GEORGE E. HAYNES AND THE DIVISION OF NEGRO ECONOMICS
The magnitude of the problems confronted by black workers as a result of World War I and the Great Migration prompted United States Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson (see note 80) to create an office specifically charged with studying racial labor relations. On May 1, 1918, Secretary Wilson called George E. Haynes to that position.
Haynes (b. 1880) was the first Negro to graduate from what became the Columbia School of Social Work, and also the first black to receive a Ph.D. from Columbia University. A man of many firsts, he was a charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, an organizer of Dillard University in New Orleans, one of the founders of the National Urban League, and organized and chaired the Social Science Department at Fisk University. A talented researcher and writer, Haynes published numerous studies, including Negroes at Work During World War I and During Reconstruction (1921), Negro Newcomers in Detroit (1918), and The Trend of the Races (1932).
The new Director of Negro Economics implemented three types of activities for dealing with race relations among black and white workers. First, he established an organization of cooperative committees composed of both races in states with significant racial labor problems. Secondly, publicity and educational campaigns were undertaken to create racial harmony and understanding among all citizens in those states. Thirdly, Negro staff workers were retained to organize and maintain the cooperative committee structure. The office also held numerous preliminary conferences with the chief public officials and leading local citizens in order to promote cooperation. Within six months, eleven states had established cooperative committees, and three others initiated steps to establish them as well. Judgment of the relative success or failure of the Office of Negro Economics must await proper scholarly assessment. Still, the effort was significant because it recognized the complexity of the social problems created by the migration, and the need for some concerted effort by the government to settle them.
Haynes served as Director of the Office until 1921, although the field staff was abolished in 1919 when Congress refused to appropriate additional funds. The summary report of the Director of Negro Economics is partially reproduced as Document 1.
By George E. Haynes
The entrance of Negroes into industries, particularly in the North during the great war led to many questions: What particular industries did they enter? In what kinds of occupations were they most generally employed? Were they unskilled, semiskilled, or skilled? How did they measure up to the average number of working hours and average earnings as compared with the white workmen? What was the estimate and opinion of employers who tried them? How did they compare with white workmen in the same establishments and on the same jobs as to absenteeism, turn-over, quality of work produced, and speed in turning out quantity?
Some of the chapters of this bulletin bring together the best available data in an attempt to answer some of these questions with the facts. Obviously, the data is very limited in scope and necessarily fragmentary. It would, therefore, be unwise and unscientific to make any large generalizations based upon so limited an amount of data. What is presented, however, has been carefully gathered and collated, and, therefore, gives some definite indications and information where information has been heretofore very limited. Whatever analysis and comment have been made upon the tables and figures may be readily weighed in the light of the accompanying data themselves.
Facts and figures, however, are only bases of information upon which to build programs and plans of action. Negro workers are employed for the most part by white employers and work in the same industries and often on the same jobs with white workers. Their relations with these employers and other workers frequently assume racial as well as labor aspects. In such adjustments as were required during the war, when industries were calling as never before for all kinds of workers, activities which proved successful and valuable in promoting the welfare of these wage-earners and in improving their relations to employers and other workers were exceedingly important parts of the machinery of organized production.
The plans and activities of the Department of Labor for dealing with these matters are experiences of permanent and instructive value, especially because of the hearty and successful response received from white and Negro citizens in many States and localities. A part of this bulletin, therefore, gives a summary of these plans and activities of the Division of Negro Economics in the office of the Secretary of Labor. The account shows the general program, the facts and principles upon which it was based, and how it was carried out in the several States with the hearty indorsement and cooperation of governors and other State and local officials and of white and colored citizens, both in organizations and as individuals. . . .
Shortage of labor in northern industries was the direct cause of the increased Negro migration during the war period. This direct cause was, of course, augmented by other causes, among which were the increased dissatisfaction with conditions in the South—the ravages of the boll weevil, floods, change of crop system, low wages, and poor houses and schools.
A previous bulletin of the department summed up the causes as follows:
Other causes assigned at the southern end are numerous: General dissatisfaction with conditions, ravages of boll weevil, floods, change of crop system, low wages, poor houses on plantations, poor school facilities, unsatisfactory crop settlements, rough treatment, lynching, desire for travel, labor agents, the Negro press, letters from friends in the North, and finally advice of white friends in the South where crops had failed.
The Department of Labor estimates the Negro migration in figures of from 400,000 to 500,000. Other estimates, ranging from 300,000 to 800,000, have been made by individual experts and by private bureaus. Such a variation of figures goes to show the wide scope of the migration. Prior to the war period the Negro worker had been sparsely located in the North, but the laws of self-preservation of the industrial and agricultural assets of our country and the law of demand and supply turned almost overnight both into war and private industries hundreds of thousands of Negro workers, among whom there were laborers, molders, carpenters, blacksmiths, painters, janitors, chauffeurs, machinist laborers, and a mass of other workers, comprising, probably, nearly every type of skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled labor.
