council ordering a general strike, and the order became effective at 6 o’clock last evening, at the hour when the men usually knock off from the day’s toil.
It marked the real beginning of a struggle which may prove the battling of powerful forces, and which may be protracted until one side or the other is forced to acknowledge itself beaten, thoroughly beaten.
The levee presented an unusual scene when the men quit work at dusk. Policemen were everywhere, and the Screwmen, already out, were standing at the corners of the streets which begin close to the wharf, in knots and bunches. The sailors were lining the taffrails of the vessels tied to the docks, private watchmen were taking their posts around stacks of tarpaulin-covered cotton, and the picture, to those familiar with conditions, suggested preparations for the combat.
The Dock and Cotton Council’s defiance is being met by complete preparations on the part of the steamship agents and stevedores to have this vast work on the levee done by non-union labor. The Illinois Central Railroad Company is standing with the agents and stevedores, and will have all the men needed to do the work at the Stuyvesant Docks, and, all things considered, the fight was practically on yesterday.
The Dock and Cotton Council went into session at 10 o’clock yesterday forenoon, at Screwmen’s Hall, Exchange Alley and Bienville Street. There were present representatives from all the unions affiliated, the two Screwmen bodies, the two Longshoremen, the two Cotton Yardmen, the Teamsters, the Coal Wheelers, the Stave Classers, the Cotton Markers and inspectors, and the Scale Hands, and the delegates before going into session stood in groups in the alley, discussing the alarming situation.
James Byrnes, President of the Council and President of the Screwmen, was in the chair, and after calling the meeting to order he explained the object of the special session. Mr. Byrnes very carefully went over the situation, and in conclusion laid the case before the delegates. General discussion followed, and all of those speaking, with the exception of two, advocated
A GENERAL TYING UP
of the Levee. Delegate Ellis, of the negro Longshoremen, took a determined stand against a general strike, and boldly voiced his opinions, although some of the delegates endeavored to hush him up. Delegate Ellis contended that a general strike would be disastrous to the port and that it would entail suffering on thousands.
A well-known cotton yardman spoke against the general strike move, seeking to protect the interests of his employers, who were in no way responsible for the course the agents were taking against the Screwmen, and with whom the men had always maintained friendly relations.
After the discussion had lasted several hours the question to strike or not to strike was put to the house through a resolution offered by a delegate not a member of the Screwmen. The resolution was offered in writing and was lengthy and well worded. President Byrnes called for a vote and the radicals won by 9 1–2 to 2 1–2. The half votes are represented by splits in individual union delegations. The Cotton Yardmen and the Stave Classers cast the negative votes, and all the other representatives cast affirmative ballots.
After the determination had been reached to call the strike the question of when the walkout should become effective was briefly discussed. As three of the steamship lines were already working their sailors, and other lines were to begin in the morning, it was decided to strike against all the ship agents and stevedores who had not or would not sign up with the Screwmen on their second demand of 160 bales a day for gangs of five, at $31 a gang. Some were in favor of declaring the general strike Monday morning, but it was pointed out that by that time the strikebreakers would have arrived and they would be practically locked out all along the line.
The meeting adjourned and the delegates came downstairs, disbursing in groups and pairs, and left the vicinity. The men seemed to be in the best of spirits and
ALL WERE OPTIMISTIC
and confident of final victory. None of those approached would make a statement or say what had been done at the meeting, but the facts gradually filtered out, and soon it was known in Carondelet Street, where the ship agents and stevedores have their headquarters, and all over the city.
Delegate Ellis, of the negro longshoremen, although opposed to a general strike, voted with his union to tie up the levee, sacrificing his own views to the sentiments of the majority. President Byrnes had no statement to give out. He said that the employers, and not the men, had forced the issue and that the men would hold out to the last, believing that they had right and justice on their side. Mr. Byrnes reiterated that the screwmen and other laborers would remain within the law and do nothing toward interfering with any labor the bosses might secure.
“All this talk about what the screwmen and the rest of us will do when strikebreakers come to town is nonsense,” declared Mr. Byrnes. “We intend to stand to one side and do nothing, and if there is any disturbance it will not be of our making.”
Mr. Byrnes repeated that he thought the screwmen had been unjustly criticised and called bad names when they had done absolutely nothing to deserve it.
Another prominent member of the Dock and Cotton Council, when seen, said: “If the steamship agents and stevedores think that by importing strikebreakers they are going to drive the men to start a riot they will be fooled. We are not going in for any kind of violence, but during the period of enforced idleness we will get along as best we can and have our little outings and pleasures. Sometimes strikebreakers themselves start a row and blame it on the workmen. Well, we are going to guard against the possibility of any deal of that sort as best we can.”
held several meetings yesterday with Mr. Ross of the Head Line, in the chair. The meetings were all executive, but it is understood that the employers perfected their plans for having their ships loaded and unloaded.
Mr. Ross gave out the statement last evening that the ship agents were not going to have their ships lie idle at the wharves, and that provisions had been made to do the loading and unloading. From an official source it was ascertained that an order had been placed with the Pinkerton and Thiel Agencies in Chicago for 500 men to start loading and unloading the ships tied at the wharves Monday morning.
The men, with a sufficient guard to protect them, will leave Chicago tonight in all probability, and reach Harahan Sunday night. At Harahan they will be placed aboard a ship on which they will be lodged during their stay in the city, and Monday morning brought down to the docks. The men will be first placed where they are most needed, and will gradually be distributed to the different ships which are waiting either to receive or discharge freight.
It was also learned that the same agencies, the
PINKERTONS AND THIELS
are ready to furnish an additional thousand laborers if they are needed. The imported men will be used until confidence is restored and the agents are able to get local laborers to take their places. The men furnished by the agencies will be returned to the places from which they shipped as soon as the strike is over.
Nearly all of the ships at the wharves will start work this morning with their crews, and any outside labor that the stevedores are able to secure. It is not thought however, that just at the present local labor will be plentifully secured, as some doubt exists as to the expressed docility of the screwmen and of the ability of the police to protect non-union labor.
Mr. Delphine Vila, agent for Spanish ships, started to load the Juan Forges at Third Street, yesterday, with the vessel’s crew. In three-quarters of a day the sailors put aboard 510 bales of cotton, some of it screwed, equal to an average of 170 bales a day, in gangs of five. The Juan Forges will continue to load today with her sailors.
Mr. Vila is seriously considering sending his other ship, the Wilferdo, to Galveston, and sent a telegram to the Island City yesterday making inquiries.
Mr. Cosulich’s Austro-American Line boat, the Eugenia, in the past four days has
STOWED 4,000 BALES
of cotton with her crew, directed by Mr. Terrence Smith, the stevedore; Mr. Smith found that the sailors worked very well indeed, and, as green hands, clearly demonstrated that an average of 200 bales a day to gangs of five was easy.
Mr. J. B. Honor finished the United Fruit Company ship Ellis yesterday with union longshoremen, and and was working the Norheim, and the Principessa Laetitia, consigned to Mr. Hendren’s Texas Transport and Terminal Company, with the same labor, the ships taking only general cargoes.
Although Mr. Honor has not attempted to load cotton the longshoremen with whom he signed a three years’ contract, even before the settlement of the longshoremen’s troubles, several weeks ago, will refuse to work for him today, and he will have to use the ships’ crews and what outside labor he can secure.
Mr. W. J. Kearney started to work the Ballaura, a Harrison Line ship, at Stuyvesant docks with sailors yesterday, stowing cotton. The Ballaura needs 1,000 bales to complete her cargo. Mr. Kearney will start on the Mechanician today with sailors, stowing 1,500 bales of cotton and 1,000 casks of tobacco. Mr. Kearney, who is one of the best posted men on levee conditions in the city, was well satisfied with the work of the sailors.
The Malin Head, one of the Head Line boats, lying at Eighth Street, began taking cotton with her crew yesterday, and the longshoremen knocked off not only on her, but on the Angola, another of Mr. Ross’ ships, which was taking general cargo as well.
The steamer Success has been worked by Stevedore Peters at Chalmette, discharging coal, for the past four days. On the Head ships the Harrison ships and at other points as well, where it was known sailors were to be employed today,
THE COTTON TEAMSTERS
and the freight handlers refused to work.
As the freight handlers employed by the Illinois Central Railroad at Stuyvesant docks will not work today the Company will bring down from Harahan, where they have been housed for several days, between four and five hundred working men, to take the strikers places. The Stuyvesant docks will be carefully guarded by the railroad specials from now on until the trouble is settled.
A well-known official of the road stated yesterday that the Illinois Central would have all its work done and would stand with the ship agents in the present fight.
It was generally understood yesterday that one of the issues of the fight would be the life of the Screwmen’s Union. The employers again stated as individuals yesterday that the Screwmen would probably be done away with entirely in the fight and things would be reconstructed on a basis that would do away with the different classes of labor.
Mr. Hendren, of the Texas Transport and Terminal Company, stated yesterday the Atlantian, the Leyland Line boat, consigned to his firm, had completed her cargo of cotton with sailors and gone to sea.
When told yesterday afternoon that a general strike had been ordered Mayor Behrman expressed regret that the interests directly concerned had not been able to agree on some common ground, and so prevent a tie-up of the port. He said, however, that he was prepared for any emergency that might arise, and having anticipated the action of the Dock and Cotton Council on the proposition of the agents and stevedores, had sent for
and talked the situation over with him.
The Mayor went on that, appreciating the inadequacy of the police force as at present organized, he had authorized the Inspector to employ such additional force as he might deem necessary to deal with any situation that might arise.
“I will make every effort consistent with my duty to enforce the law,” the Mayor declared, “and nothing will be left undone to protect those who might be employed to do the work.”
Mr. Behrman expressed the hope that there would be no trouble, and that the strike would run its course, without scenes of violence and disorder, which generally come with such conditions.
Robert E. Lee, President of the Central Trades and Labor Council, and Commissioner of Labor Statistics, had the following to say in regard to the present difficulty:
“On summing up the situation it appears to me that the condition was brought about by Messrs. Sanders, LeBlanc and Ross, agents for the big lines. They claim organized labor is to blame, and we lay the responsibility on their shoulders. If there is any extortion or overcharge in this great port the ship agents have brought about the condition themselves, and they should not place it at the door of labor.
“If the statement Mr. Harrison, of the Screwmen makes, and his statement I might say is backed up by figures, carefully compiled, the profit of the Steamship Agents is enormous and
OUT OF ALL PROPORTION
to the gains made by legitimate manufactories or industrial enterprises.
“Consider the conditions under which the people live today. Rents have increased all over as a result of the installation of a modern water system; the cost of living has increased over 50 per cent, and if any sacrificing is to be done, it should be by those who are able to bear it.
“The Screwmen are one of the oldest and best-known organizations in the country, and in this city, from year to year, the exactions on them have been greater and greater. . . .
New Orleans Daily Picayune, October 5, 1907.
CLAIMING UNION’S PROPOSITION IS AMBIGUOUS AND MADE NO REFERENCE TO WAGE SCALE
Mayor Behrman Appeared Before Joint Meeting of Cotton Workers Urging the 180-Bale Limit, Together With Arbitration and Investigation
As was predicted in the Picayune, the joint conference of the screwmen offered to compromise the main differences involved in the Levee strike by stowing 180 bales of cotton yesterday, but the shades of night had not yet fallen when the steamship agents and stevedores had rejected the proposition in a manner that bespoke solidarity, and the opposing sides are still tugging and straining in what looks like a death grapple.
The screwmen offer to stow 180 bales as a final settlement, and the agents’ final settlement, in their communication to the Mayor, means that the labor question under the contract must be a closed issue while the contract lasts, and no arbitration of claims or investigation of conditions are entered into. . . .
The screwmen assembled in force at their hall, Exchange Alley and Granville Street, at 10 o’clock yesterday forenoon, and when President Byrnes, who was in the chair, called the meeting to order the place was crowded.
Mayor Behrman was announced and the city’s chief executive was greeted with cheers. The men look on the Mayor as one who has been their friend, and heartily granted him a hearing. . . .
Mayor Behrman’s address was listened to carefully and the unionists seemed greatly impressed, especially the negroes, who have been just a bit more inclined toward peace all along than the whites. When the Mayor had departed the matter was taken up for discussion, and President Byrnes asked for motions and opinions.
It is said that a great majority of the men were for offering to submit to arbitration and compromise pending arbitration and investigation on a 180–bale basis, and the matter would have been put through as the Mayor had desired it had it not been for the eloquence of one prominent white leader, who fought against arbitration, and who urged that 180 bales be offered as a final settlement. The leader was opposed, but finally he had his way, and it was “180 bales as a final settlement.”
The following letter was sent to Mayor Behrman announcing the conclusion reached at the meeting:
New Orleans, October 17.
“To Hon. Martin Behrman, Mayor of New Orleans City: Dear Sir—Acting upon your suggestion and request, the Screwmen’s Benevolent Association and the Screwmen’s Benevolent Association No. 1. colored, at their joint meeting held this morning, have decided to agree to handstow 180 bales of cotton for a day’s work as a final settlement. Yours respectfully,
James Byrnes, President, and Thomas Harrison, Secretary, Screwmen’s Benevolent Association; Thos. Woodland, President; Nelse Shepard, Secretary, Screwmen’s Benevolent Association No. 1.”
The Mayor later had a conference with Messrs. Byrnes and Harrison and some of the negro unionists, but the best the men would offer was 180 bales without arbitration as a final settlement.
Immediately after the screwmen’s meeting the Dock and Cotton Council assembled in Screwmen’s Hall and indorsed the action taken by the two unions.
The screwmen and the Dock and Cotton Council late yesterday afternoon issued the following statements to the public:
Exchange Alley and Bienville St.
New Orleans, La., Oct. 17, 1906
To the Public: At the earnest solicitation and request of His Honor, the Mayor of New Orleans, Martin Behrman, a special meeting of the Screwmen’s Benevolent Association and the Screwmen’s Benevolent Association No. 1. Colored, was this day held in the Screwmen’s Hall, and under the plea of His Honor, the Mayor, that the present difficulties with the stevedores and ship agents could be settled on the basis of one hundred and eighty bales of cotton hand stowed, as a final settlement, the said Associations agreed thereto, and His Honor, the Mayor, was instructed in accordance therewith. It being necessary that this settlement should be submitted to the Dock and Cotton Council, the following communication was addressed to them:
“To the Officers and Members of the Dock and Cotton Council: Dear Sirs and Brothers—At a joint meeting of the Screwmen’s Benevolent Association and the Screwmen’s Benevolent Association No. 1, Colored, held this day, it was determined that the two organizations above referred to, at the earnest solicitation of His Honor, the Mayor, would return to work and agree to stow one hundred and eighty (180) bales of cotton, hand stowed, as a final settlement. Yours respectfully,
“President Screwmen’s Benevolent
“Recording Secretary Screwmen’s
“T. P. WOODLUND,
“President Screwmen’s Benevolent
Association No. 1, (Colored)
“Recording Secretary, Screwmen’s
Benevolent Association No. 1, (Colored).”
At a subsequent meeting of the Dock and Cotton Council the said proposition as a final settlement was approved.
In order that there should be no disagreement concerning the terms of settlement, the above communication is printed, because a counter proposition now appears in the shape of a concession of one hundred and eighty bales as a preliminary condition to arbitration.
Our position has always been understood to mean that we would resume the old conditions of one hundred and sixty bales of cotton, hand stowed, pending an arbitration of investigation, because it is only by such investigation that the reasonableness of our charges can be compared with those of the stevedores and ship agents. We had hoped that this compromise would have been met in the spirit in which it was sent, but it has been rejected and the situation allowed to stand as existing heretofore. Under the circumstances it will appear that we have done everything reasonable to bring about a resumption of business and a peaceful and final settlement. We trust that the public will appreciate our efforts in this direction and attribute a further continuance of the conditions to the stevedores and ship agents. Respectfully,
President Screwmen’s Benevolent Association
T. P. WOODLUND,
President Screwmen’s Benevolent Association No. 1, (Colored)
President S. and L. Benevolent Association
E. S. SWAN,
President Longshoremen’s Protective Union
President Cotton Yardmen’s Benevolent Association
I. G. WYNNE,
President Cotton Yardmen’s Benevolent Assn. No. 2
President Teamsters’ & Loaders’ Benevolent Assn.
President Coal Wheelers’ No. 45
President Orleans Freight Handlers, No. 293
President Orleans Freight Handlers, No. 439
JOHN B. MARQUE, Jr.
President Stave Classers’ Association
President Scalemen’s Union
President Cotton Employes’ Benevolent Association
President Dock and Cotton Council
C. P. BECK,
Recording Secretary Dock and Cotton Council
After his conference with the dock workers, Mayor Behrman sent the following brief communication, inclosing the screwmen’s letter, to the steamship agents and stevedores:
New Orleans, Oct. 17
“W. P. Ross, esq., and Members of Ship Agents and Stevedores’ Committee, City: Gentlemen—The inclosed official communication from the Presidents and Secretaries of the Screwmen’s Benevolent Associations Nos. 1 and 2 has just been handed to me. For your information I transmit same herewith. Respectfully,
MARTIN BEHRMAN, Mayor.”
When the letter reached Mr. Ross’s office Mr. Ross, Mr. Sanders, Mr. Hendren, Mr. Nathan, of the Steamship Agents Committee, and Colonel William C. Dufour, the agents and stevedores’ attorney, were in conference. The agents gave the proposition of the screwmen but small consideration, and mutually agreed to stand firm and continue the fight for a parity with Galveston.
The communication of the screwmen was ambiguous in that it stated that the men would go to work stowing 180 bales, but did not set forth the wage scale. The screwmen some weeks ago, when the Commercial Conference decided that they should stow 200 bales as a fair compromise between the old figure and Galveston conditions, raised their demands, and said that in the future they would stow 160 bales for $31 a gang instead of as before for $26 a gang. Yesterday the agents presumed that the men were agreeing to the 180 bales at the rate of increase in pay asked, but such was not the case; the 180 were to go as a final settlement under the old pay, $26 a gang.
Mr. Ross sent the following reply to Mayor Behrman:
New Orleans, Oct. 17
“Hon. Martin Behrman, Mayor of New Orleans, City: Dear Sir—I am in receipt of yours of even date, inclosing communication from the Screwmen’s Association. It has been decided before replying to refer letter to the Conference of the Committees of the Exchanges. Very respectfully,
W. P. ROSS, Chairman.”
The steamship agents forwarded the following letter to the Conference of Exchanges:
“New Orleans, Oct. 17, 1907
“E. F. Kohnke, Esq., Chairman of Commercial Exchanges, Dear Sir—We herewith inclose letter addressed and signed by the presidents and secretaries of the Screwmen’s Associations to His Honor, the Mayor, and transmitted by him to us, reading as follows:
“Acting upon your suggestion and request, the Screwmen’s Benevolent Association and the Screwmen’s Benevolent Association No. 1, Colored, at their joint meeting held this morning have decided to agree to hand stow 180 bales of cotton for a day’s work as a final settlement.”
As throughout this matter the agents and stevedores have acted upon the advice of your committees as representing the commercial community. It is felt that this communication should be submitted and your views sought before a reply is made to same. The screwmen present this proposition for a final settlement on a basis of 180 bales and apparently of wages at $31 per gang, whereas the investigations of your committees found that to put us on a parity with Galveston, it required the storage of 230 to 240 bales at $26 per gang, and this after considering the evidence submitted by the screwmen. It would appear that neither the personal appeal of the Mayor in his address to the screwmen at their meeting this morning, nor the general sentiment of the community and press urging arbitration of this matter has had any weight whatever with the screwmen.
As it is now made clear that the screwmen have no intention of placing New Orleans on a parity with Galveston, the steamship agents have no alternative except to continue doing their business with other labor. Yours truly,
W. P. ROSS,
Chairman Executive Committee
New Orleans Daily Picayune, October 18, 1907.
Plan to Put Negroes on Tribunal Objected to as Likely to Nullify Movement
Ship Agents Will Select Men Outside Their Body, and Suggestion Is That Screwmen Do the Same
The committee to investigate all port charges to be composed of four representatives of the Steamship Agents and four of the Screwmen, with an umpire elected by Mayor Behrman and President Smith, of the Cotton Exchange, the arrangement upon which the recent general strike was settled, was not appointed yesterday, according to schedule, but it is very probable that the agents at least will name their representatives today, and it is also likely the Screwmen will also make their selections.
The Ship Agents held a brief session yesterday, presided over by Mr. W. P. Ross, the Chairman, at which the matter of naming the employers’ half of the committee was taken up. The names of quite a few gentlemen were considered but no definite action was taken, and the matter went over until today.
At the meeting of the Screwmen held at Screwmen’s Hall, Bienville Street and Exchange Alley, last night, President James Byrnes, who so successfully led the strikers in the recent strike, laid the matter of the committee before the assemblage. It was generally understood that as the screwmen’s contentions about the number of bales that should constitute a fair day’s work had proven the cause of the strike, which involved the Longshoremen and all the other Levee labor unions, the Screwmen would have the right to name four of the members of their organization to serve on the committee. The Screwmen and other Levee unions go on the half-and-half principle—that is, all work is equally divided between the white and negro unions, and when committees are to be named to arbitrate any question or transact any business they are made up of an equal number of whites and negroes, generally with a white chairman and a negro secretary. Such being the case, it was concluded that the labor half of the committee to investigate port charges would be composed of two white men and two negroes.
As the committee is to go carefully and deeply into subjects and conditions of the utmost importance, and as much may depend upon the result of the committee’s workings, the plan to have as a part of its constituency two negroes never from the first seemed a popular or a logical one. The ship agents were mute on the subject and would not express themselves, being parties to the issue, but generally in business and commercial circles such a move as placing
NEGROES ON THE COMMITTEE
was cried down, and declared to be not only impolitic, but almost out of the question.
One well known gentleman identified with the shipping and commercial interests of the port said yesterday afternoon that, in his opinion, if negroes were appointed there would be no investigation at all and that the committee would fail in its mission entirely. The gentleman further contended that he thought it would be fair for the Screwmen to appoint outsiders on the committee, as the Steamship Agents intended doing. Neither agents nor stevedores will be on the committee; they will be represented by gentlemen entirely disinterested, and it is thought by many that the Screwmen would work to a better end were they to pursue the same course and select disinterested gentlemen to serve for them.
Individual members of the cotton yardmen and longshoremen were contending yesterday that the section of the Investigation Committee from the labor side should be a general one, selected from the several unions of the Dock and Cotton Council, and not from the screwmen alone. Port charges generally are to be investigated, and they hold that as questions affecting all the thirteen unions in the Council are likely to crop out of the investigation, the Committee should be variously selected from among the best men of the organizations affiliated in the Council.
John T. Callahan, a well-known member of the cotton yardmen and a delegate from that union to the Dock and Cotton Council, it was stated yesterday, was being urged by his friends to seek a place on the committee of investigation that the Legislature will probably create.
It was stated yesterday that there was likely to be trouble in the Council as the result of the action of the Cotton Men’s Protective Association in blackballing several well-known applicants for membership.
The cotton men were out on a strike for some time during the late summer and early fall, and when they effected a compromise agreement with the employers it was stipulated that they would admit to membership certain markers and inspectors who had remained at work during the strike.
It appears that most of the applicants were thrown down hard when they tried to become members of the Union, and the brokers and buyers were beginning to complain. Trouble was likely for a time, but it was averted by the Union promising to reconsider the applications of the blackballed.
THE COAL ROLLERS’ TROUBLES,
as a result of the floating elevator companies continuing in their employ the thirty-six non-union negroes, have not yet been adjusted. But the week given by the Dock and Cotton Council is still young, and there is every probability of an early adjustment of the difficulty.
President Byrnes, of the Dock and Cotton Council, and Secretary Peter Clark of the cotton yardmen, delegate from his union to the Council, called at the City Hall yesterday and presented Mayor Behrman with the following resolution of thanks for His Honor’s untiring work in settling the recent general strike:
New Orleans, La., Oct. 24, 1907
Extract from the minutes of a meeting of the Dock and Cotton Council, held this day:
On motion of Chris Scully, seconded by James Porter, the following resolution was unanimously adopted:
Be it resolved, That the sincere thanks of this body be extended to the Hon. Martin Behrman, Mayor of the city of New Orleans, for his untiring efforts to bring to a satisfactory settlement the difficulty recently existing on the levee front of this city.
Be it further resolved, That, recognizing the position he occupies, by reason of his exalted office as Mayor of the City of New Orleans and the fact that he was compelled, therefore, to act in a fair and impartial manner without prejudice to either side in the controversy just ended, the hearty congratulations of this body are hereby extended to him for the earnestness, zeal and fairness with which, through his instrumentality, a culmination satisfactory to both sides was effected.
Be it further resolved, That these resolutions be spread on the minutes of this meeting, that a copy of them, under the seal of this Council, be presented to him and a committee for that purpose be appointed by the Chairman.
DOCK AND COTTON COUNCIL, Per James Byrnes, President,
C. P. Beck, Recording Secretary.
Mayor Behrman thanked Mr. Byrnes and through him those whom he represented for these appreciable resolutions. At the same time he took occasion again to express his gratification for the splendid manner in which the laboring men preserved law and order by waging their contest. . . .
New Orleans Daily Picayune, October 29, 1907.
Negro Screwmen Named on Committee Against Advice and Protest of Mayor Behrman
President Smith of Cotton Exchange, Demurs on Umpire—Longshoremen Accused of Bad Faith—Ship Agents Name Men
The situation created by the recent labor trouble, which cleared so nicely during the past week, again assumed an ugly cast last night through the determination of the negro to force himself to a place on the Investigating Committee which will have many important matters concerning port charges to look into, and to quote from the remarks of a gentleman well known in business and shipping circles, because of the “colored brother’s” forwardness, it looks like everything might go “up in the air” again.
Mayor Behrman did everything he possibly could to prevent negroes from claiming a place on the Committee, and even went so far as to appeal before the Dock and Cotton Council, the great labor body in which all the Levee labor unions are affiliated, last night, and urge that the Screwmen appoint only white men. The Mayor sagely pointed out feelings and conditions in this section, but despite the logical contentions he made, the negro stood firm, demanded his place, and the Council backed him up.
“I think the move a most unwise one,” Mayor Behrman said when he came from the Screwmen’s Hall, with Mr. William Ball, his Secretary, after his wishes in the matter had been disregarded.
The negro question was not the only issue that clouded the horizon yesterday, as there was also
A DEADLOCK OVER THE UMPIRE,
and rumors of more trouble growing out of the failure of the Longshoremen to keep faith with the ship agents, and altogether things generally appeared at sixes and sevens.
Mayor Behrman suggested the name of Hon. Paul Capdevielle as umpire, but Mr. W. Mason Smith, President of the Cotton Exchange, who according to the terms of the agreement upon which the strike was temporarily settled, must agree to the umpire, did not like the selection, for the reason, as it is understood that Mr. Capdevielle is a State officeholder, and is out to succeed himself in office.
All appreciated that Mr. Capdevielle was a man like Chevalier Bayard, “sans peur, et sans reproche,” but quite a few of the gentlemen representing shipping interests took Mr. Smith’s view of the selection, and held that the umpire should in no manner be connected with politics.
Mayor Behrman suggested Mr. Capdevielle’s name Tuesday, but Mr. Smith would not agree to it, having submitted other names, and yesterday afternoon Mayor Behrman addressed the following letter to the President of the Cotton Exchange:
“As you are aware, the umpire, who will sit as Chairman of the Committee on Investigation of the Port Charges, must be determined upon by you and me not later than tomorrow, I would be pleased to hear from you as to whether the name of the Hon. Paul Capdevielle will be acceptable to you as said umpire. As I explained to you this morning in persons, I really had no preference in this selection. Any fair, reliable, upright man, known throughout the community, would have been acceptable to me. At the time you and Mr. Clark called in reference to this matter you told me that you had no one in view, and it was then that I mentioned the name of the Hon. Paul Capdevielle. Because of Mr. Capdevielle’s eminent standing in this community as an absolutely fair and impartial man, you may readily appreciate that I cannot withdraw his name. Please let me hear from you at the earliest possible moment.”
The letter was sent to Mr. Smith by special messenger, and the gentleman’s reply reached the Mayor late in the evening. The reply was as follows:
“In answer to your note of the 31st inst., I repeat what I said this morning: That while the Hon. Paul Capdevielle is a gentleman of the highest standing in the community, I thought his position as a candidate for an elective office in the State made it inadvisable, both to the community and to himself that he should be accepted as umpire on a Committee on Investigation of Port Charges. I cannot see any reason why you should not withdraw his name, as I understand you simply submitted it to me for my consideration, in the same manner as I have
SUBMITTED OTHER NAMES
to you. I should not hesitate to give my reasons to Mr. Capdevielle, nor do I think he would think any the less of me for the opinion that I hold. I submit again to you, as I did this morning, a list of names, any of whom would be acceptable to me as an umpire in the case, viz: Chief Justice Breaux, Judge E. D. Saunders, W. D. Bloomfield, James T. Hayden, John T. Gibbons, T. J. Woodward, G. W. Bolton of Rapides, and J. T. McLellan, of Madison.
“I submit this list of names from different parts of the State, and of men of different occupations, the opinion of any one of whom on a simple, clear-cut proposition, I feel confident, would be accepted with respect by everyone, and benefit mutually the commerce of our city, while doing justice to all.”
Nothing further was done in the matter last night, and today, the last day upon which the umpire can be accepted under the terms of the agreement, may bring further developments. The ship agents spoken to yesterday afternoon refused to discuss the question brought up by Mr. Capdevielle’s selection, but all were unanimous in speaking of Mr. Capdevielle personally in the highest of terms. The ship agents finally agreed upon their representatives for the Investigating Committee yesterday forenoon, and, contrary to expectations, two of the four named are steamship agents.
In this regard, however, the agents did not break faith with anyone, and only sought, by appointing two men who were thoroughly acquainted with the matters to be investigated, to conserve their own interests. The agents at first announced that they would appoint outsiders as their representatives, but as the screwmen chose to name as their representatives four men of their own calling, the agents thought it would be only fair to have at least two of their number on the Committee. The gentlemen
SELECTED BY THE AGENTS
are Ernest T. George, Vice President of the Seaboard Refining Company, Limited; J. C. Febiger, Jr., broker; William H. Hendren, Manager of the Texas Transport and Terminal Company, and Matthew Warriner, Manager of the Elder-Dempster Steamship Company. The selection of Mr. Hendren is generally thought to be a wise one, as Mr. Hendren, as manager of several of the big steamship lines involved in the recent general strike, was present at all the conferences with the screwmen and dock laborers, and is familiar with conditions. Messrs. George and Febiger are well known in the business world, and highly thought of, and Mr. Warriner has been prominent in shipping circles for years. Altogether, the selections of the agents were deemed most excellent ones.
President James Byrnes, of the Screwmen’s Association, called at the City Hall yesterday forenoon and handed Mayor Behrman the names of the two representatives decided upon by the white screwmen. Those selected were James Jamison and Edward Nestor. Mr. Jamison is generally well known, and has a large following among the union men. At present he is a market inspector in the Department of Police and Public Buildings. Mr. Nestor is a leading screwman, and for some time filled the office of President of the Association very satisfactorily. The negro screwmen weren’t overlooking any bets, and notwithstanding the sentiment against men of their race being on the Committee generally expressed during the past week, they got busily to work Thursday, and had their choices picked by yesterday morning. The selections fell upon Edward Gray and John D. Granderson, and yesterday Nelse Shepard, the Secretary of the negro Union, called at the City Hall and very gravely handed to Mayor Behrman the appointments.
“This won’t do, Shepard,” said the Mayor, “Take these names back to your Association and let the members know that interests demand that there
SHALL BE NO COLORED MEN
on the Committee.”
Shepard looked neither shocked nor surprised; he simply scratched his head reflectively and asked: “Would we get a square deal, do you think, Mr. Mayor?”
The Mayor, with a smile, assured the sable-hued Secretary that such was his thought, and Nelse departed, not altogether cheerfully.
When Shepard got back among his Senegambian brothers and told them the Mayor’s wishes, there was a storm of indignation, and lots and lots of black clouds belched forth rumbling thunder. Nelse had to traipse back to the hall with his precious appointments in his hand and again lay them on the Mayor’s desk. “They wants representation, Mr. Mayor,” was all Nelse said, and he went away a second time.
It was too much for the negroes to yield; with their usual desire to sit in the seats of the mighty, they couldn’t let a chance to gain recognition, such as the Investigating Committee afforded them, to pass, so they stood bravely to their guns.
Mayor Behrman, seeing that the negroes were obstinate and not to be moved from their position, concluded to go before the Dock and Cotton Council, which was to hold a session later in the evening, and make a strong appeal to that body.
The Mayor and his Secretary, Mr. Ball, reached Screwmen’s Hall shortly after 8 o’clock, and Mr. Behrman sent up word that he desired to speak to the Council. Both the Mayor and Mr. Ball were admitted, and the Mayor was given the floor.
Mr. Behrman, without mincing words, stated the object of his visit. He came, he said, to advise against colored men being appointed on the Investigating Committee. Such a course would be unwise, the Mayor declared, and he stated further that he would publicly take the stand of being opposed to it, were his wishes disregarded.
The Mayor and Mr. Ball retired and waited downstairs, while the Council, over which Mr. Byrnes presided, discussed the question. The negroes, it is understood, urged their claims to recognition, and the matter being put to a vote, the Council decided that negroes had the right to serve. A well-known white longshoreman, and a mulatto, whose reputation as an agitator and a leader of the disturbing element among the screwmen is wide, were the committee who came downstairs to inform the Mayor that his mission had borne no fruit.
spoken to after the meeting, did not hesitate to voice his disapproval of the action taken. His Honor spoke as follows:
“I tried to make these people understand that they would display bad judgment should they insist on colored men being on the Committee. As a matter of fact, there are many other interests to be investigated than the wages and amount of work to be done by screwmen. I told them very plainly what the sentiment of this community is as to having colored men figuring so prominently in public matters. I suggested that surely there must be some white men in whose hands they might intrust their case. It did not matter whether the white men whom they might select to represent them would be screwmen, longshoremen, cotton yard men or men from any other walk of life. Despite all that I said to them, however, they have persisted in being represented by men of their own race. Of course, under the terms of the agreement for the investigation, they cannot be denied this representation. My sole purpose was to try to have them appreciate the sentiment of this community on a question of this kind.”
Mayor Behrman, after leaving Screwmen’s Hall, repaired to the City Hall and sent the following communication to Mr. William P. Ross, Chairman of the Steamship Agents and Stevedores’ Committee:
Dear Sir:—I have yours of even date informing me that the shipping interests have selected as their representatives on the Committee to investigate the port charges: Messrs. E. T. George, J. C. Febiger, Matthew Warriner and W. H. Hendren.
For your information I would state that the screwmen have selected as their representatives: Edward Nestor, James Jamison, Edward Gray and John D. Granderson. I regret to say that the last two named are colored men appointed against my earnest appeal to the organization. Respectfully,
MARTIN BEHRMAN, Mayor.
How the whole matter will end it is hard to say, but many thought last night that some of the white men on the Committee would refuse to serve with negroes, and that the Committee would go to pieces.
The white labor leaders spoken to last night would not express themselves for publication, but it was generally whispered in labor circles that the majority of the whites were of the opinion that the
NEGROES HAD ACTED BADLY
in the matter, and that they should have withdrawn, when it was evident that they were not wanted.
by demanding work that never belonged to them, are liable to make trouble for themselves and for the entire port. Mr. Hendren, Manager of the Texas Transport and Terminal Company, received a committee from the longshoremen yesterday. The Committee was made up of President Chris Scully, of the white organization, and President E. S. Swan, of the colored union. The longshoremen came to claim the work of piling the rice byproducts, work they never had before, and work, which it was understood, was to be performed as hitherto.
The rice byproducts are rice husks, rice bran, rice polish and rice meal, and they are shipped by local shippers to be used as animal food. The shippers make the contracts with the consignees and not with the local agents, and under the terms of the contracts they pay for the piling of the stuff. As the margin of profit on husks, etc., is very small, the shippers have the work done by their own labor at a rate of pay just half the wages paid the longshoremen, and for years the system has been followed without interruption. When the last strike of the longshoremen was settled the workers admitted in the presence of Mr. E. F. Lonke, Chairman of the Conference of Exchanges and Commercial Organizations, and Mr. Jeff Harding, of the Levee Board that the Longshoremen did not claim the rice byproduct work, yet in the face of this, the Committee demanded of Mr. Hendren that such labor in the future, be done by longshoremen. Mr. Hendren refused to be held up in such an arbitrary manner, and informed Presidents Scully and Swan that he would take the matter to court, to the Federal Court if possible.
The longshoremen are also demanding eight men to a hatch, whereas in the past, two, four, six, or eight men have been used, according to the amount of work being done and the number of trucks run. They say it must now be eight men at all times, and the agents and stevedores will fight the extortion, and if necessary seek the courts for relief.
New Orleans Daily Picayune, November 1, 1907.
Declaration That City Will Never Again Suffer a Repetition of Last Fall
The Port Investigating Commission delved deeply into the causes that are working an injury to the port of New Orleans yesterday, and while the testimony adduced had largely to do with labor charges and the like, further light was thrown on the alleged complicity of the steamship agents in the plan to do away with organized labor on the Levee.
All the Commissioners were present at the session, and Messrs. Sanders and LeBlanc and other steamship managers, leading business men and a great many laborers attended the session, which began a few minutes after 10 o’clock.
E. S. Swan, President of the Colored longshoremen, was questioned by Mr. Parkerson. Swan told of the agreement existing between the longshoremen and the steamship agents and the time allowed men who are taken to Chaimette, Westwego and Friscoville and not put to work. He was questioned closely on the big strike of last autumn, and said that before ordering a sympathetic strike the Dock and Cotton Council always thoroughly investigates a situation. The unions are not supposed to handle freight that has been unloaded from a ship by nonunion labor, but, Swan maintained, they do not interfere with others handling it.
Mr. Parkerson questioned Swan about the De Montmollin incident, and the longshoremen’s President told of the meeting the agent of the Mobile and Gulf Steamship Company had had with Messrs. Byrnes and Scully and himself. Mr. De Montmollin said that he intended to bring 200,000 to 300,000 bales of cotton here during the season, and wanted to know if he could handle the staple with his crew. The labor representatives told him he could superintend his work if it was done by union labor and so do away with a stevedore. Mr. De Montmollin told the laborers that he was satisfied, and left them with the impression that he was under the opinion that he could do his work cheaper with union labor than with his crew and a stevedore. The unionists wanted him to use his sailors as the big ships use their men—not work them when they were in port.
Mr. Parker asked Swan if Mr. De Montmollin could have had his freight removed if he had put it on the levee by his crew, and wanted to know whether the teamsters would have hauled the cotton. Swan hesitated a minute and then replied: “Mr. Parkerson, I don’t like to shake hands with the devil till I meet him; that matter ain’t been tested yet.”
Mr. Parkerson insisted upon a direct reply, and Swan finally admitted that he didn’t think
THE UNION DRAYMEN
could have well hauled the cotton away, but he could have had it removed by other draymen. Mr. Parkerson wanted Swan to mention a few of the draymen who would have hauled the cotton, but Swan was unable just at the time to recall any of the names.
Swan insisted that the longshoremen wanted to be fair in the matter altogether, and didn’t want to take any work that did not belong to them. Mr. Parkerson mentioned that the longshoremen had tried to get the sewing of sacks, work that had always been done at 15 cents an hour, but Swan replied that the laborers were willing at any time to give up that class of their proposed tariff, and only held out in the main for the old contract. In speaking of the strike, Swan admitted that much cotton had been diverted from the port and that the Levee looked like a cyclone had struck it, just as it looks today, he added, there being very little business doing at present. A great deal of the cotton that should have come to this port went to Galveston, Savannah, Mobile and Pensacola. Swan thought, but he held at the same time that in the four cities mentioned the laborers were little better than slaves, because the white men and the blacks are fighting each other, and each side strives to load more than the other.
“And they beat you to a frazzle don’t they?” asked Mr. Parkerson, and Swan answered that from what he had heard they might stow a little more than the local men, but he added that the cotton out of New Orleans was stowed better than in any other port. Swan said further that he had read in the papers that the railroads were discriminating against New Orleans, and sent more cotton to Galveston than Galveston wanted. Swan declared that the way he looked at the whole matter there seemed to have been no reason at all for the strike, and that much harm was done the port. Swan thought that it would be impossible to put New Orleans on a
PARITY WITH GALVESTON
for the reason that there was slave labor in Galveston.
“Eliminating the slave labor question,” Mr. Parkerson questioned, “could a gang of five of the local screwmen stow 252 bales in a day?”
“No, sir, not like it should be stowed,” was Swan’s answer. “They might throw it in promiscuously.”
“Could five good men average 200 bales a day?”
“If you were told that on thirty-one ships in Galveston the men stowed on an average 200 bales, would you believe it?”
“I wouldn’t think it could be done; I’m told that in Galveston sometimes seven and eight men work in a gang.”
“They work five in a gang. I have in my hand a statement from President of the Galveston white screwmen, which shows that on thirty-one ships, an average of 200 bales a day was put in by the men. On twelve of the ships screws were used, and the average was eighty-seven bales, and on the other nineteen the cotton was hand-towed, the average being 200 bales per gang, and the cost of loading per bale was 15-1/3 cents. Do you think that is a fairy tale?”
“No, sir, but the same might have been done here. I knew the time when the whites wouldn’t work with the negroes, and when they found that they were up against it, the two sides agreed to take separate parts of the ship and work. The Negroes had the forward hatches and the whites the aft hatches, and the bosses used to go to the niggers and say, ‘Niggers, them white men is beating you two to one; if you don’t do better, we’ll give all the work to the whites.’
“Then they’d tell the same thing to the whites, and they kept war to the knife, and knife to hilt, between the two races, and a riot was likely to break out at any time. Then the two races amalgamated.”
“Well, how many bales did they stow then?”
“It would take a god to tell that; the negroes, to compete with the whites, worked seven and eight men in a gang, and they sent men to the hospital every day. They might have stowed 200 bales, and they might have stowed more, and the whites were doing the same thing at the time. It was a
CASE OF SLAVERY
the agents wanted to break up the unions, and the agents and stevedores were getting all the money. Even as it is, there’s more trade here now than then.”
“But New Orleans is now third, I believe, in cotton, when she was first once.”
“But, Mr. Parkerson, you must think of other things; that Stuyvesant Dock fire, and the fever, both in the same year. Ships were driven away from here that never did come back.”
Swan was then questioned about the strikes of recent years, Mr. Parkerson first informing him that Galveston had not had a strike since 1881. Swan said at one time on the Levee, it was white supremacy, another time it was negro supremacy. The negroes were shot and driven off the Levee, and soldiers were sent out there to protect them.
Mr. Parkerson then took a few minutes to once more denounce the action of the steamship agents and laborers in tying up the commerce of the port. “The people most heavily,” Mr. Parkerson said, “they suffered all sorts of ways and you can safely say that the people are not going to stand for such a condition again. It is well for you both to understand this.”
Swan then stated that everything was going up but the price of labor; house rents were high, and living almost at a price beyond the working man. “Now, Mr. Parkerson, if we don’t stand with the whites what are us niggers going to do? You brought us here from Africa, and we’ve been here so long that it’s just as though we were in our fathers’ house. We have to stay with the white men no matter what they do to us.”
Swan then told of the organization of the unions, and said that when the white men threw the negroes’ screws into the river in the early part of 1895, Mr. Sanders bought more screws for the black men, and charged them for them on the installment plan. Swan did not know whether Mr. Sanders had to smuggle the car in which the screws were carried into the city. Swan also stated that Mr. De Montmollin, when trying to arrange to have his ship unloaded, seemed satisfied with conferences held with the labor unionists.39
“Do we understand you to say,” asked Senator Cordill, “that in Galveston and other places where the whites and negroes work separately, a condition of slavery exists? Can you give us an instance in history where the Anglo-Saxon allowed himself in subjection?”
“No, sir, I can’t do it,” was Swan’s answer.
“Yet, you say,” Senator Cordill pursued, “that an Anglo-Saxon must lower himself to the
GRADE OF A NEGRO
to be free?”
Swan was excused from the stand and Mr. Parkerson stated that on Monday the Steamship interests would be taken up. Before recess for lunch could be ordered, Senator Cordill recalled Swan and asked him what he meant by the statement as accredited to him in the morning paper at the time of the strike, a statement in which he said that the white men were up against the Blue Ridge Mountains in breaking from the negroes or something to that effect.
Swan explained that he had not meant to say any such a thing, and had only sought to intimate that the Steamship agents and stevedores were up against the Blue Ridge Mountains with ten thousand laborers against them. Swan denied that he meant the negroes wanted to force the white people to the wall.
Once during Swan’s testimony Mr. Parkerson cautioned the witness that he was only a negro and that he should not overlook the fact. Swan who had really no offense, had said in a rather jocular way, which is characteristic with him, when asked if he had the interest of the port at heart, “You bet your life I have.”
At 1:45 the afternoon session was convened and Senator Cordill a second time recalled Swan. The Senator asked Swan if he would be willing to use his influence with his union to have the contract with the employers signed in May at the end of the cotton season, instead of in September at its beginning. Swan answered that he would certainly do it, as he thought it was only right and proper.
Chris Scully, President of the White Longshoremen, was then called. Mr. Scully stated that he had been President for three terms and had worked on the Levee fourteen years. He told of the De Montmollin incident. With Presidents Byrnes and Swan he went to see Mr. De Montmollin. Mr. De Montmollin told the three about a ship on which he intended to bring cotton to the city. Mr. De Montmollin said that he would have to discharge his ship with his own labor, and wanted to know whether he’d be interfered with. The laborers told him they had nothing to do with the matter. Mr. De Montmollin asked if his cotton would be handled by the union teamsters, and his visitors informed him that they could not answer that.
Mr. Scully continued that Mr. De Montmollin told him and his companions about having had some work done by a stevedore. The stevedore charged him $1.10 a ton, when he could have had the work done in Mobile
AT 25 CENTS A TON.
Witness gave the ship agent a copy of the Longshoremen’s tariff, and Mr. De Montmollin said that he had to go before his Board of Directors that night in Mobile and wanted to know if he could tell them that he could discharge his ship in the city at 40 cents a ton. Mr. Scully informed him that he could discharge the vessel at 27 cents a ton and make money. Mr. De Montmollin asked the labor leaders to keep the conference between themselves and say mothing about it, but, Mr. Scully declared, the gentleman himself went out and found a newspaper reporter and stated to him that the unionists were trying to hold him up.
Mr. Scully continued that Mr. De Montmollin seemed well satisfied with the interview. Mr. De Montmollin said nothing about being placed on an equal footing with steamboat packets, whose laborers discharge and load freight; steamboats were not even mentioned.
Mr. Parkerson asked Mr. Scully if he had a copy of the contract the Longshoremen signed with the Ship Agents, and while the witness did not have the document, Mr. Sanders drew one from his pocket and let the attorney for the Commission use it for the time. The contract was read, and Mr. Scully identified his signature to it, after which the longshorman explained that the screwmen stow tobacco and cotton. Mr. Parkerson read three communications which had been handed him earlier in the day by Mr. Scully. One of the letters was from Ross & Heyn, dated Sept. 30, offering the longshoremen the cotton and tobacco work; the second was from Alfred Le Blanc, of the Harrison Line, calling upon them to stow cotton and tobacco aboard a Lamport and Holt boat, according to their contract, and the third was from the Texas Transport and Terminal Company requesting that the longshoremen load cotton and tobacco aboard the ship Atlantean at the Mandeville wharf. Mr. Scully said that the offers were not accepted; that the steamship agents, in making the offer, were trying to break up the Screwmen’s Union.
“You know there was trouble brewing between the screwmen and the agents at the time, now don’t you? Mr. Parkerson asked of the witness, who had seemed reluctant to answer the questions put to him, having no doubt the natural suspicion that labor unions feel for all outside agencies.
“Yes, sir, I do,” returned Mr. Scully.
“Don’t answer me reluctantly, Mr. Scully,” advised Mr. Parkerson. “Your attitude is hostile to me, but I don’t want to hurt you. If the tree falls on the agents, it’s got to fall on them; if it falls on you, it must crush you. All we want to do is to
CUT THE TREE DOWN,
and whoever is under it had better get clear of the trunk. Now, as a matter of fact, the difficulty was brewing?”
“Yes, sir,” again answered the longshoremen’s President.
“And you had already signed your contract, which excluded cotton and tobacco?”
“Yet they wanted you to take the cotton and tobacco as a part of your work?”
“When they made the offer you believed that they were violating the spirit of the contract previously entered into with you?”
“Yes, sir; we felt that it was their aim to break up the Screwmen’s Union.”
Mr. Parkerson then asked Mr. Scully to make clear why he had taken Swan with him to meet Mr. De Montmollin, and the witness explained that he had thought that maybe the agent of the Mobile and Gulf Steamship Company wanted to discuss matters having to do with work on the levee. Mr. Scully was then questioned about the sack-sewing proposition which caused so much trouble last September before the longshoremen’s contract was signed, and Mr. Parkerson took occasion to say: “There’s something rotten about the steamship business here; what it is I don’t know, but we are going to find it out.”
Mr. Scully told of the incidents of the big strike, and claimed that the laborers tried ineffectually to meet the agents on some common ground and effect a compromise. Mr. Scully promised Senator Cordill to use his influence with his organization to have the contract signed in May instead of September.
To Representative Lee, Mr. Scully said that the longshoremen made only about two days and a half a week during the entire year. The longshoremen had no chance to save money and very few of them owned their own homes, and those who did own them hadn’t gotten them working on the levee.
To Mr. Parkerson the witness said he did not believe that the steamboat packet men had any agreement by which they were compelled to hire organized labor to load and unload their boats. The work was done by negro roustabouts. Mr. Scully said that he, as an individual, could not possibly object to Mr. De Montmollin running small ship and discharging and loading her with her crew.
“I wanted you to answer that question,” Mr. Parkerson saind, “because there are a great many people.
and saying that labor is killing the port.”
Mr. A. K. Seago, the sugar, molasses and rice broker, was called to the stand. Mr. Seago showed the following letter he had just received:
Mobile, Ala., March 12, 1908
Dear Sir—Yours of the 11th inst., relative to rates quoted by our agent to Quincy and Tallahassee, received, and in reply beg to say that we were forced out of your port on account of excessive port charges, charges for stevedoring and other expenses which were out of reason. We operated the steamship Manteo out of New Orleans for about five months under a heavy loss, and until such time as the merchants can offer us sufficient business, with privilege of using our own crew for loading and discharging cargo, we will have to look to Mobile and Pensacola for support. We are negotiating with a line which is operating out of your city, and if we can make proper arrangements for handling business on the west coast of Florida, we will be glad to handle your cargo through Mobile, at which time we will advise you.
E. R. Cobb
General Freight Agent Mobile and Gulf Steamship Company
The Mobile and Gulf Steamship Company is the firm represented by Mr. De Montmollin, whose alleged troubles with stevedores and labor unions have been carefully looked into by the Port Investigation Commission. Mr. Seago stated that he had written to the Company on Wednesday for rates, as he had a cargo of sugar to ship to Tallahassee, and the letter given above was the reply he received. Mr. Seago is now holding his sugar to see what rates he can get through Mobile.
Senator Cordill announced that Swan wanted to explain something, and the President of the negro longshoremen again took the stand, the Commissioners informing him that they would give him three minutes in which to have his say, as the hour was growing late.
Swan explained that he had been misunderstood in his previous statement. He did not mean to say that a white man had to lower himself to the level of a negro to be free, but wanted to convey the impression that the two unions had amalgamated for protection
AGAINST THE BOSSES.
“A white man is a white man all over the country,” declared Swan; “he has always had the supremacy and he always will have it, and there is no question of equality here. Is that satisfactory, Mr. President?” Swan concluded, bowing to Senator Cordill.
“Swan, I didn’t want you to make any statement,” said Senator Cordill. “I told you that you were preaching something that Booker T. Washington didn’t preach, and you asked me to put you back on the stand so that you might explain.”
“Booker T. Washington preaches one thing in the South and practices another in the North,” observed Mr. Parkerson.
“I don’t do that,” insisted Swan; “I believe in the white man.”
“You’ve been here fifty-nine years, Swan, I believe you told us,” said Senator Cordill, “and you know that whenever your people have a controversy with the whites, they come out at the small end of the horn.”
“I certainly do,” answered Swan.
James Daugherty of the Screwmen’s Union, the last witness of the day, was on the stand for over an hour. Mr. Daugherty told of the last strike and of how the laborers tried to continue working under old conditions pending an investigation. He gave a history of the labor troubles of thirteen years ago, and claimed that the Leyland and Harrison Lines were responsible for the amalgamation of the negroes and whites, driving the negroes to ask the whites to join forces with them by tolerating on their wharves the usurious brokerage system. Mr. Parkerson said that if the Screwmen had gone to meet the ship agents and to save the city, agreed to work as they wanted pending an investigation, they would have jammed the ship agents harder than they ever jammed a bale of cotton.
Mr. Daugherty said that the screwmen had a constitutional right to organize into a union and strive for better conditions, and Mr. Parkerson agreed with him; went further than that, and said that he believed in organization, but at the same time, the lawyer held that the screwmen, by exercising their right, throttled the other three hundred thousand people in the city. Mr. Daugherty said that he thought that the strike had not caused the port to lose such a vast amount of cotton; that the crop was late in 1907, and little cotton was moving when the Levee was tied up.
Mr. Gilmore, after closely cross-questioning Mr. Daugherty, spoke to him as follows:
“These questions which I am asking you are asked for the purpose—and I propose to ask the ship agents their side just as freely as I am asking your side—for the purpose of finding out who was in fault, or who was most in fault in bringing about the unfortunate condition of affairs that occurred here last year, whereby the public suffered so much. We must find a remedy to prevent occurrences such as happened in the year 1907 in this port, . . .
New Orleans Daily Picayune, March 14, 1908.
Stevedore Honor Charged That Whites and Blacks Had Been Pitted Against Each Other
His Evidence Directed Against Manager M. J. Sanders, of Leyland Company, and Other Big Liners—Commission Takes Recess to April 15
The Port Investigating Commission had more of the negro question thrust upon it yesterday, and additional light was thrown on the very unsatisfactory situation on the levee front, Mr. John B. Honor, the well-known stevedore, was an important witness, and Mr. Honor, in no uncertain language, placed the blame for present labor conditions on Mr. M. J. Sanders, Manager of the Leyland Line.
The Commission, after having been sitting three weeks consecutively without an intermission, adjourned at the close of yesterday’s session until April 15, to allow Messrs. Gilmore and Terriberry the time to go to New York and Washington to attend to important law cases in which they are interested. At the Commission’s next meeting sessions will be held night and day to complete the vast amount work that is still to be done.
The session yesterday began at the usual hour, 10:30 o’clock in the forenoon, and Mr. Hunter C. Leake, attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad, asked leave to take the stand to make an explanation. Mr. Leake said that he had investigated the car service at Harahan since signing his testimony on the previous day, and found that very little if any delays were experienced by consignees getting their cars from the point. To big dealers who were known to the Company the cars were sent to their usual points of delivery in the city, and consignees whose wishes were not known were notified as soon as their cars reached Harahan, and the cars were delivered promptly at any point directed. Mr. Leake said that he had heard of frequent complaints of discrimination in rates, etc., in a general way, but whenever a complaint was made direct it was investigated and relief granted, if a discrimination was found to exist. Mr. Leake said that the Company had to fix attractive rates to this city to bring trade here. The Illinois Central looks to New Orleans as one of its very important points, and is doing everything to develop commerce and trade.
Mr. Honor was then called, and the gentleman’s examination took up the whole of the morning session, with the exception of the short time consumed by Mr. Leake. Before the interrogation of Mr. Honor was taken up Mr. Parkerson stated that he wanted to get into the record that the letters in the Graham alleged
were given the Commission, not by Mr. Graham, but by the Cotton Exchange. Mr. Graham had not asked for an investigation, but when summoned by the Commission he had to tell his story as was demanded of him. Mr. Honor, questioned by Mr. Parkerson, said that he had been in the stevedoring business for a great many years, and man and boy had worked labor for thirty years. Most of the ships he loads take screwed cotton, and the screwmen put away ninety bales a day. Sometimes he has had storing, and the screwmen, in gangs of five, according to their latest contract, store 180 bales.
Mr. Honor told of having made the offer to store all the cotton coming into the port at 18 cents a bale. He made two offers: the first was at a meeting of the agents and stevedores during the big strike of last autumn. Mr. W. P. Ross of Ross & Heyn, managers for the Head Line and Maclay-Prentice Line, said at the meeting that his line was paying 18 cents and 20 cents a bale to store cotton at Galveston, and it was then that Mr. Honor got up and made his 18 cents offer. Mr. Sanders contended that Mr. Honor’s proposition did not make definite the number of bales to be stored in a day, and declared that he would listen to no proposition that did not have as its basis a certain number of bales. Mr. Honor explained that it would be his (Mr. Honor’s) lookout to see that the bales in a satisfactory number were put in the hold and the ship given dispatch. Still Mr. Sanders would not listen. Mr. Sanders, before the meeting adjourned, proposed that everyone present be sworn to secrecy so that the matter would not get in the newspapers. Mr. Le Blanc made the motion and it was carried and the matter was not placed before the public, as it should have been.
At another meeting of the steamship agents and the Illinois Central people Mr. Harriman, of the railroad contingent, said that he thought 18 cents should be the figure paid for storing cotton, or something to that effect. Mr. Honor, who was present, promptly repeated the offer he had made to the steamship agents. Mr. Sanders objected to the proposition, and Mr. Honor accused the Leyland Line manager of attempting to
CLOUD THE ISSUE
Mr. Honor did not intend to take all the work for his own company, but put his 18 cents a bale project at the meeting of the Stevedores’ Association. The stevedores agreed to stand by Mr. Honor in the matter. The affair was given extensive publication in the Picayune, and the Picayune and the States both had strong editorials which in Mr. Honor’s opinion, led up to the settling of the strike. Mr. Honor stated that his firm, which does a business of about $150,000 a year, pays the city $240 annually in license, while Mr. Sanders, who represents interests above $400,000, does not pay a nickel. Mr. Honor declared that he was willing at that minute to sign a contract with the screwmen for three years for 180 bales a day at $5 and $6. He thought 180 bales was a very fair amount of cotton for one gang to store. Mr. Honor considered the 1 o’clock rule complained of by Mr. Le Blanc as being rather obnoxious, but the rule had been modified by the men and the custom now is for the men to go to work at 1:30 if a vessel is five or ten minutes after 1 in arriving. But, held Mr. Honor, the obnoxious rule was made possible by the manner in which the men were treated by the Leyland Line. Often fifty or sixty gangs would be ordered to Chaimette, or some other distant point, to work and the ship would not arrive. They would have to go home, and lose not only their time, but pay out of their own pockets their car hire. The men also resent the employment of foreigners as superintendents by the Leyland Line. The superintendent does the stevedoring work. Mr. Honor laid stress upon the fact that he meant nothing at all against Captain Brysson, the Leyland Line’s present Superintendent. Captain Brysson is a gentlemen and no word can be said against him.
Mr. Honor said that he understood that the whites and blacks had been pitted against each other by Mr. Sanders. Mr. Sanders, Mr. Honor declared, was
RESPONSIBLE FOR A RACE RIOT
by his action. (Mr. Honor was referring to the reign of terror on the Levee in 1895, when a dozen or more negro laborers were slaughtered by the whites.) He caused the riot by attempting to break up the white unions and give all the work to the negroes. Mr. Honor, in going over the labor troubles of the 90’s, told about the work of the steamship conference. The steamship conference was composed of Messrs. Sanders, Le Blanc, Stoddard and other agents, and the object was to break up the white unions. From 1898 to 1900 the whites were taken back by the Leyland and the Harrison Lines, and the negroes were promised half the space and did not get it. They went to the whites and asked them to amalgamate.
“If something is not done to check the insane desire for power and ambition of certain people on the river front,” boldly stated Mr. Honor, “more damage will be done to cotton than ever the boll weevil has done.”
“What do you mean by certain people?” asked Mr. Parkerson.
“I believe,” answered Mr. Honor, “that Mr. Sanders has been trying to make trouble since he’s been here, and it’s his aim to crush out the white screwmen for his own benefit.”
Mr. Parkerson asked Mr. Honor where the better cotton was, at the city front or the terminals and Mr. Honor said that he thought the cotton at the city front was better as to condition.
“Well, then,” Mr. Parkerson wanted to know, “how do you account for this; out of 918,000 bales at the city front 30,000 were condemned by
THE MARITIME BRANCH
of the Board of Trade and out of 500,000 at the terminals only 2,200 were condemned?”
“Guess Mr. Sanders can answer that,” was the witness’ brave rejoinder.
Mr. Honor went on to state that he had had no personal misunderstanding with Mr. Sanders, and that he and the gentleman exchanged greetings when they met. He thinks that the Leyland and Harrison Lines are practically one, and holds that 180 bales is a fair day’s work.
Answering Mr. Gilmore, Mr. Honor said that he thought our wharf laborers compared with the wharf laborers of any port, but while the workman at Galveston are in perfect harmony with one another and their employes, the laborers here have constant friction in the ranks, and at times it seems that a man is afraid even to tell you his name on the Levee. Mr. Honor feels confident that his 18 cents a bale offer would put New Orleans on a parity with Galveston. There is no string to the offer; it is open yet to the steamship agents if they want it.
Mr. Honor went over the old labor troubles again, and repeated that the cause of the difficulties was the negroes were being worked in to put the white men out. The division of the races was brought about by the Leyland Line through political influence, Mr. Sanders being promised certain things if he would take the whites back, Mr. Honor stated. Mr. Sanders worked the whites against the blacks and the blacks against the whites.
“I’d like to say this,” remarked Mr. Honor, “I recognize Mr. Sanders as a brilliant man and a progressive citizen and an ornament to New Orleans; he’s a fighter, and does his
FIGHTING IN THE OPEN,
and when he rings his little bell, all the other steamship agents and the stevedores have to kneel down. He has his own air to breathe, and it’s sterilized.”
Mr. Honor then went on that seriously speaking, the condition on the Levee should be changed, and he held that Mr. Sanders could scare a “nigger” better than anybody he’d ever seen. The black man has all the characteristics of a child, and he believes in the white man, but in some white men on the Levee he believes in no more because of broken promises. Messrs. Sanders and LeBlanc found it to their advantage to employ negroes, as they could work them overtime and on Sundays and holidays without extra pay, which they could not do with the whites.
“What’s your experience with the laborers?” asked Mr. Gilmore. Mr. Le Blanc said that they broke faith, they were not to be depended upon, and that they deliberately robbed their employers; has that been your experience?”
“I don’t think Mr. Le Blanc wanted to say that,” assured Mr. Honor. “My experience has been very gratifying with the laborers, the Screwmen have always kept their promise to me, and the Longshoremen are the best class of workmen I have ever seen,” Mr. Honor said further that if the Leyland and Harrison Lines employed all negroes there would not be enough work on the levee for the whites, as the Leyland and Harrison Lines do the bulk of the business.
“What did you mean when you said a moment ago that you could not compare the Leyland and Harrison Lines, Mr. Honor?” Mr. Terrberry wanted to know.
“I meant by that, to use the language of the race track, that Mr. Le Blanc was not one, two, three with Mr. Sanders.”
“You mentioned political reasons as the cause for Mr. Sanders employing the whites, what are we to infer from that?” Mr. Terrberry further questioned.
“Well, it’s only what I heard. Do you want me to tell you what I heard?” Mr. Honor gave reply.
“Yes, we’d like to hear it.”
“I heard Mr. Sanders was promised the mayoralty if he would take back the whites.”
Mr. Honor, while admitting that he did not believe the stories told by the black man Ellis, of money loaned on usurious interest, said he’d heard it rumored about the transactions. Mr. Honor complained of
SEVERAL OBNOXIOUS RULES
and of agitators at work on the levee influencing the good working men. The Conference Committee, composed of twelve whites and twelve negroes, raises all the h_____ it can in as short a time as possible. The Conference Committee practically controls things and fine the foreman when the latter don’t suit.
When asked what he thought about working the races together, Mr. Honor said:
“I’m a Southern man; you don’t have to ask me that. I
BELIEVE IN WHITE SUPREMACY.”
“It doesn’t elevate the negro and it degrades the white man,” said Senator Cordill.
“Remove the cause, and we won’t have the whites and the blacks together,” advised Mr. Honor.
“What is the cause?” Mr. Gilmore asked.
“M. J. Sanders!” cried Mr. Honor; “ask him to take his hands off the labor movement.”
“Well, you believe that if Sanders had never blasted this city with his presence, as you view it, there’d be no necessity for the amalgation of the races?” Mr. Parkerson asked.