The most marked effects of the migration were easily determinable. First, the agricultural regions of the Southern States, particularly Mississippi and Louisiana, began to suffer for want of the Negro worker who had so long tilled the soil of those regions. On the other hand, the Negro workers who had been turned into the plants of the North faced the necessity of performing efficient work in the minimum amount of time, of adjusting themselves to northern conditions and of becoming fixtures in their particular line of employment, or becoming “floaters.”
It is interesting to review for a moment some of the wage scales in Southern States. In 1917 about $12 a month was being paid for farm labor in many sections. In other sections 75 cents and $1 a day were considered equitable wages. During the harvesting of rice in the “grinding season” the amount was usually increased to $1.25 and $1.75 per day, with a possible average of $1.50. . . .
CREATION OF THE OFFICE OF DIRECTOR OF NEGRO ECONOMICS
In view of the perplexing questions with regard to Negroes in industry and agriculture and the migration of Negroes from the South to the North during 1916, 1917, and 1918, upon representations of white and Negro citizens and several influential organizations dealing particularly with Negro life and race relations, the Secretary of Labor, Hon. William B. Wilson, after consideration and favorable recommendation by his Advisory Council on the war organization of the Department of Labor, decided to create the position of adviser on Negro labor in his immediate office, with the title of Director of Negro Economics. The function of this official was to advise the Secretary and the directors and chiefs of the several bureaus and divisions of the department on matters relating to Negro wage earners, and to outline and promote plans for greater cooperation between Negro wage earners, white employers, and white workers in agriculture and industry.80
In starting this work the Secretary stated that as Negroes constitute about one-tenth of the total population of the country and about one-seventh of the working population, it was reasonable and right that they should have representation at the council table when matters affecting them were being considered and decided. In defining the function of the office of the Director of Negro Economics the Secretary decided that the advice of the director should be secured before any work dealing with Negro wage earners was undertaken and that he be kept advised of the progress of such work so that the Department might have, at all times, the benefit of his judgment in all matters affecting Negroes.
Accordingly, on May 1, 1918, the Secretary of Labor called to that position Dr. George E. Haynes, professor of sociology and economics at Fisk University and one of the secretaries of the National League on Urban Conditions among Negroes. Dr. Haynes was strongly recommended by many individuals and organizations, among them being the Commercial Club of Nashville, Tenn., his home city.
The Secretary of Labor, with the advice of the Director of Negro Economics, early in May, 1918, considered and approved plans outlining three types of activities for dealing with problems of Negro workers in their relations to white workers and white employers, as follows:
2. The development of a publicity or educational campaign to create good feeling between the races and to have both white and Negro citizens understand and cooperate with the purpose and plans of the department.
3. The appointment of Negro staff workers in the States and localities to develop this organization of committees, to conduct this work of better racial labor relations, and to assist the several divisions and services of the department in mobilizing and stabilizing Negro labor for winning the war.
In undertaking to carry out the three parts of this plan, the office of the Secretary recognized two main difficulties:
1. The difficulty of forestalling a strong feeling of suspicion on the part of the colored people, growing out of their past experiences in racial and labor matters.
2. The difficulty of forestalling a wrong impression among white people, especially those in the South, about the efforts of the department, and of having them understand that the department wishes to help them in local labor problems by means of its plans.
These cardinal facts were also given due consideration:
1. The two races are thrown together in their daily work, the majority of the employers and a large number of the employees having relations with Negro employees being white persons. These conditions give rise to misunderstandings, prejudices, antagonism, fears, and suspicions. These facts must be recognized and dealt with in a statesmanlike matter.
2. The problems are local in character, arising as they do, between local employers and local employees. The people, however, in local communities, need the vision of national policies, plans, and standards to apply to their local situations.
3. Any plan or program should be based upon the desire and need of cooperation between white employers and representatives of Negro wage earners, and, wherever possible, white wage earners.
FIELD ORGANIZATION—CONFERENCES AND COMMITTEES
The first step in setting up the field organization was a preliminary trip of the Director of Negro Economics to strategic centers in a number of States where Negro workers’ problems were of pressing importance. Through preliminary correspondence, informal conferences and interviews were held with representative white and Negro citizens from different parts of each State visited. These interviews and conferences established the first points of sympathetic contact for cooperation in subsequent efforts to improve labor conditions and race relations.
These preliminary visits laid the foundation for subsequent work. For instance, the North Carolina conference, called by Hon. T. W. Bickett, Governor of the State and described below, which set the model for other Southern States, grew out of such a preliminary visit. The creation of the Negro workers’ committees of Virginia and the cooperation of the Negro Organization Society of that State grew out of a similar visit on the trip. Similar results followed the connections made in other States.81
Upon the visit to a State, officials of State and private schools for Negroes, of the State councils of defense, representatives of the chambers of commerce, of the United States Employment Service, and of white and Negro colleges promised cooperation and assistance in the efforts of the department to stimulate Negro wage earners by improving their condition in such a way as to increase their efficiency for maximum production to win the war.