“There’d be no necessity, without the Leyland and Harrison Lines.”
Mr. Honor said that under some circumstances he would employ negroes instead of whites—that is, to do such work as shifting coal.
While Mr. Honor was on the stand the Commissioners aired their views generally on the negro question, and were of one accord in saying that such equality of the races as exists today on the Levee was a disgrace to a Southern city.
A recess was taken until 1:30 o’clock in the afternoon, and when Senator Cordill had again called the Commission to order, Captain P. W. Treleaven, Superintendent for the Elder-Dempster Line, was called to the stand.
Captain Treleaven stated that the screwmen for his line generally hand-stowed about 178 bales. On one occasion they stowed 181, but on another went as low as 175. The Captain thought that nothing less than 200 bales hand-stowed, was a day’s work. The men work about seven or eight hours and put into practice some very exacting and unreasonable rules. He told of one very unpleasant experience he’d had with the ship Hern, under
1 O’CLOCK RULE.
The vessel’s stern touched dock in time for the after gangs to get aboard and open the hatches, but her hawser parted and her bow went out in the stream, making it impossible for the forward gangs to get aboard. Meantime the 1 o’clock whistle blew and, although the ship was berthed in five or ten minutes, the forward gangs not only refused to go to work, but compelled the aft gangs to quit.
Mr. Gilmore questioned Captain Treleaven about the Liverpool trade. His line had had no ships to Liverpool in years. Elder-Dempster ships clear from Mobile for Liverpool.
Mr. Terrberry questioned the witness about coffee ships. The Captain said that more room would not hurt, but the space was sufficient provided the ships did not come in too fast. The coffee trade is growing at a great rate. To Mr. Gilmore Captain Treleaven said that the 1 o’clock rule had been modified to the extent that the Screwmen will go to work at 1:30 now. Captain Treleaven said in conclusion that he received $200 a month salary. It costs his line something like 17 cents to put a bale on board ship.
William J. Kearney, stevedore for the Harrison Line, was an interesting and important witness. Mr. Kearney went over the labor situation on the levee from 1894 to the present time, covering the stormy periods of rioting and bloodshed and giving a brief though complete history of the movement. In the early days the white screwmen had a very good thing, screwed and hand-stored 75 cotton bales a day to a gang, at $31 a day. Because there were so few white men the agents had to employ negroes. After 1900, when the whites were taken back to work on the Leyland and Harrison Lines, the screwmen stored on an average of 280 bales a day. After the strike of 1903 the screwmen stored 160 bales. After the amalgamation of the races in 1902 they stowed only 120, which fact brought about the lockout of 1905. Mr. Kearney said that when the men were storing 280 bales a day they did not go for whisky at 3 o’clock as now.
Mr. Kearney stated that after the screwmen had accepted the 180 bales, they determined to do no more skilled work, but just put the bales in loosely. If the men were to store the 180 as they stored the 160, “marrying and tomming” the bales, the limit would be a very fair one, and 180 bales would be a good day’s work. Storing cotton as they do now, they
SHOULD PUT AWAY 200 BALES
quite easily. Mr. Kearney took from his pocket a little wooden box and five tiny bales of cotton and on the table proceeded to show the Commission how marrying and tomming was done. His demonstration was quite interesting, and he showed that when the bales were “married and tommed” the vessel could economize space.
Mr. Kearney told of some of the difficulties he had had with the screwmen and longshoremen, and how he had been compelled several times to pay out sums of money that he did not justly owe to keep from having his ships tied up. When Mr. Kearney and a committee from the Stevedore Association went before the screwmen to argue points involved in the last strike, they were grossly insulted and ordered out of the hall. Mr. Kearney related some of his costly experiences with the longshoremen, and said that the stevedores had absolutely nothing to do with the work; that it was all in the hands of the foremen, who were members of the Union and were governed and tyrannized over by the Conference Committee of twelve whites and twelve negroes. Mr. Kearney said that the laborers were so very arbitrary that he was not even allowed to put his own brother to work.
Mr. Kearney’s men do not stow 180 bales as they promised to, and since the strike have introduced the following obnoxious rules:
“Thirty-five bale limit, night work; twenty-bale limit, dinner hour; every quarter to stand alone—that is, the men are to store forty-five bales in the quarter, and if, through some accident, the stevedore fails to give them the number, they do not make it up in the next quarter.
Mr. Kearney did not think the cotton at the terminals with the exception of the Westwego terminals, was better than cotton at the city front. His line practically did without cotton inspection.
Senator Cordill remarked that, perhaps the reason there were less condemnations at the railroad terminals was that the steamship agents were afraid they might lose the business if they put it on too heavy.
Mr. Kearney sees the Cotton Inspector walking by at Stuyvesant Docks; on the city front he is a whole lot busier; but on the public wharves he has to look after cotton markings as well as density.
Mr. Kearney repeated that the foremen of the levee gangs were absolutely figureheads, altogether in the power of the Conference Committee.
“Do I understand you to say that twelve white men and twelve negroes dominate the commerce of this port?” Senator Cordill asked.
“Yes, sir,” andswered Mr. Kearney.
“Well, we are practically under negro government,” was Senator Cordill’s comment.
Mr. Kearney was forced to admit at this portion of his testimony, by questions put by both Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Parkerson, that the screwmen had proposed to the stevedore to modify the 1 o’clock rule to the extent that they would work if they were paid a quarter day’s time when they were ordered to a place and there was not work for them. The Screwmen delegates present in the hall, in whispered conversation with the two attorneys, said that they had offered Mr. Kearney to stay all day—that is, from 7 o’clock in the morning until after 1 in the afternoon—if assured the quarter. The stevedores would not accede to the demand, and they enforced the 1 o’clock rule to protect themselves.
Mr. Kearney could not find in the rulebooks of either the Screwmen or the Longshoremen rules which gave the Conference Committee power over the foreman.
Mr. Honor was recalled to the stand and questioned by Mr. Parkerson, said that when he first entered the stevedoring business, he had employed only negroes. He had found the Screwmen
WOULD KEEP THEIR CONTRACTS,
and admitted having had trouble with the Longshoremen which resulted in his firm filing suits against the organizations.
Captain W. J. Bryson, Marine Inspector for the Leyland Line, was then sworn. Captain Bryson said that he did not do the stevedoring work himself; that he had a practical stevedore under him, a Mr. Briede. When Captain Bryson first came here, in command of one of the Leyland vessels in 1898, the men were storing 250 bales a day. Captain Bryson considered 180 bales a good days work, provided the bales were well stored. The average number of bales stored by the screwmen at the Leyland wharf is 173. The cotton today is too loosely stored and ships don’t get the benefit of their tonnage. It costs the Leyland Line about 17-3/4 cents a bale to store cotton.
Mr. Kearney was asked by Mr. Parkerson how much it cost him to store cotton. Mr. Kearney replied that his contract price with the Harrison Line was 19 cents a bale, but he had the cotton put aboard ship at a cost of 19 cents.
The Commission then adjourned until Wednesday morning, April 15.
When the Commission resumes its work it will take up lumber interests, and then the Cotton Exchange, cotton factors, cotton presses, pilotage, and other phases of the labor question.
Messrs. Salmen, Barret and Lee have gone to their homes in other parts of the State; Major John M. Oge will leave for St. Landry in the morning; Mr. Westfeldt will prepare for examinations in the Supreme Court, having passed law examinations in other States, and only Mr. Parkerson will remain in the city.
New Orleans Daily Picayune, March 28, 1908.
Several Furnace Mines Have Closed Down, and Companies Claim They Are Getting Out Plenty of Coal
The mining situation yesterday was without special features. The United Mine Workers’ strike is causing some of the furnace mines to shut down, but officials of the Tennessee company, the Sloss-Sheffield company, the Republic company, the Birmingham Iron and Coal company, the Alabama Consolidated and all the other iron concerns say they feel confident of their ability to mine all the coal they need regardless of the strike. Profiting by their experience in the long and bitter strike which began in 1904, the operators are employing at the start special deputies to protect their mining camps. Thus far no acts of disorder have been reported, but Sheriff Higdon has sworn in 25 deputies to be distributed to the different companies.
Organizers of the Miners’ union have been visiting the camps of the furnace companies and at Blocton, Blossburg and Pratt City quite a number of men who had been working at “open shop” mines have joined, but it is said by representatives of the operators that the great majority of their miners are well satisfied with conditions and will never join the strikers. An official of the Sloss-Sheffield said yesterday that his company was getting out more coal than it could use, and was ready to sell the surplus to other furnace concerns.
Coke is now being brought into the district from West Virginia at about what it costs to make it here. On the whole the operators say they are of the opinion that the strike will be of short duration. They point to the fact that conditions now are far less favorable to a strike than they were in 1904.
The union miners held a meeting at Pratt City last night and the night before, but the proceedings were kept secret.
Birmingham Age-Herald, July 8, 1908.
In order to correct certain false rumors now being circulated, the undersigned Coal Operators desire to announce publicly and positively their adherence to “OPEN SHOP” principles and their determination to maintain these conditions without further delay.
All those desiring employment will be fully protected.
Birmingham Age-Herald, July 12, 1908.
The miners’ strike which is now in its second week is moving on very satisfactorily to the miners. They have added over 8000 new members since the first of July which makes the organization stronger today in Alabama than ever before, and new members and new locals are being added hourly. Eight small companies have signed contracts with the miners.
The biggest drawback the miners have is the little czar who presides over the sheriff’s office and his little insignificant satellites whom he has commissioned as deputies. They are in the different camps violating the law, trying to force the ignorant miners back to work by discharging their pistols, using violent and harsh language, and abuse and heaping all kinds of indignities upon the man who is trying to take care of himself and his family. It is high time that the people of Jefferson county were looking into the sheriff’s office and see what kind of a man they have for sheriff. He should be impeached, for no man of his calibre, who is waiting in fairness, justice and equity should be allowed to preside over the welfare of this great county. He is an anarchist for the reason that he and his deputies are today violating the laws of this state. Scarcely a deputy has complied with the twenty-four inch pistol law, and then the negro pimps picked up from the very worst dives are given deputy sheriff’s badges, O! for a man, and honorable man for sheriff of Jefferson county.
The people should arouse themselves and demand simple justice for the miners. A few years ago we read with horror the outrages publicated on the people of Colorado and Idaho. The same outrages are being perpetrated today on the citizens of Alabama in the name of enforcing the law.
The following statement made by National Board Member W. R. Farley last Wednesday explains the conditions as they now exist in the great Birmingham district.40
“A Reign of Terror” was the brief characterization of the strike situation made by the leader of the miners, W. R. Farley.
Continuing his discussion of the conditions, Mr. Farley said:
“Deputies and guards are arresting men without warrants. They are breaking up meetings and taking our men by force, under threats of shooting them, to force them to go to work. We have been in conference with Sheriff Higdon and expect that he will be able to prevent and stop this lawlessness practiced by the deputies and guards. One deputy sheriff is now in jail for shooting Mr. Merriweather on his own property simply because the miners had been holding their meetings on his land. Mr. Merriweather is shot through the neck, but is still living.
“We are of the opinion that this violence on the part of the deputies and guards is done as an instigation. There has been no violation of the law by the miners since this strike began. Their conduct has been equally as law-abiding as during the last strike of over two years.
“Brutality is the order of things at Yolande and Acton basin. Men have been deprived of their shelter, among them some who were sick. They are cut off from communications. They cannot get their mail and if the situation is not relieved I shall appeal to the Postmaster General.
“Thirteen of our men were driven into the city by deputies without warrants. We have always understood that men, unless caught doing unlawful acts, could not be arrested unless a warrant was issued. It is quite clear to us that the deputies and guards are acting from instructions issued by the coal companies to their officials. From the conference with Sheriff Higdon this morning I am hopeful that this lawlessness practiced by deputies and guards will cease.
“The conditions here now are equal to those prevailing in the Colorado and West Virginia troubles. We as American citizens do not propose to tamely submit to this treatment and any breach of the peace will be definitely prosecuted.”
Birmingham Labor Advocate, July 17, 1908.
Two Workmen Are Killed in Clash with Deputies
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., July 17. The coal strike has developed into a serious situ ation today. Trains and vans carrying strike breakers to the mines have been held up at the point of shotguns, the strikebreakers forced into membership in the unions, fights with deputies have taken place, at least half a dozen lives have been lost, and the well-armed, well-fed, and well-housed strikers are in command of the situation. Sheriff Higdon has been unable to handle it, although employing hundreds of special deputies.
The strikers have professed respect for the law and only this morning convinced Gov. Comer, who made a tour of the mines in an automobile with Sheriff Higdon, that they were anxious to obey the law. At 2:30 o’clock this afternoon both the Governor and Sheriff said publicly that they saw no reason to call out the troops. At 3:15 Sheriff Higdon, at the request of his deputies at Blossburg, was compelled to call for three troops of the local militia. Charles Gardner, a special deputy, had been fatally wounded in a clash with strikers, the deputies had exhausted their ammunition and were in a state of terror. A negro miner’s house at Pratt City was blown up.41
In a melee at Blossburg Thursday night, Sam Passfuno and Allen Dennis, two strikers, were killed. Hundreds of strikers gathered about the convict mines in Pratt City, and threatened to turn loose the convicts as they were being conveyed from the mines back to prison, and only strong reinforcements prevented this action. Gatling guns and ammunition have been sent from Montgomery, and the troops there are held in immediate readiness to come to Birmingham.
The strikers started the strike with only 4,000 union men. They have probably added 8,000 to their ranks from the open shop mines of the iron corporations in the past two weeks. The present strike started July 1, when the Commercial Mines demanded the open shop scale of the union men. A compromise offered by the miners was rejected. Then the National organization, through President Lewis, not only ordered the union men to strike, but called on all Alabama mines to join in a desperate fight for recognition of the union.
New York Times, July 18, 1908.
Deputy Gardner Falls Mortally Wounded and Rioters Have Losses
Train Leaves Hamlet in Hail of Bullets
Deputy Courson Has Most Strenuous Day—Time Was When Dropping of Hat Might Have Cost Score of Lives
After a most exciting battle, which knows few equals in Alabama since the Civil War, a train load of 30 deputies escaped through a tunnel in the mountain yesterday, leaving Jefferson, the little junction beyond Brookside on the Southern railway, in the hands of nearly a thousand sympathizers of the striking miners.
The deputies carried with them Charles Gardner, perhaps fatally wounded by the first shot, and the “other side” is probably nursing a half dozen or more seriously wounded men.
The battle at Jefferson yesterday afternoon, from authentic descriptions brought in Birmingham, would make a picture worth painting.
A train loaded with men blazing forth volley after volley from Winchester rifles; the hills on each side and the slope above the tunnel in front literally swarming with armed men, constantly firing from behind rocks and trees, were the picturesque and awe-inspiring circumstances.
1000 Shots Fired
More than 1000 shots were fired during the skirmish. The deputies, who were heavily armed had exhausted their ammunition, and the hills were still ablaze with firing when the engine pulled out through the tunnel and sped away to Blossburg.
The history of the difficulty begins early yesterday morning. Deputy Courson left Jasper on a special train carrying strikebreakers and other deputies. On arrival at Adamsville they were met by a large crowd of some 700 men who are said to have attempted to entice the strikebreakers to join their ranks.
It is stated that twice a negro in the crowd raised his gun, preparing to fire. As many times the deputies drew a bead on him, and but the snapping of a trigger would have resulted in a fight.
Four Prisoners Taken
However, the men were delivered at the mines. The train made a loop back to Birmingham and out again toward Blossburg. Jefferson is only a junction where a branch line runs out to Blossburg, and the main line goes through a tunnel. The mountain surrounds it on all sides.
On the first trip in the morning Courson found the miners holding a meeting in the tunnel and a threatening crowd on every side. However, the trip was safely made and returning to Birmingham the train started out with another load of deputies at noon.
On this train were George Courson, Maj. S. D. Dodge of Ensley and 14 deputies, including Charles Gardner. Just beyond Pratt City the train was rocked and the deputies, jumping off, fired several times, captured four prisoners, and after a short delay proceeded toward Blossburg with their prisoners.
Before their arrival at Jefferson, a party of strike-breakers located there, becoming frightened by the threats, prepared to board the train. The engine after stopping a few moments prepared to pull out.
Gardner Fatally Shot
Just as Mr. Gardner was swinging up the step a gun was fired from the switch tower, it is believed, burying 13 shot in his back, neck and head. He was carried to the train for dead, and the battle began.
For some 15 minutes the firing continued. The deputies believe they shot four men, and are not certain about others.
The “sympathizers,” who were on the hill, overshot their marks, and although the windows were shattered and the car peppered with shot, none of the deputies was injured, but Major Dodge received a slight wound in his face.
Finally, when all the ammunition was out, the engine started toward the tunnel, but found a switch thrown wrong. This caused another delay, but the train crew managed to get away toward Blossburg without additional peril.
This was the final violence of the day. It is believed that it was begun by a negro. No reports have been forthcoming from Jefferson, and the condition of the wounded cannot be learned. Deputy Gardner was brought to Birmingham over the Frisco from Adamsville and taken to St. Vincent’s hospital at 8 o’clock last night. While he has never spoken, there is some hope of his living. The deputy who accompanied him gives a graphic description of the fight.
While there were no other serious disturbances yesterday, several houses were dynamited in Pratt City Thursday night, and a fight occurred at Lewisburg yesterday morning, when the tools carried by brick masons on their way to work were snatched from their hands and they, themselves, were roughly treated.
However, after the visit of the Governor, the western mines have quieted down, and late reports are to the effect that no further disorders are expected.
Birmingham Age-Herald, July 18, 1908.
But ‘Twas Lively While It Lasted. Special Carries Members of National Guard to Scene
In a conflict on the hill at Johns, in the Blue Creek mining field in the southern part of Jefferson county, on the Birmingham Mineral Railroad, shortly before 11 o’clock Tuesday, one negro was shot to pieces and two deputies were wounded.
The deputies are Messrs. Newsom and Whatley and have been on duty since the strike of the miners began.
While the information from Johns is rather meagre, the account of the shooting is as follows: “The deputies were doing duty on the hill when two negroes came along, both armed. The deputies called to the negroes and told them to stop parading the road with weapons. The negroes are said to have pulled their guns when the deputies did likewise. One of the negroes made off through the woods while the other stood up and gave the deputies a fight, firing at them with considerable precision.
The negro was literally punctured with shot.
Deputy Newsom was shot in the shoulder and Deputy Whatley was struck in the thigh. Physicians were summoned immediately to give the wounded men attention.
Word was immediately sent to the general offices of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad company in the city, and from there sent to the sheriffs’ office.
The sheriff immediately took steps to send assistance to the Blue Creek region and communicated with Deputy Jones, at Bessemer, and elsewhere.
The arrangements for sending forty members of the military to the Blue Creek region had been made previously and they will be in that section of the mining field by 3:30 o’clock.
The advice received in the city after noon was to the effect that everything was again quiet in the Blue Creek region, though wild rumors were heard for miles around that a serious battle had taken place and that there had been a number of men killed and wounded.
Birmingham Labor Advocate, July 21, 1908.
Non-union Miners’ House Dynamited At the Mines Yesterday
MORE ACTIVITY SHOWN AT WALKER COUNTY MINES
Big Meeting Held in Bessemer Last Night—All Reported Quiet in Jefferson County at Midnight
The scene of trouble resulting from the coal miners’ strike changed to Tuscaloosa county yesterday, the town of Yolande figuring in two incidents.
The first one occurred yesterday morning, when a pumper was attacked by four masked men and beaten into insensibility. The pumping station is situated about a mile from the mouth of the mine, and the pumper was alone when attacked. While he was severely beaten it is not believed that his injuries will prove fatal.
At 9 o’clock last night the house occupied by Bob Carter, a non-union negro miner at Yolande was dynamited, a heavy charge having been set off under the house. While the house was badly damaged, none of the occupants were hurt.
Dr. G. B. Crowe, president of the Yolande Coal and Coke company, said last night: “There have been a number of intimidating threats made toward our men, and I cannot but believe the wanton acts in the district are inspired from some central source. Our coal output is increasing every day, and we are also continually bringing in new men. These facts seem to have inflamed some of the union miners. We have only three deputies stationed at our mines.”
Quiet reigned throughout the Jefferson county coal strike district, not a single mix-up of any kind having been reported to the sheriff’s office up to midnight.
The military situation remained the same last night as it did on the night before. Colonel McKleroy took active charge of the troops yesterday. Two trains of imported miners were handled during the day, but without any violence Quite a crowd congregated at Adamsville, when one of the trains bearing the newcomers stopped there. This crowd did not attempt any disorder. Instead they resorted to moral suasion.
Cries of “Get off and join us and we’ll feed you and give you $5 a week,” were made to the men. Several of the negroes accepted the proposition, and jumped off the train. The number doing this amounted to about 10.
The men brought in were scattered around to a number of the mines, the number arriving Tuesday night and yesterday amounting to about 300.
Serious Shooting Affair
An investigation into the shooting up of L. V. Evans’ house, on the Mary Lee road, Tuesday night, proved the affair to have been much worse than had been reported. It appears, according to statements of neighbors of Evans, that some 20 or 30 men gathered on one side of his house and fired a volley. Then, moving around, they fired another volley at the house. Then they moved off up the road, stopping short distance from the house to fire still another volley.
The house was riddled completely. Mr. Evans, his wife and children were asleep at the time, and only good fortune saved their lives. The bullets found their way completely through the house and struck all around the beds upon which the family were sleeping. Several struck the mattress.
As soon as the first shots were fired, Mr. Evans placed his wife, child and self in a closet remaining there until after the shooting had ceased.
The affair aroused the indignation of the people living in that community, and Sheriff Higdon has several deputies working on the case. The identity of several of the men implicated in the shooting is said to be known, and arrests are expected to follow.
Situation in Walker County
Walker county is also figuring in the limelight as regards the strike. The operators in this particular county appear to have had the best of the argument during the past few years. A strenuous effort is being made by the union to organize the various mines, Carbon Hill especially being affected in this respect.
While the miners around Carbon Hill are not organized, the companies there have been paying wages ranging close to the union scale. In order to prevent their men from joining the United Mine Workers the operators resorted to a ruse. One mine had its negro diggers organize a Knights of Labor local, some 150 miners joining it. When the United Mine workers entered the field they found this organization, and now the two organizations are pulling against each other.42
The Great Elk company at that place posted a notice yesterday advising that this company would, beginning with yesterday morning, resume the price they were paying before the cut was made. This notice also states that they have plenty of orders and that all of the old men and their friends will be given all the work they want.
Large Gathering at Bessemer
Bessemer was the scene of a large gathering last night, several hundred miners holding a union meeting. A report was received at the sheriff’s office that the crowd was planning mischief, and Deputy Sheriff Jones of Bessemer was detailed to investigate it. He did so and reported to Sheriff Higdon that it was a peaceable meeting, without any suggestion of violence.
The large number of deputy sheriffs on duty is fast being worked into a systematic organization. The weeding out of the undesirable men who may have been commissioned is being done. Deputy Sheriff Sid Cowan, is in complete charge of the deputies in the field.
Birmingham was treated to a sight of army camp life yesterday afternoon, when Company G went into camp in West park, at Fifth avenue and Seventeenth street, north. The soldiers pitched their tents and slept there last night.
Birmingham Age-Herald, July 23, 1908.
Possibility of Declaration of Martial Law Given Expression By Day’s Events
ONE GUARD IS WOUNDED BY ARCADIA AMBUSCADE
Dynamite Thrown at Wylam Mines, Militia Forced To Use Bayonets To Protect Men at Adamsville
Affairs took on an ugly hue throughout the coal strike district yesterday and a continuation, it is believed, will result in the declaring of martial law in the section affected by the strike. There were a number of incidents, the disturbances occurring in several places.
The first hostility displayed toward the National Guard was shown yesterday morning at Adamsville. This was followed by some trouble at Bessie mines during the early afternoon, an ambuscade at Arcadia, in which one man was wounded, the dynamiting of the guards’ camp at Wylam Mines No. 4, and a number of other slight mix-ups.
A feature of the day was the arrest of nine men in connection with the attack upon a train of imported men at Jefferson some two weeks ago. So far this attack holds the record for violence in this particular strike, over 1000 shots being fired by the men attacking the train and the deputy sheriffs. This was where Deputy Sheriff Charles Gardner was badly wounded.
Of the nine men arrested one was the town marshal of Cardiff, being none other than Dow Belcher. The other eight men were Miles Screws, Will Huey, George Zollcoffer, John Smith and Walter Nichols, white, and John Hughley, John Perry and Ed. Washington.
No resistance was offered by any of the men and they were brought to Birmingham and lodged in the county jail. Each man has eight different charges docketed against him, there being a total of 72 warrants for the nine. These charges are for assault with intent to murder, breach of the peace, shooting into passenger train, shooting across public road, using gun in public place not in self-defense, unlawfully presenting firearms, trespassing after warning and carrying concealed pistol.
Chief Deputy Sheriff Lucian Brown, Deputies Sid Cowan, George Courson, T. J. Kennemar and Charlie Helton effected the arrests, the nine men being arrested in three different places—Togo, Cardiff and Mineral Springs. Company G made the trip with the deputies, but took no hand in the arrest of the men, simply guarding the men after they were arrested. Owing to the demonstration in this vicinity during the morning it was thought best to have the soldiers on this occasion. These arrests were made during the afternoon, the prisoners being brought to Birmingham about dark.
The Adamsville affair developed when the car load of imported negro miners who were brought to Birmingham late Monday night, were taken to Murray mines yesterday morning. Companies B and G, who have been stationed in Birmingham, were aroused early yesterday morning and sent with the imported men to Murray mines, leaving Birmingham at 5:30 o’clock. At Adamsville they were met by a detachment from the battery at Blossburg.
Nothing occurred on the way beyond a few jeers at one or two of the stations on the way. At Adamsville, however, a large crowd, composed mostly of negroes, had gathered at the depot and endeavored to persuade the imported men to join their ranks.
As soon as the soldiers had detrained they formed a line. The imported men followed them and as they alighted the crowd surged closer. The soldiers’ guns were bayoneted and they held these on the crowd. This deterred most of them, but some kept pushing forward and the soldiers had to tickle their ribs with the bayonet points before they desisted.
The crowd grew exceedingly noisy and a number of ugly remarks were made. The imported men were finally formed into line with the soldiers forming double lines on each side and the march to Murray mines made. When the mines were reached the soldiers reversed and came back to Birmingham.
Arcadia mines, some three or four miles from Mineral Springs, figured in the excitement when a group of the working miners and guards were ambushed near the mouth of the mine about 4:30 o’clock in the afternoon. Twenty-five or 30 shots were fired and the foreman of the mine crew wounded, a bullet cutting a gash under his chin.
The men were close to the mine entrance when several shots were fired at them from the woods. The guards returned the fire and bullets flew thick and fast for several moments. After this settled down things grew quiet and a strong effort is being made to locate the parties making the assault.
About three o’clock yesterday afternoon W. R. Fairley and J. R. Kennamer of the United Mine Workers advised Sheriff Higdon that some 50 shots had been fired upon union men at Bessie mines. Sheriff Higdon immediately telegraphed to Bessie, asking about the trouble and received a telegram from L. H. Lathem stating that no one was hurt, and that the person or persons firing the shots could not be located. Exact details of the affair could not be learned.
Wylam Mines No. 4 was the place at which dynamite was used, two sticks of it being thrown into the guards’ camp and exploding shortly after 8 o’clock. No one was injured, but the affair caused a great deal of excitement. Several parties are said to have threatened the guards at this place and arrests are expected to follow in connection with the dynamiting.
Reports from other places told of slight troubles at a number of places, and several men were arrested for trespassing after warning, intimidation and similar charges.
Rumors were afloat all day and night, many reputable persons reporting disorders, which, when investigated, proved to be fake with absolutely no grounds.
Birmingham Age-Herald, July 29, 1908.
Held for Acts of Violence In Connection With Strike
STEEL PLANT FULL FORCE
Rail Mill is Coming Close To Record Production These Days—Ensley is Full of Politics—Personal and General
Ensley, July 30.—(Special)—Constable Lee White this morning arrested Henry King, a negro charged with being one of the men that dynamited several houses in Wylam Wednesday night. The officers claim they have evidence of eye witnesses that will convict the negro. This evening Constable Lee White and Deputy Sheriff R. E. Bera arrested Charles Starkey, a negro, on a warrant sworn out before Judge J. M. Donaldson charging him with assault with intent to murder, and another charging intimidation. The officers also docketed a charge of resisting an officer. Starkey, it is claimed, previous to the explosion had made threats against the people living in the houses that were dynamited. It is said that Starkey is a member of the coal miners’ union and a leader among the negroes belonging to the local.
Birmingham Age-Herald, July 31, 1908.
Three Negroes Shot During Day and Airshaft at Wylan is Dynamited
HIGDON MAY RECOMMEND MARTIAL LAW AT ONCE
Believes Many Men Would Return To Work Were it Not for Fear of Assassination—Negroes Chief Offenders
The killing of a non-union miner, the wounding of a non-union and a union miner, the burning of the home of a non-union miner, a number of assaults upon non-union men, the dynamiting of an airshaft, a demonstration at Mary Lee and a number of other incidents, together with a large number of arrests in connection with the Jefferson ambuscade, the Arcadia shooting of Tuesday night and several other affairs tell yesterday’s story of the coal miners’ strike.
It was apparent early yesterday morning that the ugliness which had been displayed throughout the district on Tuesday was still bubbling out. Sheriff Higdon stated last night that unless it ceased immediately he would recommend to Governor Comer that martial law be declared in the district affected at once.
Martial Law Probable
Said Sheriff Higdon last night in this connection: “There have been a large number of ambuscades since the strike was inaugurated. During the latter part of last week matters assumed a quiet tone, but on Sunday the lawless element began to assert itself and has continued to do so. Several nonunion men have been wounded and one killed, while there have been any number of ugly demonstrations.
“Such a state of affairs as this cannot be tolerated, and I will recommend to Governor Comer that martial law be declared unless it ceases at once. In this connection I wish to state that it is my opinion that the better class of white union miners have not been implicated in any of the trouble at all. I believe there are a great many of these men would return to work at once but are afraid of assassination. This is especially true in regard to the men who own their homes.”
Negro Killed at Pratt City
The non-union miner was a negro Lige Nelm, who worked in No. 7 mine at Pratt City, the scene of the crime being but a short distance from the mine on the macadamined road leading to it. It occurred late in the afternoon, and the killing is claimed to have been done by a group of negroes, one being arrested in connection with it.
Nelm worked on the night shift at the mine, and was on his way to work. A crowd of negroes were playing baseball on a hill just above the road while a group were by the side of the road. As Nelm passed these men they attacked him, and from what can be learned Nelm was getting the best of the argument when the men were reinforced by others from the ball game. The fight finished by Nelm receiving three bullet wounds in the chest, death resulting almost immediately.
Officers were on the scene in a few moments, the shooting having attracted great attention. The negroes had disappeared, but a trail of blood from the place where Nelm’s body was lying in the road. This was followed and led to a negro house, where a negro named E. Miller was found in his jaw. Another bullet had also greased his back.
He was placed under arrest by Chief of Police Hartzfeld of Pratt City, and brought to Birminghan, where he was placed in the county jail. He states that he was not mixed up in the fight, but that he had been at the game and started down to the road where the trouble was going on. His wounds he claimed were received while he was walking down the hill.
The dead negro had a number of cartridges in his pockets but no gun. It is not known whether he had a gun during the mix-up or not.
The dynamiting at No. 4 mines at Wylam Tuesday night was followed early yesterday morning by the dynamiting of the air shaft of No. 5 mines at that place. This explosion caused great excitement but did no damage to the shaft. A number of guards were placed around it after this incident. Several arrests are expected to follow in this connection.
Shortly after the negro Nelm was killed another negro non-union miner was shot in the back and near the same place, the shots coming from the side of the road. The person shooting, however, was some distance away and the shots did not injure the negro much. A shotgun was used, a large number of small shot perforating the negro’s skin.
At the Mary Lee mines a large crowd of union men assembled yesterday morning and closed in on the non-union men as they started into the mine. They were not armed but by force of moral suasion attempted to get the men to quit. The crowd grew somewhat boisterous and was finally driven back by the guards. No other trouble was reported from there during the day.
Preparations have been made at the Mary Lee mines to prevent any attack. For some distance around the mine opening and buildings a space has been cleared and at night it is brilliantly lighted with electric lights, making it almost impossible for anyone to get close to the place without the guards seeing them.
Construction work on the stockade at this place is going forward at a rapid pace and it will probably be completed during the next week or ten days. This will accommodate over 100 additional men. . . .
Birmingham Age-Herald, July 30, 1908.
Sixty Farmers Are Drawing Supplies From the United Mine Workers’ Commissary—Mulga a Model Mining Camp—Idle Men Buying Large Quantities of Ammunition
By Frank V. Evans
Short Creek, July 31.—(Special)—Peculiar conditions exist here at this isolated mining town in the rugged hills of southwest Jefferson. It cannot be accounted a strike. It is simply a “quit” at this place. Its only resemblance to a strike is the appearance of bunches of idle men, all apparently in good humor; and the grinning faces that appear at the free ration car of the United Mine Workers. This car has just arrived and its contents are now being transferred to a country wagon drawn by two farm mules, the appearance of which said animals indicates that they have worked hard, “laid-by” the crop and are today utilized as dispensers of charity to, not only striking miners, but even to community farmers, from the bounteous store of the United Mine Workers.
Out for a Day
This mine is practically shut down today. It happens in this way: Several days ago a local was organized here, its charter membership consisting of two white miners, five negro miners and about 60 farmers. Some few of these farmers had worked in the mines for one or two days and then worked themselves into the union; and “struck” for the free bread baskets. The purpose of this affiliation is made plain by the innocent prattle of a little child. This child, the daughter of one of the “striking” farmers, said to one of the officers here: “I am so glad the union is coming to Short Creek, ‘cause papa has laid by his crop and will join and get things to eat free.” Hence the rapid recruiting of the Short Creek miners’ local. Excellent matter for encouraging reports of progress.
The “quit” at these mines, which I say cannot be accounted a strike, was brought about by absolute intimidation in this wise: A negro unionist, who was a real striker entered through a private, unused narrow passage into the mines and told the negro miners that they had better cease work immediately, otherwise their lives and their homes would be in danger; that the strikers had sworn vengeance upon all who continued work here. Through intense fear these negroes forthwith laid down their tools and left the mines, reporting to the foreman and the superintendent that they had done so, not as union men, but because they feared violence. Today these men are on the grounds of the company, many of them sitting on the front porch of the superintendent’s office, as if really seeking protection. Some few are anxious and willing to take the chances and return to work, but this number is not sufficiently large to accomplish much good today and there is a shut down at Mine No. 1. The coke drawers, however, are boldly and vigorously at work. The only difference here is that these men work in the day instead of at night, as heretofore. . . .
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 1, 1908.
Two Mounted Officers on Duty Last Night
INTENT ON KEEPING ORDER
Authorities Will Call for Troops if Necessary—Howling Dog Comes Near Causing Panic in Theatre
Ensley, July 31.—Officers John Wren and H. White tonight arrested a negro by the name of Jones Colbert on suspicion of being implicated in the dynamiting of the house of George Banks Thursday night. The police department is doing everything possible to capture the guilty parties. In order to prevent a repetition of last night’s occurrence Chief of Police James Merriman, under instructions of the mayor, has increased the police force. Two mounted policemen are patroling the city tonight. This is a new feature in Ensley. The city is very quiet and the chief of police is determined to keep peace in the city at all hazards and all citizens, union or non-union, will be protected. No more trouble is anticipated, but the officials and citizens of the city will not tolerate any lawlessness, and if necessary a request for the troops will be made.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 1, 1908.
Five Arrests Were Made In Ensley Yesterday
REAL ESTATE PICKING UP
Important Announcements Are To Be Made at Meeting of Ensley Commercial Club Tuesday—Personal and General
Ensley, August 1.—(Special)—Five negroes, Jones Colbert, Ben Garry, Dave Gaines, John Sawyer and Jim Wright, are being held at the city jail on suspicion. The police suspect that these men are implicated in the dynamiting of the home of George Banks, a negro miner, in Ensley on Thursday night. The city since this occurrence has been very quiet, but Chief of Police James Merriman is prepared for any emergency. Tonight he swore in several additional police.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 2, 1908.
Continued Meetings Held at Dora and Other Points Are Causing Unrest and Even Fear in Breasts of Those Who Want To Work
By Frank V. Evans
Dora, August 2.—(Special)—Conditions here are not such as are most desired by law-abiding, peaceful and industrious citizenship, and yet the wheels are turning and the stacks belching forth smoke.
For about 30 years this Horse Creek valley has been peaceful, orderly, industrious and progressive, but now the effects of the coal miners’ strike have touched this point with damaging attack and disturbed the equilibrium of a community of several thousand people and property values of immense proportion.
There are six mining companies doing business at this place, to wit: Red Star, Sloss-Sheffield, Samoset Coal company, Burnwell Coal company, the Pratt Consolidated and West Pratt. These companies give employment to about 2000 miners.
Disturbance Very Recent
Not until a few days ago was there any interference or disturbance at this place. Miners were busy and contentedly at work. Then the organizers came among them, fired many of them up and induced the organization here of a local. Then came a feeling of anxiety and fear on part of the miners. Comparatively few of them joined the union, but many discontinued work, giving as an excuse that they had been threatened with violence by members of the union if they did not quit the work.
I was informed yesterday that about half the normal force of miners here are “out,” but not one-fourth the number have aligned themselves with the union. It appears very clear that intimidation has been the instrument of the union men in inducing these men to lay down their picks.
Intimidation being an offense against the law, I asked some of the mine officials here why the perpetrators were not detected, arrested and punished, and the answer is that warning notices and threats have come to the miners in disguise, and it has, thus far, been impossible to detect who are the guilty men. As an illustration, yesterday morning a little boy approached the fireman at the engine of one of the mines here and stated to him that “some men on the hill had sent him word that unless he quit firing those boilers and leave the place he would be killed or his home blown up.”
Majority Fear Threats
Your correspondent has met several men here today who relate similar instances. Some men do not fear these threats, but continue at work, but most of them do, especially negro miners, many of whom own their own homes here and fear the loss of their property. The question naturally arises: Is there really any danger to these threats? On my visit to one of the dynamited houses at Wylam last week I asked the man who occupied that house, and whose life came so near being taken away, whether or not he was frightened. He answered that he was, but that he would continue to work in the mines under the rules of the company and without any consideration of the miners’ union. “I had received threats of violence at the hands of unknown persons, in case I should continue to work” continued the man, “but I paid but little attention to the threats, not believing really that violence would be done me, but it was, as you see, and this is part of the programme of many striking miners and their pals. I believe it will require the strictest vigilance to safeguard the men and their homes. These threats are not all idle talk.”
Troop C Preserving Order
Troop C, Alabama National Guard, under command of Lieutenant Calhoun, with 40-odd men, is stationed here to assist Sheriff Long with his 30 deputies in preserving peace and order. These soldiers are comfortably quartered in a large commissary and office building, and as yet have not been called upon for acute action. It is quite an easy matter to prevent any outward demonstration as long as these soldiers and deputies are on the scene, but that is not the danger. It is the midnight prowler, the ambushed villain, the devilish dynamiter and the egging, intimidating and demonstrative assemblies that bring fear and trembling, and that disturb peaceful pursuit. This can be prevented by an application of martial law speedily. . . .
Rally at Jasper
There was a mass meeting held at Jasper yesterday at the same time the one was in blast at Dora. In fact, Walker county seems to have been the point of attack Saturday by the emissaries of disorder. At Jasper a brass band led a parade through the streets—the farmers were invited, negroes as well as whites bore red flags, and black men were among the principal speakers. The affiliation of the two races proved repugnant to the taste of the white men of Walker, and I am informed that there was but little sympathy in evidence by the farmers of Walker.
The negro, Campbell, who was imported from the west to fire up the race antagonism, is said to have been one of the principal speakers at Jasper, and there is a general feeling of disapproval of the miners’ union bringing him here and of his dangerous expressions.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 3, 1908.
A house dynamited, the arrival of several “Texas Ranger sharpshooters” to be used as special deputies, a large number of imported men placed at various mines, and a few minor disturbances caused the strike situation to assume a more serious aspect last night.
The dynamiting took place at Brighton, the house of a negro non-union miner named Findlay Fuller being partly demolished, though none of the occupants was hurt. Fuller is an employe of the Woodward Iron company and works at Dolomite, about two miles below Brighton. This particular section has been free from disorder since the strike began, this being the first trouble reported from the Woodward mines.
Fuller’s house is what is commonly known as a “gunbarrel” house, consisting of three rooms and a back porch. Fuller has a wife and three children, the latter being asleep at the time of the explosion, which occurred about 10:30 o’clock. Fuller and his wife were sitting in the front room at the time. The dynamite was thrown or placed on the back porch, completely destroying it and the last room, which was used as a kitchen.
Deputy Sheriff George Jones of Bessemer was notified and went to the scene with a number of other deputies. A pack of bloodhounds were taken along and a trail struck easily. At the last report the dogs were running this trail splendidly. The Woodward Iron company has offered $250 for the arrest and conviction of the guilty parties.
The number of sharpshooters being brought to the Birmingham district from the western states is about 60, about half of whom have arrived in Birmingham. The 60 men were taken in a bunch to New Orleans, from which place they have been straggling to Birmingham in small groups and quietly placed at the different mining camps.
A detail of 19 soldiers was dispatched to Pratt City last night to join the troops stationed at No. 1 mine, under Capt. George Todd of Montgomery. This particular captain and men have been having the time of their lives at Pratt City during the last few nights. Every night either a mob would assemble near the camp or innumerable persons would try to slip through the lines.
His command was weakened somewhat during the early part of last week by some of the men being transferred to other points, and for the past several nights he has been like the Macedonian who called “come over and help us.” His plea was at last acceded to last night and the additional men sent to Pratt City.
Two carloads of imported men were taken to Mary Lee yesterday morning, the men arriving over the Louisville and Nashville and being switched at Boyles to the Mary Lee tracks. A squad of soldiers and deputy sheriffs escaped the men to the mines. No trouble was experienced.
Imported men in small groups were carried to a number of other mines, but nothing in the shape of violence was attempted by the strikers. In most of the places the strikers tried by moral suasion to get at the men to join their ranks, the slogan of “$5 a week and rations” winning a few over to their side.
Reports From Banner Mines
Kicks are said to have been made by union officials to the effect that men were being forced to work against their will in the Banner mines. Under instructions from Sheriff Higdon. Deputy Sheriff A. S. Cowan went to Banner to investigate this while the union officials were requested to send a man along. J. B. Kennemar, president of local No. 20, was named by the union men to set in this case.
Sheriff Higdon received a telephone report from Deputy Cowan last night to the effect that he had been to Banner, and that the men working in the mines had been asked if any of them were being detained against their will. He stated that none of them replied that they were, though 15 decided to leave; 72 men remained at the mines. . . .
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 4, 1908.
“It is nonsense to suggest the bringing of the federal troops to the Alabama mining district, and a reflection on our state officers and troops who are loyal to the state and who would discharge any duty assigned to them,” said Governor Comer yesterday in regard to the coal strike situation. Continuing, he said, “They are not only capable but are anxious to maintain the peace and dignity of the state.
“I was quoted in Chattanooga as having said the strike here was a small affair. This was an error, as I regard the strike as exceedingly serious. When we have men who will at night dynamite a house, endangering the lives of men, women and children, when we have men who will dynamite the property of law-abiding citizens, when we have men who will shoot down and threaten to shoot down citizens engaged in peaceful occupations, when we have inflammatory speeches made to arouse undue passion, and in a measure “sic on” unthoughted persons to violate the peace and safety of the citizens and of the property of the state, then with all good citizens I regard these matters as very serious.
“In conference today with the sheriff, Colonel Higdon, and Major Noble, commanding our military, I advised them to take increased methods and means to insure that these things shall not be. To accomplish this it may be necessary to bring more troops, it may be necessary to curb viciousness in speaking, and to restrain the assembling of people who are together for the purpose of illegally taunting both state officers and soldiers and of intimidating people from going about their lawful business. To take more radical means, disarm every combination, whether of men or guns, gotten together for the purpose of intimidation, or of dangerous conditions or anything else that looks like the breaking of the peace and the safety of the citizens.
“I understand that there are a great many negroes being gotten together in unlawful assembly, and are being madly advised. I wish to remind them that prior to 1894, with very bad leadership, both scalawag and carpetbagger, they greatly injured themselves and the state, and I want to caution them against such leadership now. The state could not allow it then, and will not allow it now; and I would advise them that the law is for the protection of those inclined to live in peace and order and work, and not to allow by inaction the violations of that right of every citizen to live in his own home, whether rented or owned, and to do his own work in his own way. I earnestly insist with every citizen that the state officers and the state troops should have their co-operation to accomplish these desired ends.”
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 5, 1908.
The five negroes who were arrested in connection with the recent dynamiting of the house occupied by the negro, Banks, were acquitted in police court this morning. The defendants offered no testimony, there being not the slightest evidence connecting them with the outrage. Immediately after the trial a representative of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad company swore out a warrant before Judge J. M. Donaldson, charging intimidation against Jones Tolbert, one of the negroes acquitted.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 5, 1908.
Man In Jail On Dynamiting Charge Quietly Taken Out and Swung To Tree
EXCITEMENT RUNS HIGH OVER LATEST OUTRAGE
Brighton Citizens Hold an Indignation Meeting and Vigorously Condemn Lawless Act—Other Arrests Expected
By J. F. Lee
Bessemer, August 5.—(Special)—Resulting from the coroner’s investigation into the lynching which took place at Brighton at some time before day this morning, Lon Tyler and Bruce Tyler, two brothers, who were acting as special deputies, were arrested on charges of murder, and carried to the county jail, and will not be allowed bond.
None of the evidence taken during the investigation has been made public but from information gathered on the outside, it is shown that Tyler possessed, or had in his possession prior to the lynching, a key to the jail» and the statement of Town Marshal Toumerlin went to show that there were only two keys in existence, he having had one of them. Toumerlin’s statement, made before the coroner’s jury was empaneled, is as follows:
“When I had locked the negro in the jail I telephoned Chief Deputy George Jones at Bessemer that I had the prisoner, and I was instructed to lock him up and Deputy Bob Jones would come for him early this morning. About 11 o’clock, just before going home for the night, I opened the door and put a bucket of water on the inside for the prisoner, relocking it, and went home. I knew nothing of his having been taken out and hanged until I arrived at the jail about 6 o’clock this morning, and found the door open and the lock hanging unlocked in the staple. I began to inquire about and learned that a negro had been seen hanging in the woods down toward the furnace, and went to the place and found him hanging to the limb of the tree. Strange to say, when I returned to the jail shortly afterwards the lock was missing, and I have been unable to find out anything about its disappearance.
“There are only two keys to the lock, one is in my possession and the other was held by George Love, a deputized constable. My key has never left my possession; about the other I cannot say.”
Deputy Constable George Love’s statement follows:
“Last night as I was passing near W. D. Bush’s home, at Smith’s crossing, I was met by Lon Tyler and two other deputies, Long and Chitwood. Tyler told me that he had heard that an attempt would be made to dynamite a house next to the one that was blown up night before last at Parker Springs, and that he wanted me to take a good man with me and patrol that territory, and for me to particularly watch the houses adjoining the Fuller house. I asked him who was going to patrol up around Brighton, and he replied that Lee Cox would be on up in that territory. I selected Chitwood, and he and I stayed around Parker Springs until morning, when I went home and went to bed, and did not know anything of the lynching until about 10 o’clock, when my wife told me of it. Before leaving me Tyler asked for the jail key, and I gave it to him.”
Jess Howell, the deputy who had charge of the dogs that trailed the negro prisoner, made the following statement:
“I stayed around the jail until about 2:30, when I left on the train that carries the workmen to Dolomite, and knew nothing of the lynching until about 9 o’clock this morning. Deputies Long and Lee Cox both went on the train with me to Dolomite, leaving Deputies Lon Tyler and Bruce Tyler at Brighton.”
It is understood that no statement could be gotten out of the Tyler brothers after their arrest, other than that they were innocent of the charge that had been preferred against them.
It is highly probable that at least two more arrests will be made, but it is not believed that more than four or five people took part in the lynching.
It was thought for a time that the prisoner was killed and then hung but when his body was taken down his neck was found to be broken. His tongue was also protruding from his mouth while hanging, and it is said that he had been dead when swung up, this would not have been the case.
Kennedy Bros. took charge of the body of the negro, but were instructed by the coroner to hold it until Friday or Saturday.
William Millin, the negro miner who was arrested last night and locked up in the city jail at Brighton on a charge of assault with intent to murder, which grew out of the dynamiting of a house occupied by Findley Fuller at Parker Springs, night before last, was taken from the jail at some time between 2 and 5 o’clock this morning and lynched. Other than those who composed the lynching party no one suspected that such action was even being considered, and the entire community was shocked when the news was spread that the negro had been found hanging to the limb of a pine tree within 100 yards of the dirt road leading from Brighton to Woodward furnaces, almost within a stone’s throw of the thickest settled part of the town of Brighton.
The negro was brought to the jail about 10 o’clock last night, just as a mass meeting of the citizens of the town was breaking up, at which the outrage of night before last, the dynamiting of the Fuller home, was severely condemned, and a vigilance committee appointed to keep down lawlessness, and that what is considered one of the greatest outrages that can be perpetrated on a law-abiding community should occur immediately following such a meeting is deeply deplored by the entire populace, and expressions of indignation could be heard on all sides.
When it became known that the negro had been lynched and was still hanging to the limb of the tree, awaiting the arrival of the coroner, crowds began flocking to view the ghastly sight, and within a very short time nearly 1000 people were gathered in a semi-circle around the tree, a guard having been placed to keep the crowd back 50 feet from where the corpse was hanging, swaying with the wind, suspended from the limb of the tree by a piece of insulated copper wire, the feet within 13 inches of the ground, which were bound together with a piece of the same kind of wire by which it was hanging.
No one was allowed to approach the corpse, as it was thought that bloodhounds would be brought to the scene with the view of being put on trail of the lynchers, but it was impossible to secure the dogs and the body was cut down about noon today.
Excitement was at a high pitch, and it was rumored around that another negro had been found dead over in a pasture near by, some saying that he had been shot and others saying that he was also hanging to a tree, but it was found to be not true.
Coroner Paris arrived on the scene about 9 o’clock, and after some delay in selecting six competent jurors, started investigations right on the spot, continuing at the city hall in the afternoon after the body of the negro had been taken down.
Secret examination of many witnesses went on through the entire day, with the result shown at the beginning of this story, an adjournment taking place about 6 o’clock until Tuesday, August 11, when the jury will again convene at Brighton.
Night before last, just after the dynamiting of the house at Parker Springs, bloodhounds were carried to the scene, and after running for some time they lost the trail where rubber-tired prints seem to show that a buggy had been in waiting, and the hunt was about to be abandoned, when the older of the dogs, one belonging to Lou Howell of North Birmingham, and said to be one of the best in the district, took up the trail again and followed it directly to the house occupied by Millin, where it ran up on the front porch and bayed. It was then about 1 o’clock, but it is said that neither the negro nor his wife had removed their clothes preparatory to retiring for the night. The negro was called to the door and questioned as to where he had been the forepart of the night and answered that he had not left his house since 12 o’clock noon. No arrest was made at the time. Yesterday a negro testified that he had overheard Millin remark to his wife, while seated on his front porch, “It’s a mighty long time going off,” just prior to the explosion of the dynamite. A miner by name of George Taylor is also said to have testified that Millin approached him and remarked that he would hate to hurt him, but if he did not quit work he was going to kill him.
This was considered sufficient evidence on which to make the arrest, and he was carried to the jail about 10 o’clock last night.
Mr. Woodward’s Comment
A. H. Woodward was seen during the day, and in referring to the matter stated that no one deplored the affair more than did the officials of his company. “Every one knows, or should know, that we will not countenance any lawlessness on the part of any of our men, and should any of the men in the employ of the company be so unfortunate as to have become mixed up in such an outrageous affair they will have to stand the consequences. You could have knocked me down with a straw when I was advised of the matter this morning in Birmingham.”
Indignation Meeting Held
Citizens of Brighton held a large indignation meeting tonight and unanimously adopted the following resolutions:
“We, the law-abiding citizens of the Brighton community, assembled in mass meeting, take this means of expressing our indignation at the lynching of Will Millin, a negro, which occurred between midnight and daylight this morning from the Brighton jail.
“Be it resolved, That we condemn all such conduct and all disregard for law and all mob law of any kind, be it further
“Resolved, That we, the citizens of this community, do most heartily desire the arrest and punishment of the guilty party or parties and pledge our support in bringing the guilty ones to justice. Respectfully submitted by your committee,
J. A. EASTERS,
S. B. SMITH,
W. S. BROWN.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 5, 1908.
Mr. Fairley Orator of the Day—Good Order Observed—Evidence of Racial Danger—Mines in Operation
By Frank V. Evans
Dora, Aug. 7.—(Special)—If the public assembly of striking miners with their women and children, which occurred at Dora today is characteristic of other gatherings in the district, I fail to discover any very dangerous feature in the public assembly proposition.
This correspondent came out on the train this morning which numbered among its passengers Mr. Fairley, who I was informed was to be the orator of the day at a great gathering of his followers in a wooded place a short distance from Dora. By my own invitation I attended that meeting, and numbered myself one of an audience of about 500 people, among them white men, black men, white women, black women, and children of both races.
Mr. Fairley’s speech was just such an address as would ordinarily be delivered by any other paid attorney in defence of his client. The most objectionable features of his remarks were his personal reference—and his harsh criticism of men who differ with him, and of the governor of Alabama. The speaker urged the striking miners to stand fast to the proposition they had laid down and to yield not one point. Said he: “If you lose this strike, not a decent miner, not a man of you who has any self-respect, should remain in Alabama.” He took occasion to speak in opposition to the importation of foreigners to this district, upbraided Governor Comer (who says he is opposed to foreign immigration) for allowing them to come and forgot the fact that he uttered his sentences in the dialect and tongue of a man from across the sea—he himself being a foreigner.
When I suggested to a bystander that I had heard nothing incendiary in the remarks of Mr. Fairley, it was stated to me that it is not the open meetings, but the star-chamber gatherings where fiery utterances are delivered and from which is breathed forth dangerous contagion.
Other speakers addressed the assembly, following in the Fairleyite line and ideas, it was left for a negro preacher from Empire to take the stand and give utterance to remarks which cannot prove conducive to a readjustment of conditions and resumption of peace and order. It is a lamentable condition that incites and permits ignorant leaders to address assemblies of white women and children as social equals, advising as to moral and social questions, and alluding to those delicate matters of social status which can only be discussed properly with fair women in the private home and by husband and father.
It was a third of a century ago or more that the people of Alabama by rigid force and even the shedding of blood stopped the advance of a threatening peril which endangered our social fabric. It was the inculcation in the minds of blacks the idea of social equality. The terrible poison then was sought to be applied for political purpose by carpetbaggers from the north, and for a time the cloud seemed ominous, but the Caucasian blood of this state was aroused to resentment and to the defense of the home fireside.
When today this correspondent saw the comingling of whites and blacks at Dora, where he beheld the sympathetic arms of a negro extended toward and embrace a white speaker to impart to him a secret of his bosom, in the very presence of gentle white women and innocent little girls, I thought to myself: has it again come to this?
One interesting feature of this meeting today was the singing of a hymn by the assembly. As Mr. Fairley took his seat a “square note” music teacher led the sacred warning hymn, “Are you ready for the judgment day,” and white and black, male and female joined in concert.
Just what hearing the musical introduction of this all-important question has upon the present status of affairs at Dora I do not fully understand, but I thought as I looked upon the assembly of idle men, heard of dynamite fury and beheld the presence of armed officers, civil and military, and saw the glitteringof handcuffs here and there, that the question is not inappropos at this time.
Mines Are Running
The casual observer does not see or hear disorder at Dora today. Every mine except Samoset is working. Rumor that the Red Star (Walter Moore’s) mines are closed down is without foundation. Mine No. 1 of this company is today producing more coal than it has any day for a month. In fact the output there is normal. Mine No. 2 is also in motion, but the output is as yet small. These Red Star mines and Walter Moore, their owner, seem to have centered upon them all of the animosity and venomous wrath the orator of today’s meeting has to apply to Walker county for in his speech today he gave vent to his feeling toward Mr. Moore in a manner which might cause other than strong and brave men like Walter Moore to weaken his position by resenting personal attack in a strenuous time like this.
There was no marching at Dora today, no large bodies of men passing to and from the meeting. Sheriff Long had given notice that there should not be and whenever there was the least appearance of numbers in marching order they were required to separate and go and come as peaceful citizens. The soldiers are still here; Troop C, under command of Lieutenant Calhoun is stationed still at Dora, and a detachment of Battery D, under command of Lieutenant Hardman, at Burnwell, two miles distant. These soldiers were ready for any emergency today, a number of them doing picket duty.
From close observations I do not regard the conditions in Walker county as alarming as in other parts of the district. I have today mixed, mingled and conversed freely and openly with a number of the leading men among the strikers—some of them officers of the union—and I am persuaded that the principal reason for their declining to return to work is that they have been persuaded to believe that they can really win this strike by continued persistence. In conversation they insist that their union shall have recognition at the hands of the operators. They strenuously protest against being charged with violations of law.
With rigid application of the rule against public demonstration, the patrolling of the highways to prevent the prowling of suspicious stragglers and the continued presence of the soldiers I believe that within a short time normal labor forces will be restored to these mines. Whether this be by the return of the old men or the bringing in of new ones I do not know, but I do believe that everything points to a determined purpose on the part of the operators of Walker county to produce full outputs of coal.
Will Peace Then Follow?
But, I am not sure, nor do I really see any hope for an immediate restoration of law and order, even after the mines are in full commission. The resentful spirit of union miners, who have been imbued with the idea that their rights have been taken away from them, the poisonous venom produced by idleness, the encouraging utterances of bad leaders have created an unhappy condition, a dangerous sentiment, which will break out somewhere or in some shape, as soon as the miners and the property are left without watch-care. The presence of soldiers and of deputy sheriffs cannot be dispensed with simultaneously with the resumption of normal mine production.
This is a painful, yet a truthful fact. It means a long continuation of unrest and of fear. It means heavy financial cost. It means that the state of Alabama should take strong hold of the situation and adjust the difficulties with which the people of the commonwealth are confronted.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 8, 1908.
Yesterday witnessed an entire change in the personnel of the troops on strike duty. The day’s record also showed one non-union man killed by dynamiters. This killing took place in Shelby county, while Jefferson county experienced a day of absolute quiet.
The dynamiting occurred early yesterday morning at Acton, the mines at this place being operated by the Alabama Fuel and Steel company. Four houses were dynamited, and one of the occupants, a negro boy named Terrell, was killed. All of the houses were occupied by non-union men.
A number of deputies were on duty at the time, and they state that they saw several men running from the direction of these four houses immediately after the explosions. Sixteen men have been arrested and charged with the crime. Four of them are white and twelve are negroes, all being striking miners. It was stated last night by officials of the company that some of them have made a confession as to having participated in the dynamiting.
Local Troops Relieved
By 12 o’clock last night all of the artillery and cavalry troops on strike duty had been relieved by men from the First and Second infantry regiments, who arrived from Chickamauga late Friday night, where they were encamped with the regulars for about ten days.
The new troops relieving the artillery and cavalry number nearly twice as many as the ones they relieved. The First regiment numbers about 730 men, while two companies from the Second regiment swell the number close to 900. The number of troops that have been on duty was under 500.
The officers in command are Colonel DuMont and Lieutenant Colonel Hubbard of the First Regiment. Lieutenant Colonel Hubbard being actively in command at present. Colonel DuMont arrived from Chicamauga Friday night and is a guest of Governor Comer. He has not been well for the past two or three days, and will return to his home in Mobile today. It is probable that he will return to Birmingham within a few days.
Major Noble, who has been in command during the past ten days, having relieved Colonel McKleroy of the Third Infantry when this regiment was relieved of strike duty and sent to Chickamauga, has been instructed to report to Lieutenant Colonel Hubbard, and will be retained here. . . .
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 9, 1908.
Twenty-seven Men Were Arrested Yesterday, Four of Whom Confess to Complicity in Firing Upon Train from Ambush
Crossties Had Been Placed on Track to Stop Train and Thus Make the Midnight Assassination More Effective
Conductor Joseph T. Collins
Deputy Sheriff 0. Z. Dent
Willard Howell, imported miner
Major F. C. Dodge, Tennessee company official, wounded in leg and hand.
E. E. Cox, general superintendent of mines Tennessee company, slightly wounded.
A. E. Cross, chief clerk superintendent’s office, slightly wounded.
Deputy Sheriff J. C. Johnson, slightly wounded in side.
Deputy Sheriff A. C. Bryant, slightly wounded in side.
W. H. McAuly, soldier, slightly wounded. Taken to St. Vincent’s hospital.
Deputy Sheriff J. C. Martin, wounded in head, back and arm. Taken to St. Vincent’s hospital.
Deputy Sheriff J. B. Cornett, wounded in back. Taken to St. Vincent’s hospital.
Robert Sigmon, imported miner, wounded in arm and breast. Taken to St. Vincent’s hospital.
A. J. Myer, imported miner, wounded in leg.
In one of the most cunning ambushes ever arranged, three men were killed and 11 wounded at 1:30 o’clock yesterday morning by an attack upon a special Louisville and Nashville train near Blocton, in Bibb County. In connection with this attack 27 persons had been arrested at a late hour last night and locked up at Blocton, while officers there were also looking for a number of others who are suspected of complicity.
A special train of three cars, in charge of Conductor Collins and Engineer Vincent and loaded with imported men, deputy sheriffs and soldiers, left Birmingham Saturday night shortly before 11 o’clock for Blocton. The attack took place about one mile from Blocton in a small cut at the bottom of the hill.
Ties Across Track
The train was traveling rapidly when Engineer Vincent suddenly spied a number of crossties stretched across the track a few hundred yards ahead of him. He instantly slacked the speed of the train, but it continued to travel forward at a somewhat rapid pace.
He had scarcely put on brakes when volley after volley of hot lead was poured into the side of the car from the top of the cut, three men being killed almost instantly. The track at this point runs in a small cut, the ground rising from the edge of the cut to the top. The edge of this cut is on a level with the lower part of the car windows, rising gradually until it attains a great height.
The assailants, of whom it is believed there were at least 50, spread themselves close to the edge of the cut, and as soon as the train slackened up they proceeded to fire all manner of guns at them.
This fire was replied to by Major Valden, who was in charge, and Captain Townsend, both of whom shot pistols. When the first shot was fired Major Valden was standing in the aisle, and when the next reports came he ordered his men to lie flat on the floor. This action probably saved many lives. The position of the assailants was such that they could draw deliberate aim on the windows of the coaches.
Coolness of Engineer
The cool-headedness of Engineer Vincent also had much to do with the handling of the situation. When he saw the crossties on the track he slackened the speed of the train. Then a heavy volley of shots rang out. He allowed the engine to run on into the blockers, scattering the ties like so much paper.
While the soldiers on the train had their guns and plenty of ammunition they had not filled the magazines of their rifles prior to the time of the shooting, and could not return the fire at once.
The entire train from the smokestack to the rear platform is a silent testimonial to the number of shots fired by the assailants. Practically every window on one side is broken, while the woodwork is also badly damaged.
After shoving the blockade off the track Engineer Vincent put on full speed and in a few moments Blocton was reached. Here telephone connection with Birmingham was established, while the surgeons with the company exerted themselves in trying to care for the injured. The soldiers on the train composed Company L of Uniontown and were under command of Major Valden and Captain Townsend.
The train which was fired upon remained at Blocton until daybreak, when it began its return trip to Birmingham, arriving here shortly after 8 o’clock with the dead and injured. The train was met at the Eighteenth street crossing by ambulances from Shaw & Son, Lige Loy and the Green Undertaking Co., the badly wounded men being rushed to St. Vincent’s hospital.
A sight like the one presented when the train proceeded to unload at Eighteenth street was one which Birmingham has not experienced in years. There were men with clothes covered with bloodstains, many swathed in bandages, and a sigh of pity from the large crowd went up as each wounded man was helped out of the cars.
Shortly after this train arrived another special train bearing Company L of Troy with Captain Morris, Lieutenants Prary, Pilcher, W. E. Mickle, and Valden, left for Blocton, carrying all camping paraphernalia and also bloodhounds.
When the place where the train had been attacked was reached a stop was made. A number of deputy sheriffs under Sheriff Oakley of Bibb county were in waiting with several saddle horses.