The first of a series of State conferences of representative white and Negro citizens was called on June 19, 1918, by Hon. T. W. Bickett, Governor of North Carolina, at his office in the State capitol at Raleigh. There were present at this conference 17 of the most substantial Negroes from all parts of the State and five white citizens, including the governor, who presided throughout the conference and took an active part in the proceedings.
The plans of the Department of Labor for increasing the morale and efficiency of Negro workers were outlined by the Director of Negro Economics and freely discussed. At the close of the meeting the governor appointed a temporary committee which drafted a constitution providing for a State Negro Workers’ Advisory Committee and for the organization of local county and city committees. This plan of organization, with slight modifications and readjustments, later served as a model for other States in the development of a voluntary field organization which was set up in the course of the next six months in four other southern States, and six northern States. Gov. Bickett was so highly pleased with the result of the conference that he issued a statement to the public press saying that this meeting was one of the most patriotic and helpful conferences he had ever attended.
A State meeting of white and colored citizens was held by the Southern Sociological Congress at Gulfport, Miss., July 12, 1918. The congress extended an invitation to the Director of Negro Economics to address the meeting. About 200 white citizens, business men and planters, and about 75 Negro citizens of the State were in attendance. The department took advantage of this State gathering to call together those who were especially interested in the adjustment of Negro labor problems. The address of the Director of Negro Economics before the congress received a hearty response from both whites and Negroes present, and as a result several of the white citizens took an active part in the conference, which worked out a plan of State-wide organization similar to the one adopted by North Carolina.
On the basis of the precedent set by Gov. Bickett and the success at the Gulfport meeting of the Southern Sociological Congress, Hon. Sidney Catts, Governor of Florida, called a conference of white and Negro citizens at Jacksonville, on July 16, 1918. After full discussion of plans and procedure this conference adopted a program and formed a State Negro Workers’ Advisory Committee composed of representative white and colored citizens under the auspices of the State Council of National Defense and the United States Employment Service. A program of activities was worked out, having as its object the promotion of better conditions and a better understanding of employment matters relating to the Negroes of Florida in order that greater production of food and war supplies might be the result. So great was the enthusiasm on the day of the conference that the citizens of Jacksonville, white and colored, held a monster mass meeting, at which the governor, the Director of Negro Economics, and other officials spoke.82
In the meantime, through the help of the Negro Organization Society of Virginia, the Negro Workers’ Advisory Committee of that State was organized and the first supervisor of Negro economics, a Negro citizen of training and experience, T. C. Erwin, appointed and undertook the direction of advisory work in the State.
The next step was to get the work and organization launched in northern territory. Ohio was selected for the initial effort, and on August 5, 1918, a conference was called by the department with the hearty help of the Federal Director of the United States Employment Service and Hon. James M. Cox, governor of Ohio. This conference met at the State Capitol at Columbus and was notable for the number in attendance, and the enthusiasm and readiness with which they worked out a plan of State-wide organization. There were present about 125 persons—white employers, Negro wage earners, and representatives of white wage earners. The afternoon session was closed with a splendid address by the governor. The conference adopted the usual plan of State organization and Charles E. Hall, the second supervisor of Negro economics, was assigned to the State to develop the organization and to supervise the work, under the auspices of the United States Employment Service office.83
One other conference, that held in Louisville, Ky., August 6, 1918, needs to be described as showing one other slight variation in the far-reaching significance of the cooperative plan of organization. This conference was unique in that the plan of organization adopted was that of a united war-work committee made up jointly by those representating the State Council of Defense, United States Food Administration, United States Department of Agriculture, and the United States Department of Labor, white and colored citizens being the persons representing these various interests. The conference was noted for its enthusiasm. Hon. A. 0. Stanley, governor of Kentucky, made an enthusiastic address to the conference and a large mass meeting followed in the evening.84
By the time of the Kentucky conference, three months after the first plans were outlined, the influence of the State conferences and their feasibility were so well proved as a means of starting a State movement and creating good will and favorable sentiment that other conferences followed as a matter of course in setting up the State work. Additional conferences in 1918 were held in Georgia, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey.
A national informal conference was called by the Secretary of Labor and met in Washington, D.C., February 17–18, 1919. This conference included men and women representing welfare and social service organizations, both North and South, of both Negroes and white people, in order that the views and interests of all sections and of both races might be ascertained. The keynote of the conference was sounded by the Secretary of Labor in welcoming the representatives. He said:
Congress in defining the duties of the Department of Labor made no distinction either as to sex or race, and, I may add, as to previous condition of servitude. We were authorized to promote the welfare of wage earners, whether men or women or children, whether they were native born or alien residents; and in the undertaking to promote the welfare of the wage workers we have not assumed that it was our duty to promote the welfare of the wageworker at the expense of the plans of the community but to promote the welfare of the wageworker, having due respect to the rights of all other portions of our population.