The hounds were turned loose and while the trail was nearly 10 hours old it was taken at once. It led for some distance, breaking several times, but always being picked up again, and finally ending in a small settlement.
Here a number of houses were searched and rifles, shotguns and pistols taken in hand. Four negroes were arrested early in the day and at one time things took on a squally look, a number of persons suggesting that they be lynched.
Total of 27 Arrests
A total of 27 people had been arrested by 9 o’clock by Sheriff Oakley, this number being composed of eight negro men, one negro woman, and the balance Slavs. Of the Slavs five are said to have confessed to having taken part in the shooting.
Another incident in connection with this trail is that a sock was found on one of the crossties which had been placed across the track and later in the day the sock was matched with one that was worn by one of the men arrested. Sheriff Oakley was commended on every hand for the able manner in which he handled the situation.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 10, 1908.
President Hayes of Mine Local at Blocton, Ala., Is Among the Prisoners
MINERS’ LEADERS IRONICAL
Citizens Discuss Deportation of Mine Strike Leaders—Situation is Serious—Miners Out Since July 6
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Aug. 10.—Thirty arrests have been made at Blocton of men alleged to have been engaged in the ambush of the Birmingham mineral train early Sunday morning, when three men were killed and eleven injured. One of these is Robert Hayes, President of the mine local at Blocton.
It develops that the strikers have, by their excellent detective system, been enabled to anticipate arrivals of strikebreakers hours ahead of time, and this was done in the case of the Birmingham mineral train, although its route was changed shortly before it left the city.
Most of the men arrested at Blocton are foreigners, and were themselves strikebreakers in 1894. Blocton has been a non-union mine of the Tennessee Company ever since. Seventeen arrests have been made at Acton, where four non-union negro houses were blown up on Saturday and one negro killed.
Representative citizens of the Birmingham district met this morning and discussed the deportation of nine strike leaders, but nothing was done beyond the appointment of a Committee of Twenty-five to consider the situation and suggest a remedy for the outrages.
Miners’ leaders deplore the Blocton outrage, but at the same time are ironical in public cards, in which they declare no one has deplored the deaths of “innocent strikers” shot down by Deputy Sheriffs.
The coal operators, at a meeting held today, put themselves on record as against deportation. John P. White, Vice President of the National miners’ organization, arrived today. He said that the Alabama situation was in a good way because the National union had no other big strike on hand, and he complimented the Alabama miners on having increased their membership from 3,500 to 14,000 since the strike began.43
Before his arrival it was reported that the National organization would cut off the very liberal support being given now if it developed that the miners could not achieve victory in a short time. They evidently cannot, hence great interest attaches to White’s future course.
The strike started July 6, and is no nearer an end now than then. The situation is well-nigh desperate with the miners. The operators are equally obdurate. Every one else is longing for cold weather to induce the idle miners to return to work.
New York Times, August 11, 1908.
One Man Shot, Another Drinks Poisoned Whisky
WHITE MINER HELD UP
Two Special Trains Carried Men To Mines Yesterday Under Military Escort—Another Dead Negro Found
Lawlessness bubbled over again yesterday in the coal strike district, one striker being shot by another striker because he expressed his intention of returning to work; a non-union miner being held up with guns and advised that if he did not quit work that he would be killed during the next few days, another non-union negro dying from drinking poisoned whisky, together with a few slight disturbances, making the day rather lively.
The shooting affair occurred at Banner mines, which are operated by the Pratt Consolidated Coal company. A negro, Tom Watkins, who is said to have gone on the strike, is said to have remarked in the presence of Ned Harris, another negro striker, that he was going back to work. Harris is said to have cursed at this, and replied that any man who would do that ought to be killed. Then, it is said, Harris pulled a pistol and shot Watkins.
Deputies at Banner heard the shooting and investigated, but Harris had made his escape. A search was instituted, but up to a late hour last night he had not been apprehended. The negro Watkins is said to be seriously wounded.
A white non-union miner named Williams reported that he had been held up by two negroes and told to quit work or be killed. Williams lives at Crocker, but works at the Jett mines, two miles away, on account of the Crocker mines being shut down. He was riding home on a mule when the two negroes stopped him, the men being armed and stepping out from behind some bushes in front of him.
At Sayreton a negro named George Wilson, said to be a non-union miner, went home yesterday, walked into the garden and fell dead. He is said to have purched whisky from two hop jack stands and drank it not less than 15 minutes before his death. Coroner Paris will hold an autopsy over the remains to find out if poison was used.
Coroner Paris returned from Bessie mines yesterday, where he had been to investigate the finding of a dead negro in the woods between there and Blossburg. The body had been tied to a log and set on fire, being partially destroyed, and burned beyond recognition. Papers on him showed that he had traded with J. D. Hanby of Pratt City, and he is supposed to have been. D. Shannon, alias Andrew Hemphill. Shannon is said to have been a labor agent working for the coal operators, and is said to have been missing.
Shortly after his return Coroner Paris left for Mineral Springs to investigate the finding of another dead negro in the woods there. The Pratt Consolidated Coal company operates the mines at Mineral Springs.
Two special trains carrying imported men were run yesterday under military escort, and the men delivered safely at the mines without trouble or interference. The first train went to Republic guarded by a detachment from Company F of Albertsville, with Lieuts. W. T. Clemens and Leon Schwarz in charge, and the second train carried a large number of men to Wylam. . . .
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 14, 1908.
General Quiet In Mining Camps Yesterday
PRELIMINARIES ARE HELD
Several Men Bound Over to the Grand Jury in Connection With Recent Acts of Violence in Jefferson County
The strike situation was quiet at midnight, no report of any disorder having been received up to that time. Something is expected to occur around military headquarters today, but everything there was peaceful yesterday. Governor Comer and Lieutenant Colonel Hubbard held a conference at the governor’s residence at a late hour last night, but the nature of the conference was not made public.
Several additional arrests have been made in connection with a number of the various incidents of the strike. Mims Harden has been arrested in connection with the Jefferson battle and a large number of charges docketed against him.
A preliminary hearing was held yesterday morning before Justice W. S. Russell for the men arrested in connection with the killing of Lige Nelms, a negro non-union miner, near Pratt mines, some two weeks ago. Arnold Miller, Dave Roebuck and Charles Crenshaw, all negroes, were bound over to await the action of the grand jury, while another negro named Ellis Hollis was arrested after the trial had started. Harry Doggett, Monroe Hunter and E. Barron were released. The first three and last three men named were arrested shortly after the killing upon warrants sworn out by Coroner W. D. Paris.
Nelms was killed near Pratt mines while on his way to work late in the afternoon. A crowd of negroes were playing baseball in a field close by the road he was walking down, and when he passed they attacked him. Nelms, from all accounts, put up a stiff fight and had about worsted his antagonists when some one started shooting, the affair winding up by Nelms being shot almost to pieces.
A hearing will be given before Judge H. B. Abernathy on next Saturday of the deputies charged with having assaulted with intent to murder Jake Burros, who was arrested some ten days ago, in connection with the dynamiting of a non-union miner’s house at Wylam. Burros was bound over by Judge I. H. Benners on this charge, his arrest being followed by the arrest of the deputies who had captured him. Burros alleges that the deputies took him from his house and hung him to a tree for several moments.
Company K, the provisional company made up of Birmingham national guardsmen, will go into their new camp quarters either today or tomorrow. These quarters are located at Tenth avenue and Twenty-sixth street, right at the edge of Norwood. Electric lights and telephones will be installed in the camp, while the sanitary conditions will be of the best. Capt. E. H. Jackson of the Montgomery Greys is in command of this provisional company.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 18, 1908.
Mobile. August 18.—(Special)—Grand Master Henry Claxton Binford of Huntsville made his annual address today before the 31st annual grand lodge of Alabama, Ancient Free and Accepted Colored Masons. There are 500 members of the grand lodge representing 388 chartered subordinate lodges, composed of more than 12,000 Masons. The address was enthusiastically received.
He spoke among other things bearing on the strike question in Birmingham and the colored Masons who are miners, saying in part:
“I have warned you before that unions must not enter our portals; the deplorable conditions now in the Birmingham district makes it necessary for me to say more. Every man has a right to quit work when he pleases. If you are not getting the wages you want, quit and go somewhere else; but for a man to quit work, continue to live in the company’s house and say that others shall not work is wrong, both in the sight of God and man, and Masons must not be guilty of it; and when an organization resorts to murder and other means contrary to law and order to accomplish its purpose that organization is not fit to live and should be put down by the strong arm of the law.
“I advise you to stay out of these unions and have nothing to do with them. In the north the whites will not allow you folks to be in them and in the south you are only taken in because they cannot accomplish their purpose without them. Stay out of the unions.”
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 19, 1908.
Recurring Disorders In District Call For More Soldiers and Preservation of Order At Any Cost—Some Results of the Present Disturbed Conditions
By Frank V. Evans
Blocton, August 19.—(Special)—The train on which I came to Blocton this morning had as passengers 14 black people seeking employment at these mines, and, in order to safely land them here it was deemed necessary to have them accompanied by 30 soldiers and six deputy sheriffs. Just before reaching this point several detachments of soldiers from Major Valden’s command were met, having been sent out by that officer to make sure a way clear of bushwackers from the camps of enemies to law.
Now, look at the picture: About 40 strong, vigorous, intelligent white men employed for a day to protect 14 black people in their effort to enter upon honorable and useful work. What heavy expense to the mine operator and to the taxpayers of Alabama. But, the constitution of this state guarantees protection to the lives and property of all the people, even the humblest negro, in their pursuit of happiness, employment and comfort; and, if it required the entire armed military force of the state to safely conduct these few black people to the Blocton mines, it was nothing more than the duty of the state to do so at any and all cost.
Do You Ask Why?
Does the reader ask why the necessity for all this? Where is there danger? And the answer comes, remember the bloody deeds committed by the ambushed villains on this spot just a few days before. The sovereign state simply declares such deeds shall not again be committed.
And yet it is hard, very hard that the act of ordering, fostering and encouraging a coal miners’ strike should cause such conditions to arise as to make necessary this burden upon the whole people. Somebody is to blame for it all. . . .
Pending even an answer to that petition an object lesson was presented which ought to impress every reasonable mind with doubt as to whether or not even arbitration would stop the criminal tendency and dynamitic fury of those who are the guilty ones in these offenses against law and order and peace. I refer to the firing into an inoffensive shovel crew at Coalburg and the dynamiting and attempt to murder innocent men and women and destroy property at Pratt City last night. These workmen at Coalburg were not union miners. Those innocent young women at Pratt City were not the daughters of a union miner. The question is, who did that shooting and who fired the deadly dynamite?
Held Without Bail
It has been the boast of the leaders of this strike that of the numerous men who have been arrested, charged with these dark and damnable crimes nearly all have been released on preliminary examination; but now we have it that at the preliminary trial of the 17 striking miners charged with dynamiting four houses at Acton mines and killing one of the inmates, all but two were held without bail in jail, the presiding magistrate deciding that the evidence of guilt was strong. This 15 of alleged murderers are now safely ensconsed in the county jail at Columbiana. Thirteen of them are negroes and two are whites —all loyal members of the miners’ union, so I am informed. The two white men are Ed Barrington and R. D. Stacener, the secretary and treasurer of the local at Acton mines. I venture the opinion that in all future trials of like cases the much offended state of Alabama will make most diligent inquiry turning suspects lose to prey upon the fair soil of this district in its present perturbed condition.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 20, 1908.
A Fight On Frisco Passenger Train Causes Alarm Among The Passengers
FIFTEEN MEN HELD FOR UGLY MURDER AT ACTON
Several Threatening Reports Received By Sheriff Last Night Caused Extra Men To Be Sent Out Hurriedly
The quiet which has prevailed in the strike districts during the last few days was broken early yesterday morning by the dynamiting of two houses in Pratt City. One house was occupied by Thomas Duggan, mine boss of No. 12 mine, and who has been connected with the Tennessee company for the past 20 years, while the other house was occupied by Anthony Davis, a negro, who lives in a few hundred yards of Mr. Duggan.
Three negroes were arrested in connection with the crime, the negro Davis identifying them as the men who dynamited his house. Sheriff Higdon announced last night that he would pay a reward of $250 for the arrest and conviction of the guilty parties.
So terrific was the explosion at Duggan’s house that it woke up people nearly three miles away. The front part of the house almost completely demolished and two daughters of Mr. Duggan who were sleeping in the room next to the end of the front porch where the dynamite was thrown, were rendered unconscious by the force of the explosion.
He Received Warnings
Mr. Duggan stated that he has received a number of letters during the past month warning him to cease work and for this reason he has been sleeping with his shotgun close to his bed. All of the windows in the house have been left open by the family during the recent hot nights and Mr. Duggan was sleeping next the window.
He stated that the letters had made him somewhat uneasy and that he had tried to sleep lightly. Shortly before 1 o’clock he heard something strike the porch and sprang out of bed, but before he had scarcely touched the floor there was a tremendous explosion. In the room with Mr. Duggan were his wife and baby boy, three sons and a little daughter occupied another room, while his other two daughters occupied a front room. The house is a five-room dwelling with a hall.
The young ladies screamed immediately and when the other members of the family reached them they were unconscious. They soon recovered, however, and physicians state that they were not injured, but simply shocked and would be all right in a day or two.
Mr. Duggan kept the ground clear around the house so that a trail could be taken by the dogs and then communicated with the prison officials and dogs were sent to the place at once.
Followed By Second Explosion
About 30 minutes after this explosion and before the dogs arrived the air was rent with another explosion, the negro Davis house being the one attacked this time. Davis and his wife had been awakened by the other explosion and were awake when the dynamite was thrown at their house. In fact, Davis stated to Chief of Police Hartsfield of Pratt City and Guard Singleton, who appeared on the scene shortly after the explosion, that he saw the men and had his gun drawn on them at the time of the explosion.
Without any trouble the dogs took a trail from Mr. Duggan’s house. This trail passed through the front yard of his brother’s (Mike Duggan) house to the Davis house. Mike Duggan stated that he heard the parties rush by his house immediately after the explosion.
From the Davis house the trail led to a negro settlement, directly to a house occupied by Albert Jones, Walter Finney and Finney’s wife, all negroes. At the time of their arrest none of them is said to have been undressed with the exception they had taken their shoes off. The two men are members of the miners’ union and went out on the strike.
The affair created a great sensation around Pratt City and a large crowd had collected by the time the three negroes were arrested, and it was feared that trouble might be experienced in getting them to jail. Beyond a few strong remarks, however, nothing was attempted.
They were taken before Davis, who said emphatically that they were the right ones. They were also taken before Duggan. Attempts were made to get the negroes to talk, but they maintained a sphinx-like silence all the while.
Reports Last Night
Matters were taking on a slightly ugly looking appearance last night, according to reports received from a number of places, and extra deputies were detailed to several of them. No reports of trouble had been received up to midnight, however.
Yesterday also witnessed the change in location of the military headquarters, Colonel Hubbard with Major Thurston, Major Noble and the other members of his staff moving from the Metropolitan hotel to the field camp at Twenty-sixth street and Tenth avenue, North.
Several small lots of imported men were placed yesterday, but without incident.
The preliminary hearing of the 17 men charged with dynamiting four houses of negro non-union miners at Acton, in which a negro youth lost his life, was finished yesterday at Columbiana. Two of the men were released, while the other 15 were bound over to await the action of the grand jury.
Fight on Passenger Train
A fight between a special deputy and a union miner created quite a sensation on a Frisco passenger train yesterday morning. The deputy was A. D. Rollins and the miner J. W. Dobbins.
According to reports received here both men boarded the train at Palos, and shortly afterward Dobbins expressed his opinion to Rollins as to what he thought of a man who would be a special deputy under existing conditions. He is said to have used a foul epithet in his description, and to have followed it up with a smashing blow in Rollins’ face. Rollins hit back and a spirited fight followed, the two men moving up and down the aisle. The train was traveling at a clipping rate and the coach was crowded. The men soon reached the door, and it was with great difficulty that the other passengers kept them off the platform.
Deputy Sheriff Vaught was on the train at the time, having in charge John Elliott, who is charged with the murder of John Hurley at Coal Creek several days ago. He forced himself into the crowd and placed the two men under arrest. At the time he did not know that Rollins was a special deputy.
Both men were beaten up badly and Dobbins was turned over to the authorities at Adamsville to receive medical attention. Rollins came on to Birmingham and swore out a warrant against Dobbins, while a charge of affray was also docketed against him.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 20, 1908.
Estes Says It Is Time Something Was Done to Show Insolent Violators of Peace and Dignity of State That Alabama Is No Place For Them
To the Editor of The Age-Herald:
As one of the citizens of Birmingham whose business is suffering from the coal miners’ strike, I wish to enter my protest.
Let us look at the facts. Up to July 1 our business was gaining in volume steadily, and we felt that the end of the hard times was in sight. On July 1 the United Mine Workers of America called a strike—for what? Judging by the articles which have appeared in the press, and my long residence in the district, I say, unhesitatingly, that it was for the purpose of enforcing unionism in the mines of this district. Certainly it could have been no question of wages, because I know that a miner who was willing to work could make $100 and over net per month in any of the mines, and I am reliably informed that the average wage was higher in this district than in the Connellsville district in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, there were mines like the Empire which had never reduced the wage scale, and at which strike conditions reign. From all of this it would appear that the strike was called for the purpose of again bringing the business of coal mining under the thumb of Messrs. Fairley, Kennamer, Clemo, et al.
It seems to me that such condition of affairs is monstrous! Why should we, the innocent third party, be made to suffer because Fairley wants to run the district, and in order to do so permits his thugs to dynamite houses, shoot into trains and intimidate men who want to work?
Why should we suffer this fellow, a foreigner by birth, to upset our commercial prosperity, arraign our governor and our sheriff, and bring on the name of our grand old state?
And this fellow White, why should we permit him to come into our country and organize the negroes against the white people of this district, and destroy the good feeling that has existed? Would it not be well for him to go to the mines of Illinois, where the white miners will not allow the negroes to work? Do we want a “Springfield riot” in our midst, started by this carpet-bagger?
It is time something was being done to show these insolent violators of the peace and dignity of our state that Alabama is no place for them. Colorado citizens showed what they thought of Fairley and how he should be treated. Are we less men than they of Colorado?
G. H. ESTES
Birmingham, August 19, 1908.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 21, 1908.
Since Operators Refuse Positively to Recognize Union, the Strike Leaders Are Only Persons Benefited by Continuation of the Fruitless Struggle
By Frank V. Evans
That was a wise and timely warning given to negro Masons by their grand master, Henry C. Binford, when he announced to them that if any negro Mason is killed while affiliating with the miners’ union his hears will not be entitled to benefits from the endowment department; and especially when he further said that he considered every member of his order in the Birmingham district connected with this union fighting the laws of the state a murderer.
This man Binford is a negro of intelligence and of property. He is well known in Birmingham and throughout the state and enjoys the confidence and esteem of numbers of white people. His advice to his race should be heeded. It is more wholesome advice than that given the negroes by the white leaders of this coal miners’ strike, who are daily instilling into the minds of the blacks ideas of social equality, which if they do take root soon will result in a worse condition than even now exists—a condition of bloodshed and absolute annihilation. A worse page will be written in history than the stories recounted in the late 60s and the early 70s, when political carpetbaggers came among us to disturb the amicable relations which had existed in the south between the white and black races. The spirit of socialism anarchy are even more dangerous and damning than political error, blunder and darkness.
The Negro and the Union
Speaking on this matter, Hon. A. T. London said to me:
“My information is that over half of the miners in this district are negroes, and a large percentage of these people have been admitted into the union. I am also informed that north of the Ohio river negroes are not permitted to join the miners’ union; and if this is true I think Mr. Fairley and Mr. White are called upon to make known why this discrimination is made against the negro miner elsewhere, and why it is that a negro union miner in Alabama ceases to be a union man when he crosses the Ohio river.44
“Is the present an adroit move to get rid of the negro miners, and if they are eliminated from the Alabama district does anyone imagine that the district of Alabama would be improved?
“We have shut our eyes to the fact, unconsciously, perhaps, that the future success of the coal mining business in this state rests very largely upon negro labor, and, apart from say, sentimental sense of duty, but from a purely economic standpoint, it is at once our duty and interest to protect these people in the exercise of their right to earn a living; and Mr. Fairley and Mr. White should both be made to understand that neither they nor any other men can come into Alabama and, by the creation of a combination and the inauguration of a reign of terror, not only dominate labor but break down the government.
I can already hear the cry made that I am simply giving vent to the claims of property. This cry is specious, for if its truth were conceded the labor of a miner, white or black, is just as much property at the mine owned by the operator, and he is entitled to just the same right to sell his labor to whom he desires, and on such terms as he pleases, as is the operator to sell his coal. Once destroy the right of property and you have practically no liberty left. The government rests upon this very foundation and personal liberty is just as much involved in the right to contract as it is in the right of exemption from wrongful incarceration in jail.”
I am reliably informed that the latest movement of the leaders of the strike in this district is to organize the women of both races whose husbands, fathers and brothers are members of the union in female unions known as the “Woman’s Auxiliary.”45
If this be true, the fact presents a still greater dangerous picture. Knowing as I do a great many strikers, members of the miners’ union, as simply misled followers of false teachers, but respectably inclined as native whites of this section, it is hard to believe that these would thus permit such social admixture, no matter how strongly urged to do so by the agitators who have come among them to wreck their homes and their social status for the purpose of getting gain. I am sure that the Caucasian blood of this state would rebel against such desecration of the home fireside for any purpose. And yet, evidence can be presented that the organization of these “women’s auxiliaries” is being urged as part of the iniquitous plan of those who have brought about this disorder.
Here and Elsewhere
Information comes from East Tennessee that racial feeling runs high against the negro miners there, and that they are ordered out of the mines by whites who object to their presence. Last Monday morning notices were found posted in Tennessee ordering the negroes to leave, and notifying the manager that if the negroes were not removed at once his blood would pay the price. The sheriff was called to protect the negroes, and the white miners, all armed, fired many shots during the night and placed a search light on the mines at intervals. It required a posse of 200 deputies to protect the negroes. The story goes that the white miners, fearing to attack such a well-guarded mine, left. It is said that the whole trouble lies in the fact that the negroes will not join the union.
And this is the way the white union miners of East Tennessee treat the negro for whom they here express such devotion.
The Negro’s Value
No reasonable man, white or black, can doubt for a moment that the negro is a valuable asset of these southern states. As a race they are useful, productive, and when exempt from the false teachings and domineering influence of bad white men, they are always in a happy condition. I mean so long as the social line is strictly drawn between whites and blacks.
In the south they have their separate churches, their separate schools, their separate fraternal orders and lodges, and in all the unions composed of skilled mechanics this line is distinctly and wisely drawn.
The leaders of this miners’ strike are attempting every day to obliterate this line. They are causing close social affiliation between men and women and children at their public gatherings, and are sewing the seeds of discord, which may fructify, if cultivated, and bring forth terribly more social disorders than we have even at this time. During this strike I have seen white men and white women and fair and promising white girls closely mingling and listening not only to the false teachings of white leaders, but to social advice uttered by the fiery tongue of ignorant and vicious blacks. I have heard one of the chief white leaders of this strife fire the minds of ignorant blacks with the statement that under the contract system the negro was doing all the work and the white man getting the pay. I have seen a negro place his arms around the neck of a white speaker in the presence of fair white women and children and apparently prompt him in secret as to what next to say to fire up the hearts of the ignorant blacks.
All this, I say, tends to demoralization, and unless checked can only prove harmful to social conditions and end in the damnation of the blacks who are brought under the veil influence. It is criminal. It is sinful. It deserves the most severe condemnation.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 22, 1908.
Anthony Davis Is Negro Who Recognized Men Who Dynamited His House
Deputies Are Fired Upon and One Man’s Horse is Instantly Killed. Excitement Caused By Last Night’s Shooting
Another non-union miner was shot from ambush last night, this one being Anthony Davis, the negro whose house was dynamited a few nights ago at Pratt City. The shooting occurred about 8 o’clock while the negro was walking along the Birmingham Southern drift track toward his home. He received three wounds in the leg, but none is considered dangerous.
The house occupied by Davis and his family is close to the house of Mine Boss Thomas Duggan, which was almost demolished by dynamiters. Davis’ house was dynamited some 20 minutes after Duggan’s house, and Davis claims to have seen the parties who threw the dynamite at his house. He afterward identified three negroes who were arrested after bloodhounds had taken a trail to their door.
After the dynamiting Davis moved to the company camp and was returning to his house last night to secure some things he had there. He was walking along the drift track and had almost reached his home when several shots rang out from a corn patch on the left side of the track. Three of the shots took effect.
The shooting attracted attention and the sheriff’s office and military headquarters were notified. Colonel Hubbard sent a detail of troops to the scene from the military camp at No. 1 mines, while Chief Deputy Sheriff Lucien Brown sent a flying squad of special deputies out in an automobile. Deputy Sheriff Gilbert and Chief of Police Hartsfield of Pratt City had also been notified and sent out immediately.
Dogs Take Trail Quickly
A pack of bloodhounds was taken from Ensley and struck a trail immediately. This trail ran for about 150 yards to a poolroom in a small settlement. The deputies on their way to the place where the negro was shot stopped at this poolroom and inquired as to where the shooting had occurred and then rode on. When they stopped there were about a dozen negroes at the poolroom, but when the dogs bayed and took the trail these negroes scattered.
After scenting around the poolroom for several minutes the dogs started off again. The trail this time led around the hill for three-quarters of a mile and stopped at a negro cabin. Inside were found two negro women and a sick negro man. The officers examined the man closely and satisfied themselves that he was really ill and that he could not have taken part in the affair. An effort was made to strike another trail, but without success. No arrests were made in connection with the shooting.
Peter Wallace, the white man who was arrested Thursday and lodged in the county jail with a charge of assault with intent to murder docketed against him, it being alleged that he had participated in the dynamiting of Thomas Duggan’s house, was released yesterday under $1,000 bond.
News of last night’s shooting spread rapidly in Birmingham and quite an amount of excitement was occasioned by it. The spot where it occurred is less than a mile from the heart of Pratt City, and the people there were greatly wrought up.
Outrage at Arcadia
Reports were also received yesterday morning of a general shooting up of the deputies camp at Arcadia late Thursday night. It developed that the telephone and telegraph wires had been cut and communication was not established with the sheriff’s office until after 7 o’clock yesterday morning.
It appears that a plot had been made for the shooting up of the non-union miners’ camp at Arcadia and the massacre of the deputies when they started toward the non-union camp. According to plans a meeting was to have been held in an old house at Arcadia. This meeting was to have lasted until midnight, when those in attendance were to divide into two squads. One squad was to have shot up the non-union houses while the other was to lay in wait along the road which the deputies would have to walk down to these houses.
The sheriff’s office received wind of these plans and proceeded to forestall them. A flying squad was sent from Birmingham about 8 o’clock Thursday night with instructions to join the other deputies at Arcadia, surround the house in which the meeting was to be held and arrest every man in it.
For some reason, however, the shooting began earlier than the set time. From the hills surrounding the deputies camp shot after shot was fired, the total number fired passing the 100 mark. None of the deputies was injured, but one of the horses was killed and another so badly shot in the hoof that it may be necessary to kill it.
One of the company guards went to a spring for some water, carrying a lantern with him. He instantly became the target, several shots clipping close to him. The shots continued coming in his direction until he put out the light in the lantern.
Reports from the flying squad of deputies sent to Arcadia were expected shortly after midnight, and much uneasiness was felt around the sheriff’s office when nothing was heard from them. The deputies there found it impossible to get connection with Birmingham, however, and with the approach of daylight discovered that the telephone and telegraph wires had been cut.
Strikers’ Rally Today
The strikers’ rally to be held at Lewisburg today is expected to assemble several thousand of the striking miners. The programme was not announced, but it is known that Vice President John P. White and National Committeeman Fairley will speak as will a number of other union officials. A barbecue will be held in connection with the rally.
The various justice of the peace courts and divisions of the inferior court were busy yesterday hearing different strike cases. The negro Willie Hollis, who had been held in connection with the murder of the negro Lige Nelms near Pratt City, was given a hearing yesterday before Justice Russell and given his liberty, the judge deciding that there was not sufficient evidence to hold him.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 22, 1908.
Several arrests were made yesterday in connection with strike disorder. One particular incident of note occurred at Arcadia where two men were arrested by the deputies there for being armed. These men stated that they were company guards at Coalburg, but they were told that they had no right to be moving about the country armed; that they could not pass beyond the property lines of the particular place at which they were employed.
Three men were placed in the county jail for trespassing after warning and other charges. They were Charles Averyhart, a negro, who has charges of violating the prohibition laws, trespassing after warning and carrying concealed pistol docketed against him; J. M. Morrow, white, with three charges of violating the revenue law, opposite his name, and Ben White, a negro, for malicious mischief and trespassing after warning. A negro woman, Minnie White, was also arrested on a charge of malicious mischief.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 23, 1908.
Chief Deputy Brown Is Also Arrested on Charge of Assault
PREACHER STOPPED IN MIDST OF HIS ADDRESS
Three arrests were made yesterday at the strikers’ rally at Fulton Springs, near Lewisburg. One arrest was that of the Rev. W. A. Lewis by Chief Deputy Sheriff Lucien Brown; another that of G. F. Howie, editor of the Birmingham Register, which was made by the soldiers at the request of Chief Deputy Brown; and the third arrest being that of Chief Deputy Brown himself, on a warrant sworn out by W. D. Smotts.
More than 3000 persons attended the barbecue, which was said to have been given to the strikers by the members of the Farmers’ union in Jefferson county. Practically all of those in attendance were whites, a group of blacks being assembled on a small hill back of the speakers’ stand. The negroes took no part in the proceedings, nor mixed with the crowd. The feminine sex was well represented, and, with the exception of the arrests, the day was one of general jollification.46
The speaking began at 2 o’clock, with the Rev. W. A. Lewis, presiding. The speakers were W. R. Fairley, national committeeman; National Organizer Pasco, Mr. Parkerson of Lewisburg, G. F. Howie of Birmingham, and Curtis Shugart of Birmingham.
Trouble Begins Early
Trouble began with the opening of the meeting. Prayer was offered by the Rev. Lewis, after which he proceeded to make an introductory speech. In this talk he remarked that the soldiers were the miners’ friends and that the only enemies the miners had were “Higdon’s dirty deputies.”
Chief Deputy Sheriff Lucien Brown, Deputy Sheriff Sid Cowan and a large force of deputies, with 100 soldiers, were at the meeting. When Mr. Lewis made his references to the deputies Chief Deputy Brown proceeded to arrest him, pushing through the crowd to the stand. The preacher made bond on the spot, and the meeting continued.
Shortly afterward Chief Deputy Brown was placed under arrest by Constable Ellard on the warrant sworn out by W. D. Smotts. This warrant charged assault upon a widow woman, Mrs. C. E. Chambers, it being alleged that the chief deputy had knocked her over a bench while making his way to Lewis. He made bond immediately.
When asked about the occurrence last night Major Brown stated that he did not know on what grounds the charges were based. He said that while he was going to the stand that by accident he brushed by a woman, who was sitting on a bench, but that he did not knock her over and that he apologized to her.
The other speakers followed in quiet succession until Mr. Howie’s turn. Their talks were full of encouragement to the strikers and similar to many other talks which have been made by the union leaders and sympathizers.
Howie’s Remarks Resented
Mr. Howie proceeded to tell of the Brighton lynching and one or two other incidents, remarking in connection with them that neither the governor nor sheriff had offered any reward for the arrest and conviction of the persons guilty of these crimes. He then referred to the recent shooting to death of a negro prisoner who was escaping from the courthouse, and remarked that he was shot in the back while handcuffed. “The men who did this shooting are still in the employ of the sheriff,” said he and his arrest immediately followed.
This arrest was made by the soldiers at the request of Chief Deputy Brown, the soldiers marching to the stand and escorting Mr. Howie a short distance from it. Mr. Howie wanted to make bond and was told that the military officers could not allow it and he would have to be turned over to the sheriff of Birmingham.
Mr. Howie replied that the sheriff’s chief deputy was on the scene and called on several persons to witness his demand upon the soldiers that he be turned over to Chief Deputy Brown. After a good deal of consultation among the deputies and military officers it was decided to put him in Major Brown’s custody. This was done and Mr. Howie made bond at once, a large crowd of men surging around wanting to sign the bond.
Another speaker followed Mr. Howie, and the speaking was finished. It was still early in the afternoon and the crowd indulged in dancing in the pavilion until a late hour, there being no further excitement.