The Assistant Secretary of Labor, Louis F. Post, in addressing the conference said:
It is the function of the Department of Labor to look after the interests of all wage earners of any race, any age, or either sex.
Special subjects were discussed, as follows:
Lines of work which should be undertaken for improving race relations and conditions of Negro workers.
Conduct and toleration as necessary for cooperation and good will between Negro and white workers.
Special problems of women in industry.
The Negro land tenants and farm laborers and what agencies may do to help them.
Education and Negro workers.
On the second day the informal conference gave most of its time to the general topic: “Unity of action in local communities to secure efficiency and cooperation of welfare agencies and methods, by which the Department of Labor and other governmental agencies can best cooperate with private agencies and organizations.”
In a set of resolutions adopted and recommended to the Secretary of Labor the following important points are set forth:
RESOLUTION ON PLAN OF COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION ADOPTED AT INFORMAL CONFERENCE ON NEGRO LABOR PROBLEMS, FEBRUARY 17 AND 18, 1919, AS APPROVED BY THE SECRETARY OF LABOR.
Whereas the improvement of conditions of Negro wage earners and the improvement of relations of white employers, of white wage earners and of Negro wage earners are questions of great importance for the advancement of the welfare of all wage earners in America; and
Whereas the several organizations and agencies specifically interested in promoting the better adjustment of Negro wage earners to American life need to work in closer cooperation:
Therefore, It behooves representatives of such boards, agencies and organizations interested in such questions to adopt measures of cooperative organization, of action, and of policy that will foster constructive work along these lines.
We, therefore, the representatives of such organizations, invited to an informal conference in Washington by the Secretary of Labor, do hereby recommend and ask the Secretary to use his good offices in laying before the organizations represented, and any other organizations that may be interested, a plan of cooperative organization and effort on the following general lines:
1. That local efforts to influence employers of Negro workers to provide welfare facilities be undertaken, jointly, by all the agencies attempting to do such work in a community; and that the local representatives of the Department of Labor be used as far as practicable as a channel through which the experiences and methods of the several agencies shall seek exchange in these local efforts.
Where there is no such local government organization or representative of the Department of Labor, and several agencies desire to act, that they request the Department of Labor to assist them in getting such a neutral channel of cooperation.
2. That our several agencies, boards and organizations, which undertake the organization of any work or the expenditure of any funds for improving the living and neighborhood conditions of Negro workers in local communities seek to become informed of similar plans of other agencies, boards and organizations before deciding on plans or taking action.
3. That the Department of Labor be asked to furnish such information and to provide such facilities as are necessary for keeping the agencies, boards and organizations informed of such plans, efforts, or proposed undertakings or steps that have been undertaken by the several agencies, boards and organizations interested.
4. That each agency, board or organization here represented, or any other agency, board or organization that may hereafter be concerned shall, as soon as practicable, make available to the Department of Labor such parts of its records, facilities and opportunities as are necessary in order that the Department may have available the information needed for using its good offices in furthering the cooperation of such agencies, boards, or organizations. That such agencies, boards, or organizations detail for service in this connection such personnel services of its staff as may be needed for carrying out the part of any effort in which said agency, board, or organization may be involved.
5. The Department of Labor is also asked to call a second conference, at the time that seems best, of representatives of the organizations that have been invited to this conference; also representatives of such other organizations that may be interested or concerned for further discussion of the questions involved in connection with Negro economics, in order that further exchange of experiences and plans of unity and cooperation may be discussed.
The following resolution was adopted by the conference as an addition to the report of the committee:
6. That it is the consensus of this body that the representatives of national organizations attending this conference request their local representatives in various States to cooperate immediately with the representatives of the Director of Negro Economics of the United States Department of Labor in all matters affecting the interests of the Negro workers.
A program of national work was also adopted and recommended to the Secretary covering the following matters:
1. Survey of Negro labor conditions.
2. The getting of Negro workers into industry.
3. Holding Negro workers in industry, including the improving of living and working conditions in both agriculture and industry.
4. Training the next generation of workers.
5. The general advancement of Negro wage earners in the United States.
The following are some of the organizations signing, and the names of their representatives:
In carrying out the plans for a publicity and educational campaign to create a better feeling between the races and to have both white and colored citizens understand and cooperate with the purposes and plans of the department, the office of the Director of Negro Economics received the hearty help and cooperation of the Information and Education Service of the department during the war and until that service was discontinued July 1, 1919.
A regular newspaper release was given to both the white press and Negro press which cannot be too highly commended for their cooperation. Special mention should be made of the support given by the Negro newspapers of the country, more than 250 in number, who gave without compensation large sections of news columns and advertising space. As an illustration, a news release on that part of the Secretary’s annual report relating to Negro workers was sent out from the office of the Director of Negro Economics through the Information and Education Service. Clippings from white newspapers showed that the release was used by them as far north as Maine, as far west as California, and as far south as Louisiana. Nearly all the Negro newspapers, north and south, carried the release—some of them in full.
Special addresses for use at patriotic and holiday celebrations were prepared and sent out to the Negro workers through the advisory committees in the territories where they were organized. On the Fourth of July, 1918, more than 2,000 copies of an address entitled “Labor and Victory” were used in county and city patriotic celebrations in more than 150 counties and about 12 States. (For copy, see Appendix I.)
Statements were prepared for writers of special articles in newspapers and magazines and for the Four Minute Bulletin of the Committee on Public Information. Similar material was sent to hundreds of speakers in different parts of the country. Magazine articles dealing with the problems of Negro labor during the war and reconstruction and the work of the Division of Negro Economics were prepared and appeared in such magazines as The American Review of Reviews, The Crisis, The Public, and The Survey.
The United States Public Health Service in its effort to combat venereal diseases inaugurated a special effort to reach all Negroes. This office cooperated with the Public Health Service by helping that service to get in touch with Negro workers through our field organization in order that they might become acquainted with the facts relative to disease as it affected health and efficiency.
The Negro workers’ advisory committees organized and held many public meetings, attended by both white and colored citizens, to discuss the problems of labor and the war. Speakers were sent to hundreds of other meetings. We estimate that each month no less than a million Negro workers and hundreds of employers were reached and influenced in this way.
At the end of the first six months of the work, Negro workers’ advisory committees, by States, counties, and cities, had been wholly or partly formed in 11 States, and by the time the armistice was signed steps had been taken to establish committees in three other States.
Nearly all of these committees, both State and local, had white and Negro members or had cooperating white members representing organizations of white employers and white workers. In all, 11 State committees and about 225 local county and city committees, with a membership numbering more than 1,000, were appointed. One of the most remarkable facts is that out of the invitations and acceptances for service of all of these white and colored persons on these committes, so far as we have any record, there was only one case of a member of one committee whose relationship on the committee caused friction and made necessary a request for his resignation. There was the heartiest response from citizens of both races everywhere. Many of them used large amounts of time, gave their services, and often spent their own money to further the departmental program. It was the expressed opinion of many citizens of well-known competence that the holding of these conferences and the voluntary cooperation of hundreds of white and Negro citizens on these committees, both north and south, were in themselves sufficient to justify all the effort put forth by the department. Even more significant were the many written statements of commendation from citizens in all parts of the country and from organizations that cooperated and helped in the movement.
SELECTION AND TRAINING OF A STAFF
The selection and training of a staff for such work ordinarily would hardly be considered as one of the results of a departmental or organization effort. However, it should be borne in mind that there is usually serious doubt about the expert efficiency of Negroes in official positions which call for high standards of character and ability. Often criticism has been specially lodged against Negroes in public office. Therefore, the successful and effective selection and organization of a staff of Negro officials and employees, with the necessary general training, expert knowledge, and experience to carry out the program of work and to achieve the results as shown in the succeeding pages, was in itself an achievement.
This work of mediation between white workers, white employers, and Negro workers called for exceptional qualities of mind and character in addition to technical knowledge and efficiency. The spirit of conciliation and cooperation, the ability to see both sides of any issue, and the combination of initiative and self-control necessary to act effectively when action is called for and to wait with patience when action is not strategic required persons far above the average in both character and ability. The office of the Director of Negro Economics may modestly claim this success as a part of the achievement of the work, as it demonstrates that such a staff can be built up in the public service.
The department had previously used the services of three Negro experts from the Department of Commerce. These men were retained and their duties readjusted so that throughout the period of the war and for nearly eight months of reconstruction they gave effective service—Charles E. Hall as supervisor of Negro economics for Ohio, William Jennifer as supervisor of Negro economics for Michigan, and Harry E. Arnold as an examiner and special agent in the United States Employment Service in Pennsylvania. As the organization grew, the following men were added: T. C. Erwin, supervisor of Negro economics for Virginia; Dr. A. M. Moore, supervisor of Negro economics for North Carolina, who served as a dollar-a-year man, with R. McCants Andrews as assistant; William M. Ashby, supervisor of Negro economics for New Jersey; W. 0. Armwood, supervisor of Negro economics for Florida; Lemuel L. Foster, supervisor of Negro economics for Mississippi, who succeeded J. C. Olden, resigned for other work after doing valuable service; H. A. Hunt, supervisor of Negro economics for Georgia; and Forrester B. Washington, supervisor of Negro economics for Illinois. In addition, the qualifications and recommendations of a number of Negro examiners in the United States Employment Service, as well as stenographers and clerical assistants, were investigated and passed upon by the office of the Director of Negro Economics.