Chief Deputy Brown also had another warrant sworn out against him, the Rev. Mr. Lewis swearing out one charging him with interrupting public worship. It appears, however, that this warrant was not served on Major Brown.
The troops at the scene were composed of men from the provisional company, which is camped at Norwood, and of Companies being brought in from their respective camps. They numbered about 100 and were under the command of Captain Maddox, Lieutenant Colonel Hubbard. Major Noble and other members of his staff also arrived at the springs while the speaking was going on and remained there for some little time.
Outside of this rally there was nothing but quiet in the coal strike district. No imported men were sent out under military escort, and reports from different places indicated that quiet reigned.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 23, 1908.
As appalling as have been the murders and dynamitings growing out of the strike of the United Mine Workers in the Birmingham district, the worst thing yet done because of its far-reaching evil effect, is the teaching and practical illustration of social equality in the mining camps. Soon after the strike began it became known that union leaders had promised the negro miners and their families social equality with the white miners and their families, but few persons imagined that here in a southern community any set of white men would dare to attempt a movement so repulsive or so damnable.
But Women’s Auxiliaries, composed of whites and blacks, are said to be actually in existence while in a number of the mining camps the public has a hideous object lesson in social equality as illustrated in tented life. Every intelligent negro understands that white and black can live side by side in the south and be mutually helpful, but that the two races can never meet on social equality and that miscegenation in the southern states is a felony. The barrier has been fixed and it will remain forever.47
Every intelligent person not only comprehends this question but every right-minded negro appreciates the reasonableness of this race wall. Were the barrier to be broken down a silent tragedy, more terrible than that of torch or sword, would fall upon our fair southland—more terrible because it would mean the decay and obliteration of our white civilization.
But why discuss this matter further? The worst of organized crimes is being committed before our eyes.
Social equality between Caucasian and negro does not set very well in northern communities where the blacks are comparatively few and where the race problem is practically unknown. Here in Alabama it will not be tolerated at all. This social equality movement among United Mine Workers must be stopped at once. It can hardly be that the better class of striking miners of either color will countenance anything of the kind.
It is certain that the public in general feels outraged and that it will not allow this social equality infamy to continue.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 24, 1908.
Moore and Johnson Say That Social Equality Between White and Black Miners as Established Under Fairley’s Leadership Is Direct Insult to Southern Traditions
Fairley called a strike that has bathed this district in blood. Social equality has been established and sacred traditions trampled in the dust.
This strike was called without provocation or justification. We have a state of lawlessness and anarchy seldom experienced in civilized communities. No man’s life is safe, business is paralyzed, property values disturbed, and the end is not yet.
It is needless to discuss further the responsibility of the present deplorable state of affairs in this district, because every intelligent man in Jefferson county knows that the responsibility rests directly on the heads of Fairley and his associates.
The establishment of social equality between white and black miners is a direct insult to our southern traditions, and under Fairley’s leadership it seems the limit has been reached.
Foreign agitators, not content, are now organizing white women and black women into unions called the Woman’s Auxiliary. The effect of this is certain to result in degradation of our citizenship and in race riots.
The question arises, just how much damage to life, property and morals this Agitator Fairley and his associates have a right to inflict on this community before the deadline is reached. It surely seems that we are short on law or manhood, if not both.
GUY R. JOHNSON.
Birmingham, August 23, 1908.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 24, 1908.
Mines at Carbon Hill Busily in Commission—Racial Dangers Threatening—Vice President White’s Movements Indicate Beginning of the End
By Frank V. Evans
Booker Washington’s Race
I see where Booker T. Washington, the negro leader of the better class, is up east talking about the horrors of lynch law. His utterances on that subject find indorsement here; but there are worse crimes being committed right here in the state which affords a dwelling place for Tuskegee Institute than lynching, and this is the time and this the place where the voice of Booker Washington should be applied before his race in unmistakable and vigorous manner. Lynch law seldom oppresses an innocent victim. Here in Alabama idleness has made bomb-throwers, midnight assassins, cut-throats and murderers of the innocent out of members of Booker Washington’s race and I say that if he desires to do good, he should turn his batteries in this direction and not waste ammuntion in informing eastern civilization of these things which are of no such moment now, as the reign of terror which is disturbing this section of Alabama—terror produced by the cunning, the avarice, the chicanery, the wickedness of devils in disguise, who are misleading not only viciously inclined white men, but ignorant members of Booker Washington’s race. Strenuous orators should appear when the state is in jeopardy and when the people are at issue with the enemy.
Devils Are Here
Politeness makes the devil, as the theologians have made the angels, always masculine, ever since devilish qualities were ascribed to the poor women burned as witches in Salem or elsewhere, who were supposed to fly to the devil and converse with him. Naturally, today in this district we behold pluralism in the sex of devils, embodied in male and female. At Sayre the other day one of these black she-devils kicked and cuffed and bruised the wife of a non-union negro miner because, forsooth, her husband labored daily for bread and raiment. Who instilled that spirit of the devil in the woman? Whose voice of disruption, agitation and misguidance is responsible? Who are the emissaries of the devil, the very incarnation of the evil spirit among us?
It was Milton who pictured Satan as an arch-angel, thrust forth as rebellious from heaven, but still magnificent—
“High on a throne of royal state, which far Outshone the wrath of Ormus and of Ind.”
But the plainer devils have come to this district, plain men have brought and instilled them in the brains that are ignorant and hearts that are fitting receptacles for their abiding place.
And these devils have sought to teach the negro that he should affiliate socially with white men and with white women. These devils have caused organizations known as “Women’s Auxiliaries,” composed of white women and black women; these devils encouraged a negro speaker to tell negro miners in the early part of this strife that they were as good as white men, and should demand high places of honor and of trust; these hellions have poisoned the minds of ignorant blacks to be fired up against law and order and peace; to apply dynamite to peaceful shelters; to crouch and cower in ambush and draw the murderous trigger against innocent men and helpless women.
Led into temptation by vain promises given by this satanic spirit, ignorant whites and blacks alike have been idling away these many weeks. The idleness is costing, not only money of the state, but the participants and their families fears and anxiety and sorrow. It has caused the burning of bridges, the slaughter of innocents, and the shedding of blood.
The announcement made that Vice President White of the mine workers, after a brief stay and examinations of conditions in this district, has left the state suggests the beginning of the end of this strife. He is generally accounted a man of intelligence. If so, he has seen and he knows that a continuation of this unholy warfare can only bring more sorrow, more tears, more cost of money and of blood, that the ultimatum of the operators means all that it says, that only few are fattening on the marrow of this sorrowful condition; and that there is a daily prayer for peace, and for order ascending to heaven from every righteous man and woman in Alabama. He knows that not a single furnace has been shut down by the operation of this strike; he knows that on the other hand two furnaces that were idle on July 1 have been started up; he knows that the wheels of every engine in this district are running; and he knows that miners are entering the mines every day, and the output is increasing.
And, knowing these things, Mr. White surely sees the handwriting on the wall. If there be one spark of humanity, of justice, and of righteousness in his soul (and surely there must be), he will not, if in his power to prevent, suffers a continuance of this useless and sinful warfare against the commonwealth of Alabama.
Therefore, I say that soon the light will break forth and the clouds of darkness pass away. Soon civilization, law and order will assert their sway, and industrial and social peace shall reign again.
And when this peaceful condition is restored we shall hope to see many of the toiling thousands who have been affrighted and misled re-enter upon a discharge of the honorable and profitable labor from which they have been drawn by that evil spirit; and a resumption of those amicable relations between miner and operator which for so long a time have been enriching this state and affording happiness, comfort and wealth to men of muscle and willingness and to men of brain and capital. There must be no exodus of worthy labor, because, forsooth, it has been for a season misguided. But, the vicious spirits, the ringleaders, the dynamiters, the cut-throats, the assassins should not find lodgement here after the dove of peace hovers once again over this fair section.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 25, 1908.
J. V. Allen Says If Fairley and His Associates Had Been In South Alabama A Coroner Would Now Be Needed
To the Editor of The Age-Herald:
Birmingham has won the admiration of the world for its enterprise, splendid achievements and the ability of its citizens to do things, but in the present coal miners’ strike she has been a distinct disappointment to all liberty-loving Alabamians.
If Fairley and his black co-conspirators had invaded south Alabama and perpetrated the same damnable deeds he has inflicted on the people of Jefferson county, nothing further would be needed but the coroner.
The time for discussing the promoters and directors of this guerilla warfare, who have brought shame and disgrace on the state and wrought wreck and ruin to this district, should be past; the time for action is at hand. Our property interests, our personal liberty, the happiness and lives of our people are involved. What more is necessary to arouse a brave people against the instigators of assaults from the midnight assassin? They seem willing and anxious to sacrifice this entire community, even the blood of innocent women and children, for personal gain. They are guilty of an attempt to overturn our social status and break down barriers sacred to the whole south. They construe liberty to mean license and long suffering of our people as cowardice.
There is not an intelligent man in this district who does not know that the work of the trouble-maker, the dynamiter and midnight assassin has been directed by a conspirator located in the very heart of this city. This community has gone through an ordeal that few communities would suffer. The people have been patient to the limit.
We are told of a message from Indianapolis from President Lewis asking a conference with the coal operators, with a view of arbitration. The operators will accept no compromise and the people want no compromise.48
No right-thinking man can tolerate the thought of seeing his fellow-citizens coerced into signing any kind of contract or agreement. The idea is repugnant to every sense of justice and is abhorrent to all honest and brave men.
Let’s start things up!
J. V. ALLEN
Birmingham, August 25, 1908.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 26, 1908.
Time For Calling Out Men Inopportune and Act Was Cruel. Must Be Sifting of Good From Bad—Strike Is Collapsing
By Frank V. Evans
I insist upon it that the race question is an important issue in this season of discord. Here in this country there happens to exist race prejudice to a harmful degree. There are some white men who hate the negro and negroes who hate white men. The negro-hating white man, generally speaking, is the ignorant white man, and the negro who hates Caucasian blood is the vicious fellow whose prejudices can easily be aroused by the voice of agitators of either race. Left alone to work his own way the southern negro has never caused trouble in a general way. Naturally he is submissive and easily influenced by whites.
In Springfield, Ill., the other day, when the racial disturbance ocurred the cry went up from the white populace—”Kill the nigger!” Down here in the south when the white people are aroused by disorders committed by both races and when the avenging hand is to be raised to stop disturbances the first impulse and inclination is to dispose of the white villains who seek to disturb the community. . . . 49
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 27, 1908.
Report Says Fairley Left Indianapolis for Home Last Night
COAL OUTPUT AT ALL THE MINES SHOWS BIG GAIN
Lewis Says He Can See Nothing To Justify the Belief That the Strike Will End Soon
Indianapolis, Ind., August 27.—(Special)—President Lewis of the United Mine Workers, reached headquarters here at an early hour this morning and immediately went in conference with National Executive Board Member Fairley, Vice President White and Secretary-Treasury Ryan, regarding the situation in Alabama, where some 18,000 miners are on strike. All the details of the situation were carefully gone over but the conference refused to discuss what had occurred except to say that the Alabama situation was under discussion.
When President Lewis was asked if there be any truth in the report that the strike might be called off at an early day, he shook his head and said he could see nothing that would justify a belief that it would end soon.
Mr. Fairley said today that some prejudices against the union miners’ officers had been aroused. They had been charged with advocating social equality of blacks and whites and the miners’ causes had lost ground by reason of this fact. He explained that negroes had been taken into the union and left the impression that organizers now in the field have been soliciting negroes brought in to take the strikers’ places to join the union.
It is thought that the attitude of the miners toward the negroes was the chief topic of discussion in the meeting today as Mr. Fairley seemed to think that taking them into the union was prejudicing the miners’ cause in the minds of people.
No amount of questioning could bring out anything more from the conferences than the mere fact that the Alabama situation had been discussed. Fairley left for home tonight. . . .
As is seen by the special dispatch from Indianapolis the social equality question as it relates to the Alabama miners’ union was discussed by the executive board yesterday. The white people of Alabama have been greatly outraged at the attempt of the leaders of the United Mine Workers to establish equality between the whites and the blacks in the mining camps, and in view of what was happening in this district as a result of the teachings of the agitators, Fairley’s efforts to explain the matter away and his evident worry over the harm that he and his associates had done in precipitating race trouble, will be readily understood. . . .
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 28, 1908.
What the Women Think of It—The Distressing Situation—A Plea For Southern Traditions
By Dolly Dalrymple
Into the recent distressing conditions, existing in this district from the strike, a note has crept that has caused the women to shudder, at the very thought. A note of madness, a note of sorrow, a note of resentment, that into the sacred precincts of our time-honored southern traditions, a suggestion of such a thing as “social equality” should be tolerated—or even countenanced.
Most of us of the Southland have many pleasant memories of dear old, black “mammies,” crooning their sweet, gentle songs over us, in our childhood days, loving and fostering us, watching us, and ministering to us, as tenderly as though they were our own “kith and kin.” Black mothers indeed they truly were, and mine dated back to a remote generation—for she was my mother’s “mammy”—a black “mammy” truly, for she tended her as a “baby”—and afterwards when she grew into womanhood—and then, when she was married, she went to live with her, as cook—that is, she managed the pantry, the garden, the house, the other servants, in fact, everything, and my mother and father. In other words the place couldn’t get along without “mammy.”
In all the years of tender affection and maternal care, there was never the faintest question of “social equality.” “Mammy” knew where she belonged, and what her rights were.
My mother and father regarded her—(and then when the “little stranger” who was none other than myself, appeared in after years)—I too, looked upon “Mammy” as a faithful friend, part and parcel of the little nest which was so dear in the making—as used to be cared for, as much as any other member of the family.
When “Mammy’s” children grew up along with all of us (for there were more little ones, who came to brighten the home and make it sweeter by their presence, as the years went by)—they were looked after and given homes—provided with work and suitable surroundings. Some of them are still in the employment of members of our family. Pardon this little retrospect—but I indulge in it because of the conditions now existing in our minds.
It seems absolutely inconceivable to me that any man, or association of men, should deliberately set about to upset the primary social laws of our beloved south.
If, as has been intimated in the daily press, these men have brought other men into the district to preach the doctrine of social equality, and all for the sake of their own gain, then words fail to express my indignation! It is monstrous!
In conversation with one of the operators, I was commenting upon this horror and said I could not believe it. Whereupon I was promptly told that in one camp on a small tract of leased land there several hundred men, women and children, white and black, and that this camp was one of several, where equally bad conditions exist.
All hail to our governor that he has taken his manful stand against this unspeakable crime.
When I hear of white miners eating side by side with black men; of women’s auxiliaries where white and black women meet on an equal footing, my heart swells to the bursting point.
Men of our glorious southland, will you stand idly by and see these infamies committed? Has the pursuit of money so tarnished your chivalry that you are willing to see such conditions go unpunished? Or is it that you are simply biding your time, to show the world that in your veins still runs the blood that for generations has had no peer?
White women and black women meeting on the basis of “Social equality” indeed! White men holding umbrellas over negro speakers! Black men addressing white men as “brother!”
The women of our fair southland resent it! They deplore it! Their hearts ache over such a condition of affairs! And whether the strike is nearing the end (which we earnestly pray is the case) or not, every true-hearted southern woman in this district makes an appeal for the amelioration of the “social equality” side of it, at least.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 30, 1908.
Officials Yesterday Signed Document Which Will Be Read By Every Striking Miner In District This Morning—Governor’s Ultimatum Brought Things to Head
Miners’ Officials Held Long Conference Yesterday and Took Final Action—Lewis Left for North Last Night—Text of the Order Kept Secret
The miners’ strike is a thing of the past.
The executive order calling it off was signed yesterday by the same officials that called out the miners of Alabama on July 6—President T. L. Lewis, Vice President J. P. White and Secretary-Treasurer W. D. Ryan—and is now being sent to the union locals of the district. With this order goes a statement which, it is understood, sets forth some of the reasons for the action taken.
President Lewis, Vice President White, Secretary-Treasurer Ryan and several members of the national board arrived here from Indianapolis last Friday morning. They held conferences with local officials of the miners’ union and afterwards the president and vice president conferred with Governor Comer and two or three prominent business men.
At a conference which the governor and the union officials held Friday afternoon W. P. G. Harding, president of the First National bank, was present; and at a conference between the governor and Mr. Lewis Saturday afternoon at 2 o’clock Gen. E. W. Rucker was present by invitation of the governor. At 6 p.m. Saturday the governor and Mr. Lewis held their final conference.
Strike conditions and the temper of the public had been fully discussed at all these conferences, most of which were held in the directors’ room of the First National bank. Governor Comer, Mr. Harding and General Rucker had each impressed upon President Lewis the idea that a continuance of the strike would be altogether futile from the miners’ point of view and that the sooner it were called off the better.
Saturday evening when Gov. Comer met Lewis for the last time, his ultimatum was to substance this: If the strike is not called off by 10 a.m. Monday, August 31, I will immediately call a special session of the legislature for dealing with the situation. While neither Gov. Comer nor Mr. Lewis gave out a statement concerning this ultimatum, it is believed the state’s chief executive stressed the fact that if the legislature had to be called its work would be extremely drastic in dealing with the strike.
President Lewis seeing that the governor was determined to parley no further, got busy and called a conference of his associates for 11 o’clock yesterday. He stated to a representative of The Age-Herald Saturday night that conditions were so grave as to cause him to do what he made it a rule not to do—namely to hold a business meeting on Sunday.
The conference yesterday was held at the Southern hotel on Twentieth street. Informal conferences between some of the officials were held later in the afternoon. The greatest secrecy was maintained throughout the day.
President Lewis left for Indianapolis over the Alabama Great Southern late in the afternoon. Vice President White and Secretary-Treasurer Ryan remain in the city. The latter has charge of the distribution of the official statement or circular which was agreed upon by the conference. Mr. Ryan said last night that he would not be at liberty to give out a statement before today.
It was decided, it is understood, that nothing official should appear in the press until the union locals had been informed of what had been done. This, it was stated, was a matter of courtesy to the strikers.
The operators had refused to recognize the union; had stated over and over again since the strike was ordered that they were unalterably committed to the open shop policy, and such being the case there was no possibility of arbitration or compromising. It is said that Mr. Lewis had hoped up to a late hour Saturday afternoon to meet a representative of the operators’ association, but that when Gen. Rucker told him the operators meant exactly what they said, he gave up that hope. And when the governor delivered his ultimatum, there was, it is said, nothing left but to quit.
Operators who were seen last night said they had not learned the result of the United Mine Workers’ conference, and it was nearly midnight before owls about the clubs and hotels began to discuss the calling off of the strike.
It is needless to say that the news will be received this morning with great joy, not only in business circles, but in many strikers’ families. It is said that a large percentage of the men who were on the strike will be reinstated by the operators.
The ending of the strike will mean the starting up of at least two blast furnaces that have been idle since last winter, and as the iron market is active it is probable that three or four additional furnaces will be blown in before November.
As an ironmaster remarked yesterday, the outlook for a revival of prosperity is bright indeed.
Birmingham Age-Herald, August 31, 1908.
Following is the official order calling off the miners’ strike in Alabama: To the Mine Workers of Alabama:
On July 1, 1908, the organized mine workers of Alabama were asked to accept a reduction of 20 per cent in their wages and other conditions that were intolerable. Rather than accept you refused to work. Since then the unorganized miners of Alabama joined the United Mine Workers and declared for living wages and the right to belong to a labor union. This right was denied by the employers and the offer of the miners to arbitrate has been refused by the operators with scorn.
Your refusal to work has resulted in a general suspension of mining. No strike was ever more effective in suspending the operation of the mines.
The operators used every means at their command to defeat you in your efforts to secure better wages.
You were ordered not to carry arms and, like good citizens, obeyed. You were directed not to march on the public highways and you promptly complied with the order. You were evicted from your homes and with your wives and children you left without a murmur. You were furnished by the United Mine Workers with tents in which to live, upon ground secured by a sympathetic people in the mining community.
By the order of the state authorities many of those tents were cut down and ordered moved away. Other tents have been cut down and taken possession of by the soldiers. Many miners and sympathizers have been arrested and thrown into jail without due process of law.
Through this state the miners of Alabama have struggled nobly and manfully for better wages and conditions that would bring some comfort and happiness to your homes. No miners in the world have stood more loyally than you; no men have suffered greater hardships and endured greater privations.
The climax of this state of affairs was reached when the governor of Alabama said that the miners shall not be permitted to live in tented camps and that public meetings shall not be held in the mining communities of the state during this strike. In other words, the strike must end, regardless of the cost to the miners or any rights they have in the premises.
The United Mine Workers of America is a law-abiding institution. It is a defender of law and order. It believes in the maintenance of the peace and tranquillity of every community.
Since the state authorities have decided to end the strike there is nothing for the United Mine Workers to do but to bow in submission to the mandate. Recognizing the futility of continuing the strike under those circumstances we have decided to declare it off September 1, and take this means of notifying you that the strike is to brought to an end and you are advised to secure employment.
No one can regret more keenly than ourselves this ending of the strike in Alabama.
The United Mine Workers, as an organization, will do now as it always has done for its striking members—assist those in need, and help those who cannot secure employment to go elsewhere. Fraternally yours,
T. L. LEWIS, President,
JOHN P. WHITE, Vice President,
W. D. RYAN, Secretary-Treasurer, United Mine Workers of America
Birmingham Age-Herald, September 1, 1908.
ATLANTA, Ga., May 17.—Every white fireman and hostler employed on the Georgia Railroad went out on strike tonight as a protest against the employment of negroes by the company. Knowing that the men intended to strike, the railroad has been discharging them all day as fast as they came in from their runs. It is said that negroes are being employed by the road to take the places of the white men who have been discharged and who have struck. The officials of the road say that the strike will not interfere with the operation of trains.
The trouble between the road and the white firemen over employment of negroes has existed for some time. The white men allege that they were discriminated against in favor of the negroes and that the Georgia Road intended to man its trains with negro firemen entirely.
There is a good deal of public feeling against the road because of its action. The white firemen are backed by the Brotherhood of Firemen, and Eugene Ball of Toronto, Vice President of the order, is here directing the strike. It is said that the engineers will refuse to work with negro firemen and may become involved in the strike. The Georgia Railroad is leased to the Louisville & Nashville, and the strikers intimate that unless their demands are granted trouble will spread over the system.
New York Times, May 18, 1909.
Georgia Railroad Strike Only the Beginning of It, Says Line’s Manager
ATLANTA, Ga., May 18.—The labor unions are planning to abolish the negro as an industrial factor, according to General Manager Scott of the Georgia Railroad, which is crippled by a strike of white firemen because of the employment of negroes by the road.
“This strike,” said Mr. Scott, “is the skirmish of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers in their plan to drive the negro out of employment on railroads altogether.
“The plan has been smoldering for five years and this strike is just the first stop I have reason to believe that the same demand will in time be made by officials of this union to every other railroad in the South.”
Assistant Grand Chief Burgess of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, who is here, announced that the Brotherhood will not aid the striking firemen, but will force the engineers to keep their contracts with the roads.
New York Times, May 19, 1909.
District Attorney Akerman and Second Assistant Postmaster General Informed of Interference With Mails Yesterday
GOV. SMITH WAS IN FITZGERALD YESTERDAY50
Armed Guard Pulled From Train at Thomson—He, in Statement, Asserts He was Disarmed and Hit Severely While Overpowered by Angry Men—Passengers, Mail and Baggage Tied up by Intimidation of Firemen—Fast Freight With Perishable Fruit On Sidetrack
The firemens’ strike on the Georgia Railroad is becoming more serious. Violence continues. The railroad is making statement to officials at Atlanta and at Washington and is urging vigorous measures for the preservation of order and for protection of the mails.
General Manager Thomas K. Scott has requested mediation under the Erdman Law.
Men are being driven from the engines, despite the presence of the guards. In one instance a guard was driven from the engine on which he was placed. He was rescued by the sheriff.
The railroad authorities, in statements to reporters and in formal statements to the public, show how serious the situation is. At least one mayor and one sheriff have admitted that they cannot protect the roads employees.
Attack On an Armed Guard
Violence is becoming more pronounced. An attack at Thomson on an armed guard was very sensational, according to his statement. He is C. Ross Wall, of Boneville, a few miles distant from Thomson. To a reporter for the Chronicle yesterday he said:
“I was a guard on the Buckhead train (No. 92) Friday morning. When the train arrived at Thomson I was on the engine. I was there for the purpose of keeping unauthorized persons from getting on the locomotive and to keep anyone from interfering with the property or the employees.
“When the train arrived and came to a stop in Thomson, there gathered a large crowd of excited and seemingly infuriated people. Immediately after the train stopped Mr. Horace Clary, of Thomson, made an effort to get on the engine. I pushed him off. He made another effort and cursed me and told me that I did not have the nerve to shoot him. I replied that I had the nerve enough to keep him from getting on the engine. I called his attention to the fact that I was not interfering with him in any way and tried to reason with him and to pacify him.
“Finally he went away and I thought him gone. The crowd in front of me continued to make angry demonstrations against me. I was keeping an eye on them and was keeping myself in position to keep them from getting on the engine. I was depending on the other guard to protect the other side of the engine. But he allowed Clary to get on the engine and to pass him. Clary surprised me by seizing me from the rear and pointing a pistol in my face. I made effort to disengage myself and called on the other guard (Thompkins) to assist me, which he did not do.
“Meanwhile others of the crowd got on the train on my side of the engine and took hold of me and held me while Clary wrenched my pistol from my hand. They ordered me to get off the engine, and as I was powerless, I did so. As soon as I was on the ground I was seized by several parties and forcibly marched off in the direction of the depot. Mr. Clary followed me up, and while I was in this situation, he struck me, raining two or three blows over my head with a pistol.
“Sheriff E. W. Hawes and Justice of the Peace W. A. Hoss came up about this time and advised the crowd to let me alone. They escorted me to the train and I came on to Augusta.
“The people in Thomson seem to have gotten it into their heads that I am in favor of running a negro over the white man. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am simply in favor of the supremacy of the law. I have always been and with the help of God, always will be.”
Clary, when seen by a reporter, showed signs of his punishment. There were wounds in his head. His clothing was bloody.
After the assault on the guard the crowd made an assault on the negro fireman and ran him away from the train. However, they did not make an assault on the white fireman who was also on the train and he fired the train into the city, there having resulted a delay of about forty-five minutes.
Gov. Hoke Smith has been repeatedly urged to insure order along the line of road. He has instructed the sheriffs in the counties where there has been marked disorder to insist that order shall be kept. Governor Smith is not in Atlanta, but in Fitzgerald. It is not known that he will be in Atlanta today.
Reports that there had been a homicide on the Georgia Road last night were false. . . .
Augusta Chronicle, May 22, 1909.
Shows That White Firemen Not Only Receive 30 Per Cent More Pay, But are the Only Ones Given Opportunity to Become Engineers—Thinks Vice President Ball Purposely Misrepresents the Situation
The following card from Major Joseph B. Cumming, concerning the Georgia Railroad firemen’s strike, will be generally read with interest.
“To the Public:
“An assertion, however absurd, repeated and reiterated, if uncontradicted, will in the end, by mere force of reiteration, get itself believed. The assertion in mind as this sentence is written is in substance that Mr. Scott as general manager of the Georgia Railroad is seeking to establish negro supremacy over white men, or at least negro equality with white men in certain department of Georgia Railroad work. This is the war cry of the foreign gentleman, who is directing the strike of the Georgia Railroad white firemen. Under the slogan ‘white supremacy,’ ‘This is a white man’s country,’ and such rallying cries, he has managed to delude and excite a number of misinformed and thoughtless young men at various places on the Georgia Railroad who would not indulge in acts of lawlessness if they were not misled by a false appeal to race feeling. It is very difficult to believe that the party raising this cry and shouting it more and more vicoferously as the days go on honestly believes that he is proclaiming a truth. If he can persuade himself of the truth of this charge, he is hardly the kind of person to be entrusted with the power and discretion over the vital interests of worthy and well meaning citizens of Georgia.
“What is the central fact in the differences which have arisen between white firemen of the Georgia Railroad and the general manager of that railroad? The Georgia Railroad employs some negro firemen. So does every Southern railroad. These negro firemen can never be promoted from that position to the higher position of engineer; under no conceivable conditions is he eligible to that position. There are ‘runs’ of different degrees of desirableness. These runs are distributed to all firemen, white and negro alike, according to seniority. The negro can be assigned to these runs when the seniority of the negro is coupled with efficiency and faithfulness. This is the sum and limit of the favor shown the negro firemen—and this is the ostensible reason for the white firemen’s strike.
“Now what is the status of the white fireman on the Georgia Railroad? In the first place he receives, however short his experience, wages thirty per cent more than the most experienced and efficient negro fireman. But the white fireman is a fireman at all only that he may eventually become an engineer. This any white fireman can be and no negro fireman possibly can be. No negro fireman blocks the way to any white fireman’s goal of ambition, the position of engineer. Every negro fireman must stand aside while the white fireman passes on to the position to which the white fireman alone may aspire. What more striking and emphatic exhibition of “white supremacy” could there be than the relative position of a white and negro fireman on the Georgia Railroad?
“The charge that Mr. Scott is trying to establish ‘negro supremacy’ or ‘negro equality’ in the operation of the Georgia Railroad stands out in still more conspicuous absurdity when it is born in mind that he is not a foreigner, that he is born in the South when negro slavery days existed here, that he has lived always at the South and has had from very early days knowledge of the railroads of the South.
“But the fact which goes far beyond any words in negating the assertions of Mr. Ball and the firemen is that Mr. Scott’s policy has always been to keep ample supply of white firemen in the service in order to create out of them engineers, as he prefers to ‘make’ engineers out of white firemen who gain their experience on the Georgia Railroad. There was a time, and not so very long ago either, when the majority of the engineers on the Georgia Railroad, and many in the South generally, preferred negro firemen to white firemen, because it curtailed the supply of material out of which to make engineers, thereby decreasing the possible competition of those who were already engineers.
“Indeed, so preposterous is the charge that every reasonable mind is forced to the conclusion that it is not the real reason of the strike. There must be some other reason which as yet is held back. Let that reason—whatever it may be, whether the beginning of a movement to drive the negro out of railroad work altogether, or some other reason—be put forward honestly and openly and this absurd clamor about ‘negro supremacy’ be dropped.
Jos. B. Cumming”
August Chronicle, May 22, 1909.
Brotherhood Chief Threatens to Call Them Out Unless Road Stops Stoning of Trains—Road Crippled
ATLANTA, Ga., May 22.—Violence continues to mark the strike of white firemen on the Georgia Railroad against the employment of negroes. The negroes are being taken from trains at many points on the road and are being whipped. Gov. Hoke Smith has wired the Sheriffs at the various counties through which the Georgia Road passes to prevent violence, but the Sheriffs have answered that they cannot handle the situation.
At Augusta tonight a mob of 250 gathered in the Union Station, trying to get at a negro fireman. Police reserves were called out to protect the negro.
A remarkable feature is that the white strikers are not responsible for the violence. The negro firemen are being mobbed by citizens along the line of the road, who object to the preference given negroes over white men. The road is badly crippled. Hardly any freight trains are moving, and it is difficult to get passenger trains through. There are twelve dead engines at Union Point alone, and about sixteen freight trains are tied up along the road.
To add to the trouble of the road Assistant Grand Chief Burgess of the Brotherhood of Locomitive Engineers threatens to call out engineers on the ground that they are not being protected by the road according to contract. “This would not be a strike,” stated Mr. Burgess. “It would be a simple act of protection to our men, and one they are entitled to. The engines are being stoned and the lives of our men endangered. I have wired General Manager Scott that unless adequate protection is offered to engineers they cannot be expected to man their engines.”
AUGUSTA, Ga., May 22.—Blood flowed at Athens tonight and a small mob gathered here, the former disturbance being over a white fireman and the latter over a negro fireman.
The engineers were called out shortly after midnight when word was received that trains had been stoned at Lithonia and at Conyers, Georgia today, and that the engineers had been struck by rocks intended for the firemen. The order calling out the engineers was temporary, and was issued by Assistant Grand Chief Burgess of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, who is in Atlanta. He intimated that if adequate protection should be afforded the engineers, the order for them not to take out their trains might be revoked. Meanwhile passenger train No. 4 for Augusta with nearly every coach full, stood in the train shed at Atlanta with its time for pulling out past due and no engineer to be found to handle the throttle.