In the office of the Director of Negro Economics at Washington headquarters, Karl F. Phillips, as assistant to the director, ably managed the office and closely associated with the director in the full supervision of the work. A competent staff of clerical employees was added as the growth of the work made it necessary.
These Federal officials performed their duties with enthusiasm, efficiency, and success under the many trying circumstances which arose during the strenuous months of the war labor program and the first months of reconstruction. Their services as a part of this experiment in the Federal Government’s relation to Negro wage earners has been a contribution to the experience with Negroes in important administrative positions. . . .
PROBLEMS OF NEGRO LABOR
Before entering the detailed discussion . . . , a summarized statement of the problems of Negro labor during the war and reconstruction period, extracted from reports of the Director of Negro Economics to the Secretary of Labor, follows:
I. During the war period.
1. The movement of large numbers of Negro workers from the South to the North.
2. The inevitable maladjustment in living conditions confronting the newcomers in the North.
3. The delicate questions of relations of Negro workers and white workers in northern industries into which Negroes were for the first time entering in large numbers.
4. The difficulties and readjustments in southern agricultural regions, due to the sudden departure of thousands of tenants and farm laborers, as well as the readjustments in industrial operations in the South, due to the same causes.
5. The attraction to centers of war industries and construction camps and cantonments, both north and south, due to the wages offered, which were higher than those prevailing in post-war industry and agriculture.
6. The serious labor shortage, both north and south, white and colored, due to the drafting of millions of men into the Army.
II. During the reconstruction period.
1. The thousands of Negro workers in war industries who had to be shifted back to post war industries along with the other workers called for special attention similar to the period when they were being shifted into war industries.
2. Probably between 400,000 and 500,000 workers migrated from the South to northern industries. The difficulties of cooperative adjustment of white wage earners and Negro wage earners in the industrial communities where they must find community life in contact with each other were increased.
3. Special problems connected with the entrance of colored women into industry and special problems in domestic and personal service.
4. The problems of improving the conditions, increasing the efficiency, and encouraging the thrift of Negro workers were probably greater during the war and still remain as reconstruction problems.
5. In the South the common interests of white employers who want to engage the services which the Negro wage earner has to offer and the desire of the worker for wages in return make the adjustment of the Negro labor situation one of the most far-reaching factors in bringing about just and amicable race relations. The migration and war restlessness of the two races creates problems which the labor nexus may be very effective in settling.
6. The adjustment of farm tenantry and of the labor situation in the South is very largely a problem of Negro labor.
7. For the first 12 months following the armistice the problem of demobilization of thousands of Negro soldiers called for cooperative action, and more tact and judgment than were probably needed during the period when they were being drafted out of production into the Army. The return of the Negro soldier to civil life, with the obligations of the Nation to him, has been one of the most delicate and difficult labor questions confronting the Nation, north and south.
8. The improvement of living and working conditions, including such questions as housing, sanitation, and recreation of Negro wage earners, should receive more attention during this period of reconstruction and peace time than they did before or during the Great War period. . . .
REPORT OF WORK IN NORTH CAROLINA
North Carolina was selected as the State in which the initial effort of the Department of Labor should be made, and its program established for promoting and fostering the welfare of Negro wage earners through the special service of Negro economics. Consequently, following an official trip of the Director of Negro Economics into important points in the State a conference of representative white and colored citizens was called by Hon. T. W. Bickett, governor of North Carolina, on June 19, 1918. There were present at this conference, which was held in the office of the governor, 17 of the most substantial Negro citizens from all parts of the State and five white citizens, as described in Chapter II. At the close of the meeting the governor appointed a temporary committee which drafted a constitution provided for the Negro Workers Advisory Committee, and for an organization of local county and city committees. The working plan of organization, with slight modifications and adjustments, which served as a model for the development of voluntary field organizations in other States, has been previously explained in the description of activities in other States.
Before discussing the subsequent steps of organization and activity in North Carolina, brief attention is here given to a few general and specific industrial and agricultural situations which obtained in North Carolina.
These situations are cited for the purpose of showing the wide scope of the field of Negro work into which the policies and plans of the Division of Negro Economics were to be carried.
The chief occupations of Negro women were in the field of agriculture, laundry work, domestic service, some work in spinning mills (and some in hosiery and underwear), and work in tobacco factories. There was a scarcity of female labor and on that account a number of silk mills had been closed. The cotton-mill season extends from May to September, and the tobacco season from September to April. In many instances the homes of workers were of a poor type; the streets and sidewalks fronting such homes were unpaved and poorly lighted. Surface drainage existed and general sanitation was inadequate in some cases. On the other hand, there were large numbers of well-cared-for homes in communities of intelligent and progressive Negroes.
In one North Carolina city it was reported that a Negro union had been organized to which the white workers objected. At New Bern, lumber industries employing large numbers of Negroes were reported as having “working conditions which were unpleasant.” At Wilmington Negroes were employed in the shipyards, but only in the unskilled occupations. At various other points in North Carolina, Negroes found employment in tanneries, hosiery mills, guano plants, box factories, and the like. Throughout the State there were found a number of physicians, dentists, druggists, and a more than usual ownership of store and office buildings. At Kingston 5,000 Negro women and children were reported working in tobacco factories. At Waynesville there were found mill girls, garment workers, and a few clerks, organized and unorganized. As a general situation throughout the State, Negro labor was much in demand and was affected by the usual factors—(a) the union, (b) low wages, (c) housing conditions, (d) health, (e) opportunity for advancement, (f) the general competition between white and colored workers.
Following the conference the plan for cooperation and for the subsequent formation and activity of a State committee and subsidiary county and city committees was perfected. Among the early agencies of cooperation may be mentioned the United States Public Reserve, the State department of education, the rank and file of Negro colleges and universities in North Carolina, chambers of commerce and the Negro private organizations, including the church. An initial State committee of 29 substantial Negro citizens from various sections of the State was formed. The membership of the State committee and its executive board represent the following cities: Winston-Salem, Wadesboro, Winton, Oxford, Charlotte, Henderson, Raleigh, Greensboro, Rocky Mount, Tarboro, Salisbury, Chadbourn, New Bern, Lumberton, Bricks, Lexington, Durham, Method, Goldsboro, Wilmington, Wilson, and Asheville, thus bringing into play the influence and forces of the best citizens throughout the State. This committee was supplemented by interested white citizens, who became cooperating members.
This State committee and the subsidiary county committee, after adopting the constitution, started out in their activities under the supervision of Dr. A. M. Moore, who was appointed Supervisor of Negro Economics and special agent of the United States Employment Service. It should be stated that Dr. Moore served the department throughout the entire period of the war and the following seven months as a dollar-a-year man.90
The early formation of county and city committees included the following counties: Guilford, Craven, Vance, Rockingham, Buncombe, Granville, Forsyth, Beaufort, Durham, Hertford, Alamance, and Edgecombe, Halifax, and Nash combined. When the work was closed on June 30, 1919, names had been submitted covering practically every county in the State.
Inasmuch as the Division of Negro Economics was in the immediate office of the Secretary of Labor, who was also chief administrative officer for the United States Employment Service as well as all the other departmental bureaus and divisions, it was practicable that the North Carolina Negro work, as did the work in other States, should have a close relationship to the United States Employment Service in that State. Consequently under the plan of organization for the State, the Federal Director of the United States Employment Service became an advisory member of the State Negro Workers’ Advisory Committee. Also a close relationship with the governor, the chairman of the State Council of Defense, and other white men acting as advisers to other committees, was perfected and the following initial recommendation for North Carolina was gradually worked out and approved:
1. Workers appointed for special activities among Negro wage earners will work under the authority of the United States Employment Service to give them official standing, with cooperation and supervision of the Federal State director.
2. The work shall be undertaken with the advice of the Director of Negro Economics.
3. Matters calling for the expenditure of funds shall be submitted with the approval of the Federal director and with the advice of the Director of Negro Economics.
4. All work carried on which relates to the Employment Service shall be undertaken with the approval of the Federal State director.
These plans of course were “overhead” plans, but they covered the many details which became properly applicable to local committees in the State as they were found. In order to bring the plans to the attention of the public the special agent succeeded in getting in close touch with the white and Negro members throughout the State, and in making arrangements for a publicity service which would not conflict with the Information and Education Service of the department.
Among some of the earlier problems were found (1) that many North Carolina laborers had been recruited through employment agencies and in an indiscriminating way many of the “shiftless” and “unstable” had been imported into North Carolina cities; (2) no particular opportunity had been offered to thrifty, dependable workmen to buy homes and to become permanent residents of the State. In subsequent plans of publicity and contact these two problems were dealt with by the North Carolina special agent and the close of the work found at each particular point but a few scattered persons who might be designated “shiftless.”
The Supervisor of Negro Economics, having business interests of his own, soon found it necessary to have an assistant who could actively canvass cities throughout the State. Mr. R. McCants Andrews was subsequently detailed for such assistance work. Of the early problems which he faced there came report of race friction in a city of eastern North Carolina at a point in which there were members of the Negro workers’ advisory committees. An investigation was made as to the nature of such race friction and valuable advice was given both to the employing class and to the working class, which resulted in removal of racial friction. In this connection valuable assistance in the matter of sentiment was given by a leading North Carolina paper, to the attention of which was called the value of mediation between white workers, white employers and Negro workers followed by a spirit of conciliation and cooperation and the ability to see both sides of an issue. It was pointed out also that the common interest of the white employer who wants to engage the service which the Negro wage earner has to offer will make the adjustment of the labor situation a most important one. This paper gave publicity not only to the comment above quoted but also to subsequent comment and advice tending to create a better feeling among the employing and working classes of North Carolina.