Gov. Smith was in conference about midnight with Sheriff Clark here who assured the Governor that the negro who had been threatened was safe and that things were quiet for the night.
The Governor believes that careful handling is necessary to avoid stirring up race issues.
New York Times, May 23, 1909.
Engineers on the Georgia Road Refuse to Take Out Trains with Colored Firemen
VAIN APPEAL TO GOVERNOR
Hoke Smith Refuses to Order Out Troops to Stop Rioting, and Suggests Arbitration
ATLANTA, Ga., May 23.—Over the 500 miles of the Georgia Railroad, including main line and branches, not a train has moved since 6 o’clock last night as the result of the strike of white firemen against the employment of negroes.
The tie-up became complete when Assistant Grand Chief Burgess of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers declared last night it was unsafe for engineers to take trains out with negro firemen, and ordered them to refuse to make runs. This is not a strike of engineers, Mr. Burgess says, but is simply an act to force the road to protect the Brotherhood men, as it is bound to do by its contract.
Preceding the tie-up negro firemen were dragged from engines and mobbed at every town along the line of the road. The striking white firemen have committed no violence, the mobbing having been done by citizens along the line of the road, who objected to white men being supplanted by negroes.
Thriving towns like Greensboro, Covington, Athens, Warrenton, and other places have received no mail all day and have suffered many other inconveniences, but the citizens are not complaining, as they are determined to prevent the employment of the negroes. Telegraphic reports say that certain kinds of food are running short in towns along the line, but the people say they will manage to get along.
General Manager Scott of the Georgia Railroad has asked Gov. Hoke Smith to order out troops, but the Governor will not do it. He says the State has not enough troops to patrol 500 miles of railroad, and while they might keep order at one place, trouble would break out somewhere else, as it is really a fight of the people along the line against the road. Gov. Smith sent Attorney General Hart to investigate and as a result of Mr. Hart’s report, he will recommend that the road and the strikers choose three Georgians to arbitrate the matter.
Gov. Smith, however, wired the Sheriff of McDuffie County to co-operate with the municipal authorities and to summon all deputies necessary to protect life and property. It is in this county that a crowd issued their ultimatum last night that no trains should pass carrying either non-union firemen or negro firemen. The Governor also has wired the Sheriffs of Rockdale and De Kalb Counties, giving them information that engineers claim to have been stoned at Conyers and Lithonia, and urging upon them prompt action for the protection of the railroad’s employees and property.
From the offices of the Georgia Road here tonight it was announced that all freight accumulated at Atlanta for Augusta and all points beyond would be moved tonight by the Central of Georgia and the Seaboard Air Line. The Georgia Railroad freight station here will be opened tomorrow for the moving of freight to consignees, but shippers are required to withhold all shipments until further notice.
Automobiles are being used extensively along the line of the road by people who want to make short trips, and the owners of the machines are making profits.
The Rev. S. R. Beck of Atlanta, who had an engagement to preach at the commencement service today at the college at Covington, forty miles from Atlanta, had to use an automobile to keep the engagement.
The company takes the position that it has every means to continue business but it will not try to move trains until assured of protection.
It is reported that a party of strikebreakers from the North reached here today, but General Manager Scott says no attempt will be made to operate trains until protection is afforded. It is said Mr. Scott has left for Louisville to confer with President Milton Smith of the Louisville & Nashville, to which the Georgia road is leased.
New York Times, May 24, 1909.
Labor Commissioner to Try to Settle Controversy Over Negro Firemen—Strike May Spread
ATLANTA, Ga., May 24.—Charles P. Neill, United States Commissioner of Labor, is expected here tomorrow, and the hope of a speedy settlement of the strike of firemen on the Georgia Railroad centres on his arrival. Gov. Hoke Smith proposed today a commission of six Georgians, three to be selected by each party to the controversy, and Vice President Ball of the Locomotive Firemen accepted the suggestion. General Manager Scott of the Georgia Railroad, however, replied that he could not agree to the proposal until Commissioner Neill had taken some action. He made the same answer to an offer of mediation from the Augusta Chamber of Commerce.
Meanwhile the situation along the railway is growing serious and there is danger of actual famine in some of the towns. Not a wheel has turned on the Georgia Railroad since Saturday, and there is no immediate prospect of a resumption of service. Many places report that they are short of flour and that the fresh meat supply has given out.
Twenty-five business men of Crawfordville today wired the State Railroad Commission: “For God’s sake do something, as we are threatened by famine.” In many other towns the situation is just as serious, but the people who have created the situation by mobbing the negro firemen show no disposition to recede from their position.
The railway management, according to the strikers, recognizes that the people along the line are responsible for the tie-up and is willing that they should be punished by isolation.
One feature of the situation is that the strike has prevented the interment of several corpses in Atlanta. Relatives wished to bury them at their old homes along the Georgia road, but cannot procure transportation for them.
The immediate cause for the strike was the discharge of ten white firemen from the Georgia terminals and the filling of their places with negroes. The firemen now demand that negroes be eliminated as far as possible by the Georgia road. They will probably not insist upon the dismissal of those who were employed as firemen before the strike, but they will ask that white men receive the preference. They will ask, too, that whenever possible a negro will be replaced by a white man.
The strike is not confined to the Georgia Railway, but extends to the Georgia terminals, a distinct organization, which is owned jointly by the Georgia, West Point & Louisville and Nashville Railroads. The threat was made today by E. A. Ball, Vice President of the firemen, that if other railroads receive freight shipments diverted from the Georgia Railway the strike of firemen will be extended to them.
He argues that the receipt of freight diverted from the Georgia Railway by other roads makes them the allies of the Georgia Railway and the opponents of the firemen, and that consequently they are liable to be drawn into the strike.
According to an official of the Georgia Railway, it is diverting his freight over the Southern Seaboard, Louisville & Nashville and Central Georgia Railroads. Attorney General Hart, who made a trip over the Georgia Railway, at the request of Gov. Hoke Smith, to investigate conditions, was very rudely treated, as the people thought he was in sympathy with the company. At several points he was abused as a “nigger lover,” and was kept busy explaining that he was simply investigating, and was not taking the part of the negroes.
The railroad authorities assert that they are informed that the crowds of citizens at Thompson, Camak, and other points are still in a bellicose attitude. A large number of strike breakers are here and at other points on the road. Preparations are under way by the Post Office officials to establish an automobile mail service between Union Point and Athens, Ga.
New York Times, May 25, 1909.
The strike of white firemen on the Georgia Railroad is the first general labor disturbance of racial origin in the history of the South. It is signicant in that Georgia is the State in which the negroes have shown the most hopeful advancement. The South has warmly supported BOOKER WASHINGTON in his attempts to uplift the negro industrially. It has denied him political and social equality, but in occupations that do not directly involve social distinctions it has never denied to the negro the right to earn his living. The reason for this was thus cogently stated last week by The Augusta Chronicle:
Inasmuch as the negro constitutes the bulk of the South’s laboring population, to take away from him his right to labor—”side by side with white men,” when necessary—would place the heaviest possible handicap upon the South itself; for it would not only have a surplus of idle negroes to contend with, but a scarcity of labor in all industrial pursuits.
The strike of the firemen, therefore, is not simply an act to curtail the industrial freedom of the negro, it is a direct blow at the economic prosperity of the South. It expresses the newly developed sentiment of the population along the line of the Georgia Railroad, who have mobbed the negro employees of the company. This sentiment is reflected, too, in Gov. Hoke Smith’s refusal to order out troops to guard the railroad’s property and traffic and to protect the lives of its employees.
Owing to the inefficiency of the negroes in the South it suffers from a universal labor famine. The peonage system and the Southern treatment of foreign immigrants on a plane with negroes have discouraged white immigration there. Now the State of Georgia declares, in effect, that wherever negroes rise sufficiently to compete with white laborers they shall be thrust back to their former condition of sloth and degeneracy—a continuing menace instead of a means of prosperous uplift.51
New York Times, May 25, 1909.
There seems to have been something more to the strike on the Georgia Railroad than a disinclination on the part of the white firemen to have negroes in like positions. That has been endured for a long time on many of the Southern railways, and nobody minded it very much or made any effective efforts to abolish this particular division of labor. But recently the wages of the white firemen—who had been getting 50 cents a day more than the black men doing the same work—were reduced from 50 per cent of an engineer’s pay to about 47 per cent of it, and naturally they didn’t like that.
To assist in getting back the missing fraction, they summoned the Vice President of their union from Toronto, and he, after viewing the situation and consulting with the officers of the road, told the firemen that their only hope of a restoration lay in a strike in which the race issue was made prominent. The advice, whether wise or not, was shrewd, for its utilization aroused the keen sympathy of the people living along the line, and they proceeded to make against the negro firemen the vigorous manifestations of dislike which have resulted in bringing the operations of the road to a complete standstill and threaten to extend the trouble widely through the South.
The quarrel as it stands is an extremely complex one, and the towns where the inhabitants have maltreated the negro firemen are appealing with amusing vehemence for somebody to do something at once to save them from the inconveniences in the shape of short food supplies and suspended mail facilities which they have brought upon themselves by making the running of trains impossible. A more serious element of the case is its oblique refutation of the claim so often made, that while the South denied social and political equality to the negro, it did not, like the North, restrict his opportunities for making a living.
The present movement is certainly a restriction of the most pronounced sort, as there is no charge, apparently, that the negro firemen are not competent. That they work more cheaply than white men seems to be their only offense. One would almost think that they should get more than the white firemen, since promotion to places as engineers is not for them. The reasons for this discrimination are easily imaginable, but perhaps they will pass away in the course of time.
New York Times, May 26, 1909.
Race Prejudice Was Not Cause. Question of Seniority Involved
ATLANTA, Ga., May 26:—How less than one hundred striking, Georgia railroad firemen were able to stop practically all train service in a territory 170 miles long and from 25 to 100 miles wide, was the knotty problem into which United States Commissioner of Labor Charles P. Neill plunged here today.
As emissary of the National Board of Mediation he faced an announced wish of many persons in this section to have Georgians settle this question by arbitration and the necessity of moving the United States mails immediately.
Within two hours after his arrival last night Mr. Neill was in conference with General Manager Scott, of the Georgia Railroad.
What a remarkable feat this handful of union firemen accomplished and what power was behind them became apparent when a considerable section of this state was compelled to rely upon automobiles for passenger, mail and express service, and when the transportation of even food depended upon wagons and even pack animals.
A settlement by arbitration should not be difficult so far as the strikers’ demands are concerned. Vice president Ball, of the Firemen’s organization, stated today. The men struck because ten negro firemen were given seniority over white firemen. The railroad officials declare that the negroes were put in these positions as rewards for faithful service, and that they are within their legal rights in such action.
The officials of the road are in almost continued conference, and it is reported that some of the directors strongly favored Governor Smith’s proposition for each side to select three Georgians as arbitrators. General Manager Scott would not say whether this offer would be accepted.
Handcars, automobiles and trolley cars made little impression upon the 3,000 pounds of delayed mails in the Atlanta postoffice. Here and there in the strike district a rural postmaster shouldered a sack of outgoing mail and after hours of hard work riding and walking managed to reach an unaffected railroad station.
The strikers have announced that they are willing to fire engines to carry mails only and not passengers.
New York Call, May 26, 1909.
The present strike on the Georgia Railroad is a pitiful example of the evil effect of race prejudice on the labor movement.
The railroad company undertook to put on negroes along with white men as firemen on its road. The white firemen objected and at last went out on strike.
Public opinion along the line—that is, white public opinion, for no other sort is recognized down there—is strongly on the side of the strikers. This is unusual in the South. Labor organizations are not looked on with favor in that region. Many a union organizer has had to leave town in a hurry to avoid getting a coat of tar and feathers at the hands of the “best citizens. Bourbon conservatism can stand for cold-blooded feud murders and can applaud an occasional burning at the stake. But it draws the line at labor strikes. Those are crimes it will not tolerate.
That is, it will not tolerate a strike of laborers against capitalists. But a strike of white laborers against black laborers is a different thing. Bourbon conservatism can swallow the indignity of a body of workingmen going on strike in consideration of the fact that they are actuated by race hatred, which is a sacred institution in the eyes of the rulers of the South and of those who take their opinions from the ruling class.
Probably the strikers have better reason for objecting to the introduction of negroes than they care to tell. It is safe to say that the company is not putting in colored firemen just out of devotion to the principle of racial equality. Corporations do not do business that way.
The railroad company would like to reduce wages. It would like to render its employees helpless and docile. It wants to introduce negroes side by side with white men, first as firemen, later as engineers, because it knows that the negroes are likely to accept lower pay, are likely to remain unorganized for a time, and are pretty sure to hate the white workers as much as the white workers hate them. If it can only break in a force of colored men and make competent railroad workers of them, the company figures that it will be safe from labor troubles for a good time to come. It can play off blacks against whites and whites against blacks and individual against individual, and have no effective opposition to its will.
The strikers may keep negroes out of the firemen’s trade for a while, thanks to the sympathy of the nigger-hating populace.
But they cannot win permanently along that line. They have got to learn to bring the colored workers into their organizations, just as they have already learned to bring immigrant whites into their organizations, and treat them as equals in the labor movement.
They may and should follow their own choice in the matter of social intercourse. That has nothing to do with the question. But in industrial affairs, their only choice will be either to have their organizations smashed by the competition of negro labor mobilized against them by the capitalists or else to give them the hand of brotherhood and enlist them in the fight for labor against capital.
New York Call, May 26, 1909.
Railroad Manager Refuses to Yield Mails Still Tied Up—Strikebreakers Complain
ATLANTA, May 27.—After many conferences in which United States Commissioner of Labor Neill and Governor Hoke Smith participated, the Georgia Railroad’s firemen strikers and road authorities are today about as far apart as ever and the prospects for an early resumption of traffic seem dim.
While a large part of the communities along the line demand even more steadfastly than the strikers that negroes be not given the best runs on the road, General Manager Scott refuses to yield.
Meanwhile in Augusta and Atlanta, great piles of mail have accumulated. The railway mail service is making every effort to get this out to the points affected by the strike, and as not a train is yet moving, a handcar loaded with mail from Athens started on the way to Union Point, a distance of thirty-nine miles. This car was in charge of a regular railways mail clerk.
The visible means of transportation in most of these towns consist of traction engines traveling nearly a mile and a half an hour, automobiles with dangerous roads and mule teams with negro drivers and cracking whips.
It was reported that under an old law said still to be found on the statute books Governor Smith may take charge of the road and operate the trains in the name of the state.
Six strikebreakers complained to the police that they had been brought here by misrepresentations and had been practically prisoners for several days in a hotel, finally dropping notes from windows to the strikers.
New York Call, May 27, 1909.
ATLANTA, Ga., May 27.—The Georgia Railroad will start twelve mail trains tomorrow morning. A dispatch from Augusta tonight says that the crews that will go out from there will be about half of negro firemen and half of white firemen, not members of the brotherhood. The mail clerks will all be negroes. The gravest concern in this breaking of the ice by the first train run in five days in a community which has supported the racial contention of the strikers is felt here tonight among the men, who for forty-eight hours have been continuously working for some solution of the difficulty.
Post Office Inspectors will accompany each of the trains to be sent out tomorrow. This announcement was made tonight following a conference between George M. Sutton, Inspector in charge of the Atlanta Division, and United States District Attorney Tate.
Mr. Sutton said it was deemed wise to have experienced Inspectors accompany each of the trains for the purpose of making observations, ascertaining the sentiment of the people along the line.
General Manager Scott in announcing the resumption of mail service refused to answer questions about the personnel of the engine crews. “I consider this a great concession for the road to make,” was his only comment.
He would not say whether the road would accept the service of the brotherhood firemen as proffered indirectly yesterday by Vice President Ball. Assistant Grand Chief Burgess of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers said he told Mr. Scott tonight that he understood that the Government assured adequate protection for the engineers.
Reports today from the strike districts showed that where three days ago communities were sending out appeals for necessities of life, there now exists a wagon and automobile service so well developed that the last vestige of want has disappeared.
At Thompson, Ga., today, every merchant was running a line of wagons to Augusta, thirty-seven miles away, and a traction engine and car were working under lease at the rate of $25 a day. By carriage and by automobile the round trip to Augusta was from $3.50 to $7 per head, according to class. A carload of provisions opened at Camak, near by, became exhausted today, and the price of provisions advanced. However, enough eggs and vegetables were to be had to keep the people from suffering.
Costington, which is on the line of another road, had plenty of provisions and an opportunity to sell to less fortunate neighbors. Automobile fares from there to Atlanta were $5 to $10 for forty miles. This fare was about the highest rate in the strike district.
Another crisis is the fate of arbitration. By noon tomorrow it may be known. No official announcements have been made, but the assertion that United States Commissioner of Labor Neill has notified General Manager Scott of the railroad that he must make final decision whether he will accept arbitration has been repeatedly made in authoritative sources throughout the day. It is significant that tomorrow morning for the first time a complete conference on arbitration will be possible.
The Georgia Joint Terminal Company controls the tracks on which the Georgia Railroad enters Atlanta, and the switchmen insist that any agreement to arbitrate must include the terminal company. Three Directors control this company, and up to today there has not been a majority of them present in Atlanta to act in concurrence with the Georgia Railroad.
New York Times, May 28, 1909.
Regular Troops Will Be Used, If Necessary, to Move Mails
WASHINGTON, May 28.—Throughout the Administration, and especially at the White House and in the three departments directly concerned there is the most acute realization of the dangerous possibilities in the strike situation on the Georgia Railroad. It is recognized that there is a political powder mine in the conditions that have developed out of the strike of the white firemen of that concern, and that the spark to set it off may be generated at any moment.
The matter was the subject of earnest consideration at the Cabinet meeting today, and after the meeting Secretary Nagel of the Department of Commerce and Labor, and Postmaster General Hitchcock remained in consultation with the President for some time. When they left the White House they joined Attorney General Wickersham, and the three department heads had a conference which continued well along in the afternoon.52
It had been decided at the Cabinet meeting that Martin A. Knapp, Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission, who, as one of the Government arbitrators under the Erdman act, has collaborated with Labor Commissioner C. P. Neill in settling a number of labor disputes, should go to Atlanta to join Mr. Neill, who has been there for two or three days. It was also determined that Second Assistant Postmaster General Stewart, who has charge of the Railway Mail Service, should go. They left late this afternoon. Meantime the Administration continued to hope for favorable news from Mr. Neill, who has been working vigorously ever since his arrival in Atlanta to bring about a compromise.53
There is no doubt that the Administration is prepared to face the worst developments that may come, but it is striving to the utmost to prevent such developments. Officially it is contenting itself with urging both sides to get together in some kind of a compromise. But unofficially it is understood Mr. Neill has been proceeding with exceptional vigor in his efforts to secure an adjustment at the earliest possible moment.
In case it should devolve upon the Federal Government to safeguard the movement of the mails the first efforts would be made through the process of the Federal courts. An injunction would be sought restraining everybody from interfering with the mails and then Deputy United States Marshals would be sworn in in such numbers as might be necessary to prevent any violation of that injunction. Should they be unable to prevent interference with the mails unquestionably the regular troops would be sent to Georgia to take control of the situation. There is already a regiment of infantry—the Seventeenth—at Fort McPherson, near Atlanta, and more could be hurried forward.
The employment of regulars, however, would undoubtedly cause such an outburst of rage throughout the South that no one in the Administration cares to discuss the possible results. It would be made to appear that President Taft was employing the regular army to uphold negroes against striking white union labor, and race hatred would be inflamed to a high degree.
New York Times, May 29, 1909.
ATLANTA, May 28.—Because of an assault on an engine which was carrying a negro fireman at Lithonia this evening the engineers of the Georgia Railroad have given notice that they will not take out even the mail trains tomorrow unless they have a guarantee of complete protection. This action may force the Federal interference in the strike which the State and Federal officials have been trying to avoid. By an arrangement made last night mail trains were run today over all the lines of the railroad, and with this arrangement in effect the Federal officials were content to give the railroad and the striking white firemen every opportunity to arrive at a settlement of their differences. If no mail trains are run tomorrow there is no telling what may happen.
After the mail trains had run all day with no molestation from the crowds that gathered at various places, the railroad company late this afternoon set out to save perishable freight in cars that had been stalled at Lithonia. An engine under charge of Engineer Downing and carrying Supt. John D. Patterson went from here. A negro fireman was on it. It ran into Lithonia at full speed just before 6 o’clock, rushed on to the side track, coupled up to the waiting train, and started out.
Stone Injures Engineer
Assurances had been given for several days that in the interest of local shippers, whose valuable cars were tied up, no demonstration would be made against hauling these cars to Atlanta. The 200 persons at the station were angry over the negro firemen on mail trains. Just as this train was getting under headway, it is said, a stone flew in the cab window and hit the engineer, hurting him severely. Several men boarded the cars, set the brakes, and cut off the air, causing the last car to break loose from the train. They also uncoupled the engine, leaving its load stalled. According to the railroad’s statement, no attempt was made by local authorities to interfere with the attack.
Engineer Downing jumped out with a bar of iron in his hand, and shouted, “I’ll kill the next man that throws a rock.” Then he jumped into the cab and attempted to start his engine. But the crowd on top of the cars held the brakes, and after several ineffectual attempts to pull out the engine was cut loose from the train and sped away in the direction of this city.
The freight now blocks the main line and the progress of the mails. The railroad officers declared tonight that the incident was the work of strike sympathizers, while a county official wired the Governor’s office that it was merely an accident.
Assistant Chief Burgess of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers made an inquiry, and when he found that Downing was seriously injured, he wrote to General Manager Scott, saying he had forbidden engineers to take out trains until complete protection was guaranteed. This was declared to mean even the mail trains.
Mail Trains Not Molested
With a negro fireman stoking it, the first of the mail trains over the Georgia Railroad left Atlanta this morning for Augusta. It carried about 6,000 pounds of mail, which is three times the weight of the usual cargo. The name of the negro fireman who made the run is “Joe” Brown. He has been working as fireman for the Georgia Road since he was “knee high to a duck,” as he puts it, and is one of the negro employees who the striking firemen say are put senior to them.
Before the train pulled out, striking white firemen of the Brotherhood of Firemen and Enginemen were at the Union Station ready to go out with the mail, but their services were not asked. The crew consisted of engineer, conductor and white flagman, negro fireman, Post Office Inspector Bannerman, and four railway mail clerks, three of whom are negroes. No passengers, not even newspaper reporters, were allowed on the train and no express was carried.
Dispatches show that the mail trains with negro firemen, which ran on all the railroad lines, were not molested, although they were met by great crowds at the various stations. Much indignation was expressed by the people at the action of the road. It was the general opinion that General Manager Scott was deliberately using negro firemen on these trains in the hope of provoking violence, so as to cause Federal interference.
If there is not a restoration of service on the Georgia Railroad within the immediate future, it is strongly believed that the State will take definite action looking toward the operation of trains. The Georgia Railroad and Banking Company, according to the charter of the road, is responsible for the maintenance of service over the lines as the ownership company, and if it takes no action, the State may.
That the State has suthority to act in the matter is the opinion of Representative Hooper Alexander of De Kalb County, who made this statement tonight:
“The exclusive privilege of the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company to operate trains over its lines expired in the year 1881, thirty-six years after the completion of the road, and now the State can operate trains over the lines, legally, the same as the lessees.”
Gov. Smith is likely to take advantage of this condition as he believes that General Manager Scott has deliberately created and continued a situation which involves the possibility of a grave racial conflict.
People With White Firemen
It is not overstating the case to say that 90 per cent of the white people along the line of the road feel that it is an outrage to supplant white firemen by negroes. Merchants, professional men, farmers, laborers, and women and children are united in this.
They represent the best element and stand for order and decorum, yet they have decided that the negro firemen must go or the trains shall not run. They are suffering from the tie-up, but are hopeful and cheerful.
Something stronger even than racial feeling binds some of the whites who are backing the striking firemen. These firemen and other employees have been largely recruited from the community which the railroad serves, and in consequence many a blood relation is standing by his kinsman in standing by the strike.
It was reported tonight that there was talk of holding mass meetings at several places to voice indignation at the railroad’s action in putting negroes today on what the public has dubbed “neutral trains.”
While there is still plenty to eat in the strike district luxuries are exhausted. The one thing which the people feel the need of most keenly is ice. Checkers and marbles, wired a correspondent from the strike district, are at present the principal diversion of most of the male population.
New York Times, May 29, 1909.
White Firemen Resume Work and Dispute Over Negroes May Be Arbitrated
AUGUSTA NEGRO IS BEATEN
People Served by Georgia Railroad Plainly Showed They Would Still Uphold White Firemen
ATLANTA, Ga., May 29.—Pressure brought by Federal officers put a sudden end this afternoon to the strike of white firemen which has tied up the Georgia Railroad for seven days.
Had there not been a settlement of the strike this afternoon it can be stated that Federal interference was imminent. It is reported that both sides were notified that some adjustment must be reached by 6 o’clock or the Federal courts would take cognizance of the situation. This probably would have meant injunctions, which in the present temper of the residents of the strike district almost certainly meant resistance and possible violations of the injunction and speedily thereafter the arrival of United States troops.
Chairman Martin A. Knapp of the Interstate Commerce Commission, who arrived from Washington this morning, fresh from talks with President Taft and Cabinet officers, and Labor Commissioner Neill held conferences with T. K. Scott, General Manager of the railroad, and E. A. Ball, Vice President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen. It was announced at 2 o’clock that a settlement had been reached.
The white firemen reported immediately for duty. Within ninety minutes the first passenger train left Augusta, with a negro fireman in the cab. Before many hours trains were moving rapidly and the piled up traffic was being straightened out.
The terms of the settlement were not officially given out, but it was learned that they were substantially as follows:
The men to return to work under conditions existing at the time the strike began until final adjustment is made.
All Negro firemen at the terminal stations will be dispensed with.
All discharged Brotherhood firemen will be reinstated.
Three other points are yet to be decided. They are under discussion and if no settlement is reached they will be settled by arbitration under the Erdman law. They are:
First—whether negro firemen shall be eliminated from the road.
Second—If not eliminated, what percentage of negroes there shall be.
Third—Seniority of negro firemen over white firemen.
It is generally understood that the railroad agrees to recognize the seniority of white firemen, and that the employment of certain negro firemen who have been with the road many years will be continued. After they are retired no other negroes will be permitted to fire.
The settlement of the strike was announced in a statement signed by Messrs. Knapp and Neill. It said:
An amicable adjustment of the differences between the Georgia Railroad and its employees who have been on strike has been reached on a basis eminently satisfactory to both sides. The strike has been called off, and complete train service is to be resumed immediately.
Commissioner Neill said that both sides made concessions. He added further that he did not believe a complete statement would be made before next week.
General Manager Scott had refused to make concessions or even to arbitrate, but it was said that he was finally brought to see that 90 per cent of the people along the line of the Georgia Railroad were resolved that white men should not be replaced by negroes and that to continue the policy was inviting serious trouble.
Just as the order calling the strike off was being sent out Gov. Smith was preparing a proclamation ordering all peace officers to see that the trains had ample protection. It was not sent out, because the agreement was reached before he had completed his task.
The communities through which the Georgia Railroad passes are delighted at the settlement, and believe the firemen have won all the disputed points. They add, however, in many towns that whether the firemen agree or not to negroes in the cabs, the citizens themselves will not consent to any such arrangement on any but mail trains.
Before the settlement was reached there were plenty of evidences that trouble would come if any attempt was made to move anything but mail by the use of negro firemen.
The mail trains went out, the engineers receiving assurances that they would not be molested, but attacks on them were withheld only because of the fear of Federal interference.
Crowds were at the stations, and when the firemen were seen to be negroes resentment was plainly shown. In many cases prominent citizens turned away with expressions of anger. Many of them openly declared that the moment the Georgia Railroad attempted to move passengers or freight with negro firemen life and property would be destroyed, and that certainly a dangerous condition would result. In a few communities, such was the strike fervor, that religious revival services were under way.
A negro fireman was badly beaten at Augusta this morning, and two others were driven from yard engines, but before there were serious consequences the police interfered and arrested two white men.
The State this morning announced that a posse, if necessary, would be furnished to the Sheriff of De Kalb County to move freight cars at Lithonia, where last night there was a small riot. The strike sympathizers at Lithonia, however, declared they would not permit anything but perishables to move, and consequently there was great anxiety over the outcome until the settlement came.
Dispatches from Crawfordsville this afternoon said that only sympathy for the strikers prevented the people from attacking the trains used solely for carrying the mails. At Crawfordsville, Union Point, and Thomson strong parties of men announced that neither freight nor passenger trains should pass manned by negroes.
The week of strike put the people along the Georgia Railroad to an amount of inconvenience almost unbearable. The mails were interfered with for several days, and people along the line were cut off from news of the outside world and intercourse with it. Persons who had business in Atlanta or adjoining towns had to come in automobiles, wagons, and other vehicles, or make long detours on railroads. Merchants were cut off from supplies and real distress was experienced in many places.
The strike began May 17 and lasted thirteen days. It was caused by the attempt of the company to put negro firemen on the best runs in place of white firemen, to whom were given inferior runs. The men presented a new agreement to General Manager Scott, demanding that he recognize the seniority of white firemen, and thus practically do away with the negro in the cabs. Scott refused, asserting that he had no authority for such an agreement. The men looked in vain for some official who had authority, and failing to find one, struck. General Manager Scott retailiated by practically annulling all trains, and thus tieing up traffic.
The panic of ignorant negroes from the backwoods is pitiful. Reports were circulated by a few superstitious negroes that the strike was a forerunner of a race riot, which would make their race extinct. The white people everywhere, however, showed consideration for the feelings of negroes, and made it plain that the race issue extended only to those negroes who were firing Georgia Railroad engines.
New York Times, May 30, 1909.
National Meeting Will Try to Remedy Discrimination of Labor Unions
At the reception given last night by Miss Lillian D. Wald of the Nurses’ Association at the Henry Street Settlement to the speakers of the National Conference on the American negro, which is to be held in New York this week, it was announced that an attempt is being made to bring two negro firemen from the South to tell of the recent discrimination made against negro employees by the Southern labor unions.54
Bishop Turner of Atlanta has been delegated to select two men who can explain the trouble to the conference, and it is said that these men will be employed in the North thereafter if their evidence makes it impossible for them to return to the South.55
The reception was attended by a large number of the speakers and others, including Profs. Livingston Farrand and John Dewey of Columbia University, Prof. Burt G. Wilder of Cornell University, Bishop Alexander Walters of the Zion Methodist Church, Mrs. Celia Parker Wooley of Chicago, Mrs. Ida Wells Barnett of Chicago, Joseph C. Manning, editor of The Southern American; John Spencer Bassett of Smith College, Prof. E. B. D Bois of Atlanta University, Prof. and Mrs. Vladimir Simkovitch, John E. Milholland, Chester Aldrich, Prof. and Mrs. E. R. A. Seligman of Columbia, Louis R. Ehrich, Dr. John B. Elliott of the Ethical Culture Society, and James B. Reynolds.56
The conference will begin tomorrow in the Charities Building, and in the evening there will be a mass meeting in Cooper Union. Educators, scientists, jurists, business men, and officers of State and National Governments have gathered here to discuss the negro question from both points of view. Resolutions presented to the Assembly will undoubtedly call upon the Taft Administration to commit itself in one way or the other on the question of equal rights and privileges.
Men and women of National prominence will address the conference on the issues now before the Northern and Southern States, the discrimination of the labor unions against the negro firemen in the South, the disfranchisement of the negro, the non-enforcement of the laws for the equal protection of whites and blacks, recent lynchings, assaults, and the peonage system in Southern convict camps.
The Rev. Frank Oliver Hall, rector of the Divine Paternity, struck a blow yesterday for the black race from his pulpit.
“It is not a fair deal,” he said, “when the black man of the South is denied equal privilege to work by the side of his white brother.”
New York Times, May 31, 1909.
ATLANTA, Ga., May 30.—Officials of the Georgia Railroad and of the Brotherhood of Firemen spent nearly the entire day in conference over those points in the strike agreement which remain to be settled. Commissioner Neill, Chairman Knapp, and Assistant Postmaster General Stewart were present. It seems very likely that the disputed questions will have to go to a Board of Arbitration finally under the Erdman act.
The stumbling block in the path of settlement is the retention of the negro firemen in any capacity. There is no doubt that all other points will be adjusted without arbitration.
There are several reasons why the race question is so important. The Georgia Railroad is considered a home institution, employing Georgia men only. Its firemen, engineers, conductors, and brakemen are all natives of towns through which its trains run. These men have intermarried until nearly whole communities are related. One engineer told Commissioner Neill that there was not a town on his run between Atlanta and Augusta in which he did not have blood relatives.
Many of the men come from old and highly respected families, and the idea of working with a negro is abhorrent to them and to their relatives, and to this feeling is attributed the stand taken by entier communities against the railroad.
Should the negroes win in the final settlement of the dispute many believe that there will be strong sentiment against permitting them to continue at work. This feeling does not exist so strongly in the larger cities, and it is possible that the problem may be solved by employing some of the older negroes only in the yards of the cities.
The conference will be resumed tomorrow, and will be continued until an agreement is reached or it is left to arbitration. Meantime, train service on the Georgia Railroad has reached normal conditions, except in the freight department, and the officials say that by Monday noon all freight trains will be moving on the old schedules.
Special to The New York Times
WASHINGTON, May 30.—The settlement of the strike on the Georgia Railroad, according to the meagre information received here, is another victory for the Bureau of Labor of the Department of Commerce and Labor. While the method used in getting the railroad company and its white employes together is not yet known in Washington, the fact that they were induced to end the industrial war is set down to the credit of Commissioner of Labor Neill and Martin A. Knapp, Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Mr. Neill, it is understood, labored with the strikers throughout Friday night, and his efforts were crowned with success when Mr. Knapp reached Atlanta on Saturday morning and reinforced him.
Aside from the relief experienced by the Post Office Department in getting the mail schedules straightened out again, the Administration is delighted at the turn the affair has taken. It was recognized that the Republican plan for the pacification of the South was in the gravest danger if the strike grew to such proportions that Federal interference would be necessary. This phase of the matter is said to have given President Taft and his advisers many anxious hours during the progress of the trouble.
Mr. Taft, however, showed no inclination to shirk the responsibility of sending Federal troops into the disaffected districts where their presence might be found necessary. The War Department had made a canvass of the situation, and the entire strength of infantry, cavalry, and coast artillerymen in Georgia could have been moved on a half hour’s notice. The President was prepared to follow the example of President Cleveland when the latter sent Federal troops into Chicago to protect property and restore order during the great railroad strike of 1894.
Both Mr. Knapp and Commissioner Neill will remain in Atlanta for a few days until the last sign of friction has been removed.
New York Times, May 31, 1909.
A Southern View of Its Racial Complications
To the Editor of The New York Times:
Reading the comments of the THE TIMES and of other newspapers on the strike of the white firemen on the Georgia Railroad, they seem to me to ignore so completely obvious facts underlying an ugly situation that I ask space to put before your readers this view.
The problems of “organized labor” are interlaced with the negro question in the South precisely as they are with the Oriental race question on the Pacific. I hold no brief for “organized labor,” but I accept it as a fact of American social and industrial life to be reckoned with. The immediate and concrete aim of the labor unions is to raise wages. The price of labor is fixed by demand and supply, modified by trades union rules. Either negro firemen must be admitted into the unions or they will underbid white firemen, and the white unions will be stripped of their power. The Brotherhood of Firemen is National. The white firemen of Montana competes with all firemen in America, whether in Georgia or Texas or New Hampshire. His wage is affected by the wage of the negro fireman in Georgia. The negro fireman who accepts a wage 20 per cent less than that of the white fireman in New York cuts the New York fireman out of a job; local conditions do not apply to the transportation business. If the supply of white firemen be insufficient in Georgia, it may be filled within sixty hours from New York. The Southern negro’s standard of living is far lower than that of the white man, just as is that of the Japanese or Chinese coolie. In the nature of things, therefore, the negro is potentially a strikebreaker. The frequent importation of negroes into the North to “break” strikes and their violent treatment by white union men, you must be familiar with. In the Southern village the white and black carpenters work side by side in amity, that is the result of custom; they so worked even when most of the negroes were slaves. In other words, trades unionism is not seriously considered in the South, except in those trades whose members have slight local affiliations. To the journeyman printer or telegrapher the whole country is his workshop, but that is not true of the village carpenter or blacksmith in an agricultural region.
I therefore throw out the suggestion that the Georgia Railroad strike springs from a recognition of these conditions by the white firemen of America, and that the New Yorker is not less responsible for it than the Georgian. Presumably, the great majority of union firemen are Northern men. Shall they accept the negro fireman and unionize him, undertaking to lift him to their own standard of living, or shall they treat him in the South precisely as (I think) they treat him in the North? What is geography to the transportation workingman?
The ethical question whether the white unionist should undertake the elevation of the negro laborer by assimilating him as fellow-union man or should leave him to his own devices. I do not here discuss, except to say that the elbow touch of the white unionist would be a powerful, if not the most powerful, leverage for the negro’s industrial advancement that could be applied at this time. But the Southern white workingman is not expected to apply it alone, nor is it likely to be applied in the North in the near future. Anyway, I am brutal enough to say that I hope it will not be.
Additionally, it is fair to bear in mind that the locomotive fireman is the apprentice workingman to the locomotive engineer. When the engineer is disabled at his post, his fireman seizes the throttle and drives the engine home. It is well enough to say that the rule in the South is that the negro fireman is never given an engine, and has never been given one; what is the word of a Superintendent or group of Superintendents, that such a rule will forever prevail, worth? The master fireman can run an engine. One thousand black firemen in the South, non-union men, would be no slight menace to the white Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers on strike, ten or twenty years hence. Can the printers’ union be expected to allow a negro apprentice to learn the operation of the Mergenthaler because the employer promises that the apprentice shall never have a machine?
I do not defend the Georgia Railroad strike; I regret that it has occurred; but nothing is to be gained by blinking the truth that it is not a manifestation of Southern race prejudice, and that it has probably been inspired from the North. I confess, however, that I am so much saturated with Southern “race prejudice,” if the phrase be agreeable, not to wish the negro unionized, and the admission is inevitable that he must be unionized or else excluded from those trades in which he is in direct competition with white men the country over.
W. W. BALL
Charleston, S.C., May, 1909.
New York Times, June 1, 1909.
Saves Negro Fireman From Fury of Georgians Who Had Beaten Him
Special to THE NEW YORK AGE
AUGUSTA, Ga., May 31.—For protecting Joe Bryant, a Negro fireman, from a mob, Mrs. Margaret Sylvester, a prominent woman of this city, is acclaimed as the heroine of the Georgia railroad strike.
The attack on the Negro fireman was made late Saturday afternoon before it was generally known that the strike had been settled. A mob assaulted the Negro in the railroad yards and beat him badly. The Negro broke away and ran with the mob in pursuit. The chase led near the home of Mrs. Sylvester and when she saw the Negro she called to him to come in. The fireman obeyed and the mob tried to follow, but Mrs. Sylvester barred the way and denounced the mob for its brutal attack on him. She told the mob that if any member tried to enter her house she would shoot. Her attitude cowed the mob and it retreated. Mrs. Sylvester then had the fireman’s wounds dressed and turned him over to the police for protection.
New York Age, June 3, 1909.
At last the race problem has become involved in a labor dispute. The combination is full of menace. As the consequence of the strike of white firemen over the employment of negroes, no regular trains ran over the tracks of the Georgia Railroad for the most of last week, communities have been in danger of want, and thousands of people have been stirred to unreason by the passions inflamed in the controversy.
On many railways in the South it has been the custom to place negro firemen in the engine cabs beside white engineers. The situation in the railway industry is in this respect similar to that in other industries in the South. White man and black man work in amity and co-operation side by side. In the case of the men in the engine cab, however, there is one feature that is distinctive. Ordinarily the engineer who drives an engine over a route has, before becoming an engineer, traveled over that route again and again as a fireman. It is nearly essential that if he is to be responsible for the safety of his train, he must know every yard of the track; and he can know it only by repeatedly going over that track before he assumes responsibility. The employment of negroes as firemen, and only white men as engineers, makes it difficult, in many cases virtually impossible, for the engineer to get the experience he ought to get on the route over which he drives his engine. The more negro firemen a railway employs, the more difficult does it become for the engineers of that road to enter on their duties trained as they should be. On the other hand, the negro will work for less wages than the white man. Therefore the railway managers undertake to save money by employing negroes as firemen instead of white men. Some time in April an official of the Georgia Railroad, desirous of saving his company about five dollars a day, removed from regular employment and placed on an “extra list” ten white “assistant hostlers” (members of the firemen’s union) and replaced them with negroes at lower wages. The General Manager of the road declined to rescind this order of his subordinate. The white firemen employed on the road (less than a hundred) saw in this action a menace to their standard of wages and standard of living. They therefore struck. When, however, the railway undertook to replace these striking white firemen with negroes, the people along the route of the railway made violent protest. They made it clear that public sentiment would not tolerate any attempt to lower wages by filling the places of white workmen with negroes. And this sentiment was reinforced by the public opinion which has long been forming concerning the risk to travelers involved in the practice of employing white engineers who have been kept from a proper training because of the employment of negro firemen. Thus a strike which started as a protest against reduction of wages became a bitter race issue, with public sentiment enlisted on behalf of the white strikers. As a consequence of the strike, scores of towns have been without mail or an adequate supply of provisions. Indeed, a large part of the State of Georgia has been undergoing the privations of seige. How much violence has accompanied the strike it is impossible to ascertain. Rumors of brutality are floated and then are denied. Fear of violence, however, has been indubitable.
This is the first time that an industrial contest has followed the lines of racial struggle to a serious degree. Heretofore the two problems in acute form have been kept distinct. In the North, where strife between organized labor and capital has been frequent, the comparative smallness of the negro population has kept it free from racial complications. In the South, on the other hand, where racial strife has been frequent, the comparatively unorganized condition of white labor and the comparatively unadvanced condition of negro labor have kept it free from finding expression in strikes or lockouts. Now, however, with the progress of organized labor in the South and the progress of the negro in industrial efficiency, there has arisen an occasion on which the labor problem and the race problem, each a spring of passion, have mingled.
The question in this strike is not as simple as one might think. It is not a mere question of white against black; of the members of a strong race attempting to rise by the degradation of a weaker race. It is a complication of racial and economic questions that requires careful study. Four points, however, are clear:
Violence, in the first place, in a contest of this kind is inexcusable and detestable. How it can be put down, appearing in many towns throughout a big State, we do not pretend to say. It is, however, the first duty of public executive officials, from Governor down, to exercise all the authority and influence they have to quell it.
In the second place, the suspension of the whole operation of distribution in the course of a quarrel of this kind is barbarous. We ought by this time to have reached a stage of civilization in which such questions were determined not by methods of war but by methods of reason and judicial procedure.
In the third place, the past practice of the railways in employing the principally negro firemen and only white engineers is bad. It affords an excuse for depressing wages, and it increases the dangers of travel.
In the fourth place, the only possible solution is not the elimination of negro firemen; a possible solution is the employment of trustworthy negroes as engineers. If this strike means the attempts by any considerable portion of the Southern people to close the door of industrial advancement against the negro, it is full of danger to the South. It has been the pride and boast of the South that there negroes have the fairest possible chance to make the most of themselves by hard work. If the South forgets that boast, it will bring calamity upon itself.
The Outlook (June 5, 1909): 310–12.
A strike of railroad firemen on the Georgia Railroad which began on the 16th and settled on the 29th, involved the employment and seniority recognition of Negro firemen. No other question was at issue, and this question was not a social one. It turned upon the fact that Negro firemen keep white men out of jobs. By the 22d not a wheel turned on the entire line, and the postal service was at a standstill. The United States Commissioner of Labor and the chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission went to Georgia on the 25th to secure a settlement. At that time the strikers had offered to fire engines to carry mails, but only mails—neither freight nor passengers. There was violence at Lithonia on the 28th. Ten trains carrying mails having been sent over the road without interference on the morning of that day, although fired by Negroes, the General Manager attempted to resume freight traffic, but a crowd gathered and attacked the train. Some damage was done, and the engineer sustained personal injuries. The violence stopped when the attempt to run trains was abandoned. The terms of the settlement, which was effected on the 29th, are not officially published, but are reported by press dispatches to be as follows:
The men to return to work under conditions existing at the time the strike began until final adjustment is made.
All Negro firemen at the terminal stations will be dispensed with.
All discharged Brotherhood firemen will be reinstated.
Three other points are yet to be decided, as follows: (1) Whether Negro firemen shall be eliminated from the road. (2) If not eliminated, what percentage of Negroes there shall be. (3) Seniority of Negro firemen over white firemen.
The Public, June 6, 1909.
The compromise under Federal pressure of the critical firemen’s strike on the Georgia railroad is cause for much general satisfaction. The situation becoming more tense every day was rapidly approaching a climax. Public sentiment among the cracker whites was becoming inflamed to the point where the employment of Negro firemen in the future was problematical under any circumstances. Interference by the Federal government would have meant the opening of the old sectional wound to a degree not approached since the days of Reconstruction. The progress of friendly relations between the races in the South would have been retarded many years. From the standpoint, therefore, of the larger and present good, the compromise of the situation is especially beneficial to the Negro race. Better still is the fact that the men will return to work under the conditions existing at the time the strike began until the final adjustment is made.
It is to be hoped that this tentative proposal will obtain in the final settlement. The Federal government as the directing party to the compromise cannot compromise on the fundamental rights of the Negro in the matter. Nothing short of the Negro’s right to work and his employment on Southern railroads are at stake. If it be agreed, with the Federal government consenting, that Negroes will not hereafter be employed in the terminals and as senior firemen, it means the gradual elimination of the Negro on the Georgia road. It means the eventual elimination of the Negro from every railroad in the South. It would mean industrial discouragement to the Negro.
Any other settlement than the recognition of the Negro’s right to work on the railroad and the railroad’s right to employ Negroes, would be as temporary as it would be unjust. The tyrannous demands of the Union and its diabolical walking delegate must be met by the firm stand of the railroad and the government. The best interests of the South and the Negro are involved.
New York Age, June 3, 1909.
Conflicting press reports have led to a widespread misunderstanding in regard to the actual outcome of the Georgia Railroad strike. It is not true that the railroad has given in on the essential point—the employment of Negro firemen. It conceded a number of unimportant points and signed an agreement to arbitrate six questions under the Erdman act. The first of these is the important one, for it raises the color issue in three-fold form: Shall all Negro firemen be barred from employment on the Georgia Railroad; if employed, what percentage of the total number shall they constitute; and shall they retain their present privilege of promotion by seniority over white firemen?
The railroad stood its ground to the end with admirable firmness; on the arrival of Mr. Knapp of the Interstate Commerce Commission it yielded to the extent of consenting to arbitration. The important race question is, therefore, unanswered. Should the arbitration be swayed by the race issue, the outcome would become a precedent for limiting the employment of blacks in other directions. It would, therefore, have been better if the strike could have settled without arbitration—but that would have had to come about by the complete surrender of the union. The railroad had absolute justice on its side, and fought tenaciously for employees of proved worth and of long service, whose sole offense was the color of their skins.
Baltimore Afro-American, June 12, 1909.
Arbitration Decides That Georgia Must Treat Them the Same as Whites
ATLANTA, Ga., June 27.—The award of the Georgia Railroad Strike Arbitration Board, which was announced early this morning, is against the seniority of white firemen over negroes, and provides that the Georgia Railroad when using negroes as firemen, hostlers, or hostler’s helpers, shall pay them the same wages as white men in similar positions. Arbitrator Hardwick dissented from this.
Firemen in the line of promotion to the position of engineer must have three years’ experience before being promoted to the position of engineer, and are to be promoted in the order of their seniority. If they refuse or fail to pass the first examination they will be reduced to freight service without losing their seniority. Failing on the second examination they will be reduced to the bottom of the extra list or disposed of as the company desires. Firemen now in the service who are physically incapacitated for service will not be subject to this rule.
Mr. Hardwick, in a dissenting opinion from the proposition fixing negroes’ wages the same as those of whites, said:
“In so far as the above finding permits the continued employment of negro firemen I dissent, because I believe from the evidence that such employment is a menace to the safety of the traveling public.”
The arbitrators, chosen as a result of the recent strike of the white firemen, were ex-Secretary of the Navy Hilary Herbert for the road, Congressman Hardwick for the white firemen, and Chancellor Barrow as umpire.57
New York Times, June 28, 1909.
Feel That with Equal Pay Whites Will Get Jobs from Negroes
ATLANTA, Ga., June 28.—The award made by the Board of Arbitration in the Georgia Railway strike case is declared to be satisfactory to the road as well as to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen. No appeal will be taken by either side.
Vice President Ball, speaking for the white firemen, said last night:
“The firemen never asked for the discharge of the negroes from the Georgia Railroad. When the board ruled that both races should receive the same pay for the same work, I am inclined to think they gave us all we asked, eliminating that seniority section. When you place the white man and the negro man on the same pay basis, it is certain that the employer will secure the most competent laborer, not the cheapest.”
The negro firemen were highly pleased when they learned that they are to get a substantial increase in pay, which they had not even thought of demanding.
New York Times, June 29, 1909.
The sequel to the Georgia firemen’s case promises to be more interesting than the case itself. Only those directly interested can care about the wages or conditions of employment of a comparatively small number of men, but all Americans are interested in the maintenance in good faith of an award obtained in accordance with statutory process and involving racial and political issues of fundamental importance.
A Georgian and an Alabaman, both men of distinction, have agreed that the striking white firemen were wrong, and they award the negro firemen something where they asked for nothing. They are to keep their places, and their wages are to be increased on a scale, as it is said, of equal pay for equal work. The wages may be equal, but it is sure that the whites would not accept the same money with a disqualification for promotion. Negroes cannot become engineers, and this was one cause of the trouble. By long and faithful service as firemen they displaced whites and acquired privileges as firemen which the whites coveted. This is a purely economic matter thus far, the political and racial aspects being created by outsiders. It was alleged even in an argument before the arbitrators that an overwhelming public sentiment would not tolerate such a decision as has now been reached, and that it would be nullified by bloodshed.
This is not a question of the right of the negro to social or political equality. It is a question of his right to live, for the right to work is the right to subsistence. There is no constitutional right of the whites to any particular mode of livelihood, but there is a constitutional right of the negro to earn his living in any lawful way. The railways also have their right to exist economically, that is, by the employment of any laborers suitable to the work, at rates mutually satisfactory. These are the conditions which were disturbed by a lawless element of the community expressing prejudice which should be checked primarily by public sentiment, and if necessary by the strong arm of the State.
Doubtless the sentiment of the South is divided upon the subject, which makes it all the more necessary that the better element of the South and the general sentiment of the North should support each other. There has at no time been evidence that the sober and responsible Southerners were hostile to the negro firemen, who are important merely as the representatives of negro wage earners in general. For it is evident that if the negroes are to be expelled from one position of right they are weakened in respect to all their rights. The case illustrates BOOKER WASHINGTON’S argument that North and South would not everlastingly fight over the negro. Politics, religion, and education had not succeeded in solving the negro question, but Mr. WASHINGTON thought that business would solve it. Business draws no color line. The commission awards an equal right to equal pay for equal work, and an equal right to work.
New York Times, June 29, 1909.
Georgia Trainmen to Ask Legislature to Exclude Them
ATLANTA, Ga., June 29.—The preparation of a bill to exclude negroes from employment as firemen and trainmen in this State was begun today by a committee representing the firemen and trainmen of the Georgia Railroad.
The bill will be presented to the Georgia Legislature, now in session. Already a bill has been introduced into the House requiring an educational test for negro firemen.
New York Times, June 30, 1909.
The most dastardly labor union strike in the history of the Southland was that called by Vice President of the Enginemen’s Association E. A. Ball, of Canada, in Georgia in the latter days of May. The strike of the white firemen on the Georgia Railroad was because of the layoff of ten white firemen, whose places had been taken by Negro firemen. The strikers, under the excited backing of the mucker populace of Georgia, became arrogant in their demands, asking for the discharge of all Negro firemen, and especially of the “senior” Negro firemen, who, through long and efficient service, had gained the zenith of their railroad career—”the better runs on the road.” Under Federal pressure, Messrs. Knapp, chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and Neill, United States Labor Commissioner, brought the belligerent sides—the strikers and the railroad president, Mr. Scott—together. The white firemen were restored, and the other points in contention will be arbitrated by a commission of three, one appointed by either side and one chosen by the two thus selected.
The loose, intemperate discussion of the strike by members of the Negro Race Conference recently held in New York and men of similar reactionary persuasion has greatly confused in many Negroes’ minds the issues involved therein. But the strike has changed the situation not one whit. At bottom the strike was a typical diabolical union strike to enforce its mad demands. Added to this was the tinder-box element of Georgia “crackers,” whose fire had been drawn by the walking delegate’s cry of “Negro seniority.” The strike has been another evidence of the passion and depravity of the poor whites. It demonstrated the courage and strength of the friendship of leading Southern people, like President Scott, for the Negro. It advertised the patience and progress, through it all, of the Negro race. It demonstrated that the poor Southern whites must be “lifted up or they will drag us down.” Therein lay the great menace to the Negro, the South and the nation.
The Colored American Magazine, 16 (June, 1909): 330–31.
Once more has the Banquo’s ghost obtruded itself upon national attention. . . . As is the habit of ghosts, this black spectre reappears at shorter and shorter intervals as time goes on. . . . Last month, the Georgia railroad, with 500 miles of track, was for a week tied up almost completely and the use of federal troops seemed at one time to be imminent because a strike immediately affecting only seventy men was aggravated by its combination with the race question. For years, practically all the Southern railways have employed both white and black men as firemen. Hitherto the custom has caused no disturbance of any consequence. The Georgia railroad began to employ Negro firemen six or eight years ago, increasing their number gradually, until it has had about thirty black to about eighty white firemen. The blacks performed their duties in a manner satisfactory to the railway officials, and the engineers for whom they stoked were apparently satisfied. The firemen on this road two years ago were paid one half the wages of the engineers—$1.75 a day. A wage agreement between the railroad and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers terminated in 1907. The engineers and firemen in the Brotherhood then demanded an increase. The engineers, all of whom are white, got the increase. The firemen failed to get it. The Brotherhood officials attributed this failure to the fact that the Negro firemen, who were not in the union, were willing to work for less than the union men demanded.58
There was still another fact that aggravated the union men. As the white firemen became proficient, they were promoted to be engineers but the black firemen, not being eligible, under the rules of the railroad, to such promotion, have gradually come, by the rule of seniority, into the best “runs” on the road, and there they stay, since they are not allowed to go any higher. The white firemen, consequently, have found it more and more difficult to reach the higher posts from which alone they could hope to be promoted to be engineers. The black firemen formed a block at the top of the ladder, over which the white firemen could not climb. Then, a few weeks ago, came the act that proved to be the spark in the powder magazine. Ten white “assistant hostlers” (firemen employed about the terminal, in the round house, etc.) were displaced by ten black “assistant hostlers” who were willing to work for less than the union wages. The displaced “hostlers” took the matter before their union. The rest of the seventy or eighty white firemen, already restive, took up the case of the hostlers and a strike was declared by the Brotherood.
The people along the line of the railroad looked upon the struggle as a race issue. When the railroad undertook to fill the places of the strikers or to run any of their trains with Negro firemen, crowds collected at the stations, stoned the cabs and cars, set the brakes, and assaulted the firemen. Governor Hoke Smith refused to supply protection, pleading excuse that he had not enough troops to protect 500 miles of track. For a week hardly a car wheel turned. Perishable freight perished. The mail was not carried. Supplies of food and fuel were exhausted in various towns, and, as one writer express it, ante bellum scenes began to reappear in some localities thus deprived of all intercourse with the rest of the world. Threats were made to extend the strike to other roads connecting with the Georgia and handling its freight. The unusual feature of the situation was that the railroad is owned and officered by Southern men, while the Brotherhood official, Vice President Ball, who had charge of the strike, is a Northern man, hailing from Toronto, Canada. There was thus a labor controversy transformed into a race issue, in which Southern officials were fighting to retain Negroes in their jobs, while a Northern man, assisted by the Southern rabble, were fighting to oust the Negroes. The general manager of the railroad, Thomas K. Scott, in an interview, thus construed the meaning of the contest: “This strike is the first step of a movement which is planned to eventuate in the abolition of the Negro as an industrial factor. It is the skirmish of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and the Enginemen in its plan to drive the Negro out of employment on railroads altogether. The plan has been smoldering for five years. This strike on the Georgia railroad is just the first step. I have reason to believe that the same demand will in time, be it soon or late, be made by officials of this firemen’s union to every other railroad in the South.”
The termination of the struggle was effected, temporarily at least, by the aid of federal officials. Charles P. Neill, U.S. labor commissioner, and Martin A. Knapp, chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission, were sent from Washington to offer their services in effecting a settlement, Uncle Sam’s special interest in the affair being to see that the mails were carried. They secured an “amicable settlement . . . on a basis entirely satisfactory to both sides.” The strike was called off, the trains resumed their running, the populace along the line calmed down, and the usual course of existence was resumed. But the terms of the settlement, as unofficially reported, are interpreted to be a virtual victory of the white firemen, who are to displace the blacks, it is assumed, but to do so gradually, not all at once. The issue raised remains unsettled in the opinion of most commentators. Says the Springfield (Mass.) Republican: “The settlement leaves the fate of the Negro firemen undetermined, with the chances decidely against them. So the white strikers against Negro labor on the engines win out. Their success is not likely to stop here, but may extend over other Southern roads employing Negro firemen. It thus becomes a great victory for the industrial suppression of the Negro following his political suppression. Yet only a few days ago President Taft was congratulating the colored race on their rise or admission to greater opportunities for advancement than they ever knew before.” The New York Sun censures the federal administration for its part in bringing about the settlement. “A state administration,” it says, “sympathizing with mob rule and a national administration apparently more willing to accept humiliation than to uphold the law have won the Georgia strike for the union.” The New York Globe thinks the settlement of the strike in no way disposes of the big question: “It remains, and will return in more and more vexing form. Intelligent Southern men realize that the problem raised is the most serious since emancipation, and there is a special call for wisdom.”
Some particularly significant utterances on the contest have come from the Southern press. Reading them, the New York Evening Post is persuaded that the strike has been one of the best things that has happened in the South, inasmuch as “it has not only brought about a split among Southerners on a race issue, but it must be bringing home to many thousands of intelligent men among them a clear understanding of how far unrestrained race prejudice may carry their section of the country.” The Chronicle, of Augusta, for many a month engaged in blacking the course of Hoke Smith, the governor, for his “deliberate and wanton refusal to do his duty,” and concerning the underlying issues it remarks: “Inasmuch as the Negro constitutes the bulk of the South’s laboring population, to take away from his right to labor—’side by side with white men,’ when necessary—would place the heaviest possible handicap upon the South itself; for it would not only have a surplus of idle Negroes to contend with, but a scarcity of labor in all industrial pursuits. Any other policy . . . would be nothing short of suicidal.”
The New Orleans Times-Democrat refuses to regard the contest as in any proper sense a race issue, for in that case it would not be confined to one road. It was simply, in this journal’s opinion, a labor dispute—”the competition of laboring classes whose living standards are radically different and the desire of the employer to obtain its labor as cheaply as possible.” The Richmond Times thinks that, while the contest was in its inception nothing but a labor dispute, the Georgia populace soon lost sight of the real grievances, and “the broad issue of race” resulted, in a form which it regards as of “large and critical moment.” It goes on to say:
“In a broad sense, the issue here is simply the Negro’s right to earn a living. If the Georgian Railway discharges its colored firemen, it can hardly be long before other Southern railways will be asked to do the same thing. If stoking an engine is added to the list of things that a Negro may not aspire to do, any other form of occupation may be similarly closed to him at the discretion of his white co-laborers. We shall thus be in a fair way to establish the general principle that no Negro may hold any job which any white man wants or thinks that he wants.
“The South has repressed the Negro socially, and it was right to do so. It has repressed the Negro politically, and it was right to do so. But it has always declared that it gave the Negro a square deal and an even chance industrially, and this declaration has been the truth. To oust Negroes from positions which they are filling efficiently and without personal friction is to repudiate this wise policy and to start a program the logical result of which is the continuing multiplication of the idle Negro, the most dangerous element in the social body of the South.”
“What has come to the South,” asks the Florida Times-Union, “that there should be such intestine troubles in Kentucky, Tennessee and in Georgia; is there a common cause behind these outbreaks?” The question refers evidently not to the race issue in particular, but to the outbreaks of lawlessness that have recently swept over sections of these States. The Times-Union does not attempt to answer its own question; but an attempt to answer the question in part is made in a Northern paper—the New York Sun—in an editorial apparently written by a Southern man and professing to tell what is “perfectly well understood” throughout the Southern States as to the relations now existing between blacks and whites. Says The Sun:
“The Negro stands today very much as he did in the days before the civil war. His friends and sympathizers then were of the class to which his owners belonged. His friends and sympathizers today are the descendants of those owners and their social congeners, whereby we mean the great mass of the cultivated, together with the land holders and the taxpayers. The Negro’s enemies ‘before the war’ were the Crackers, the sand hillers and the wool hatters who were treated as less important than a well-fed slave Negro and resented it accordingly. His enemies today are the descendants of those ancient antagonists. In the emotions and proclivities of the South there has been no change of importance in three hundred years. . . . The ‘Cracker’ of the present times hates the progeny of the former slave with all the ancient passion.59
“There is nothing else in it. Not more than one in ten of the mobs that have beset the Georgia railroad stations wants to work or would know how to do it if he had the chance. They want to banish the Negro from his occupation, and the railway companies may go hang for all they care. On the other side are the preferences and sympathies of the substantial and responsible elements of the population. They are restrained in the matter of their demonstrations by a sense of accountability to society, but their feeling is deep seated, earnest, traditional, and in emergency available. . . . The struggle is gathering. It will spread beyond Georgia, and the end of it no man may prophesy.”
The Colored American Magazine 17 (August 1909): 97–101.
The strike on the Georgia Railroad was an endeavor on the part of the white firemen to drive the Negro firemen from their places. That there should be contest between the two races is quite natural. In slavery days the white workman protested against the Negroes being brought into the country because it injured him and his chances to labor. The old feeling still remains. The encouraging feature in the situation is that Southern sentiment, as voiced by the Southern press, seems to appreciate the fact that if the Negro is to remain in the country he must at least have a chance to work. The Richmond “Times Dispatch” puts the case well. “In a broad sense,” it says, “the issue here is simply the Negro’s right to earn a living. If the Georgia Railway discharges its colored firemen, it can hardly be long before other Southern railways will be asked to do the same thing. If stoking an engine is added to the list of things that a Negro may not aspire to do, any other form of occupation may be similarly closed to him at the discretion of his white colaborers. We shall thus be in a fair way to establish the general principle that no Negro may hold any job which any white man wants, or thinks he wants.”
The “Times Dispatch” says further that the South has always prided itself upon the industrial opportunities afforded the Negroes. “To oust Negroes from positions which they are filling efficiently and without personal friction, is to repudiate this wise policy and to start a program, the logical result of which is the continued multiplication of the idle Negro—the most dangerous element in the social body of the South.”
The “Chronicle,” of Augusta, Ga., takes the same stand. “Inasmuch as the Negro constitutes the bulk of the South’s laboring population, to take away from him his right to labor side by side with white men when necessary, would place the heaviest possible handicap upon the South itself, for it would not only have a surplus of idle Negroes to contend with but a scarcity of labor in all industrial pursuits.”
These editorial remarks, and others that might be quoted, show an increasing appreciation on the part of Southern men of the value of their Negro labor. Mr. Andrew Carnegie had frequently called attention in his public addresses to the tremendous value to the South of their black workmen. If the South is to hold its own industrially, this labor must encouraged and protected. The “Chronicle” is most severe in its denunciation of Gov. Hoke Smith for his refusal to protect that labor.60
For a time the Southern employer of labor looked to foreign countries and immigration to supply the needs of its market. He is coming to understand that the tide of immigration is not likely to turn toward the South to any great extent for years to come, and that the immigrant is not in all respects desirable. One result of his coming into the South has been to turn the heart of the white man back to his black brother. Mr. Washington is accustomed to call attention to the fact that however much the Southern orator may speak against the Negro he is at heart very fond of him. The Atlanta riots brought this devotion to light. There were numberless instances where white men and women at much self-sacrifice protected their black brothers. This railway strike, while in many ways it was most unfortunate, has developed the same feeling of mutual dependence. It helps to divide the solid South on the race question. We are dwelling much in these days on the conservation of our resources. Most valuable of all are men and women, and by no means least valuable are our Negro men and women. Whatever helps to conserve their resources and improve them is of the greatest possible good to the community.
The Southern Workman, 38 (August 1909): 419–20.