In carrying out the plan of work of the North Carolina committee, one of the first steps was for the supervisor to inaugurate an educational campaign wherever practical among Negro workers at the various points in the State. Short itineraries were arranged and the supervisor was given permission to address groups of workers at many large plants, with specific health questions, ideals of efficiency and recreational activities, in order to preserve the morale and competency of Negro workers. Although in many instances employers had been slow to put on foot similar programs and thereby to bring about a contented group of workers, there were many leading plants in the State which had, from the beginning, recognized the need of such an institution as would make their workers contented. A superintendent of one of the large North Carolina plants had under his supervision about 800 Negro employees, who, in fact, practically made up one of the small villages of the State. In the early formation of one of the county committees this superintendent saw a splendid opportunity presented in being able to link up his plans with the program of work of the committee. It is of particular interest, in this connection, to point out some of the early steps which his plant had taken in an endeavor to preserve contentment among the workers. It was estimated that the average worker at this plant in the eight-hour day was earning $100 a month. The work was not exhausting, physically, and overtime pay was allowed to good workers. The plant in question was equipped with steel lockers, porcelain washbowls, shower baths, and other facilities necessary to the comfort and cleanliness of its workers, white and colored. Within the village row after row of new houses had been erected. These houses were modern and sanitary, with running water, sewerage, and electric lights. They were rented to workers at an extremely low price and many had been purchased on a ten-year plan which the company had arranged in order to increase the desire for permanent residence. The company also paid for a nine-months school for the children of workers. In the village itself Negroes were engaged in business enterprises which were largely patronized by workers of this plant. A modern hospital was in the course of erection and two churches had been planned.
The local Negro workers’ advisory committee, under the direction of the supervisor, assisted this plant in a further educational campaign to promote efficiency and thrift among the Negro workers. Intelligent and self-respecting workers were solicited and the eventual outcome of assistance given by the local committee resulted in the company’s retaining a permanent social worker who has charge of a program in behalf of the welfare of these workers.
As the work of the supervisor of Negro economics and the Negro workers’ advisory committee increased in scope and understanding, various firms called upon the supervisor and his assistant for advice in the formation of plans for the higher economic status of their workers. One exceptionally large plant invited the supervisor and the director of Negro economics to outline a complete program of welfare for its Negro employees. Such a plan was made up and submitted, and it received the commendation and adoption of the officials of the firm.
In his itineraries the assistant supervisor of Negro economics carried the program of the department into the following cities: Durham, Badin, Oxford, Henderson, Bricks, Tarboro, Dover, New Bern, Burlington, Lexington, Spencer, Charlotte, Statesville, Hickory, Morganton, Marion, Asheville, Winston-Salem, Salisbury, Raleigh, and High Point. At various other points the supervisor and his assistant visited Negro schools, making addresses and increasing the desire of workers for greater efficiency and of employers for greater consideration of their workers.
So pleased were the governor and other State officials with the work of the Division of Negro Economics that the governor called, for June 14, 1919, the annual meeting of the Negro workers’ advisory committee, at which time the State supervisor submitted his recommendations concerning the work. Inasmuch as that report received the universal commendation of persons throughout the State, it is given in full:
[U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Supervisor of Negro Economics for North Carolina, Durham, N.C.]
HOW TO KEEP NEGRO LABOR
New methods.—How to keep the Negro workers and make them satisfied with their lot is the problem now presented to the South. It ought not be difficult of solution. It is not natural for the Negroes to leave their old homes in this wholesale fashion, and they really do not want to go. Some planters and industrial establishments are already demonstrating by means of better pay and greater care for their employees what such considerations will do in keeping the Negroes loyally at work in the South; and the more efficient Negro schools have for years been pointing the way.
Constructive possibilities.—The improvement of race relations is a matter of time, and rests largely on the satisfactory solution of the economic problems of farm life. Several noteworthy tendencies were, however, noticeably strengthened by the loss of Negro labor. The first of these was the tendency of the leaders of the two races to draw closer together. Several State-wide and county meetings were held to discuss the migration and the grievances of the Negro. Until more interest is taken in these meetings by the white leaders, and until they are followed by constructive programs for better law enforcement and education they cannot measurably influence the tendency of the Negro to move.
Holding Negro labor on the farm.—There is a general agreement that friendly personal interest, absolutely fair dealing in all business transactions, clear understanding of the terms of the contract at the outset, itemized statements of indebtedness, good housing, and encouragement of the Negroes to raise their foodstuffs as far as possible, taken together will attract and hold labor on farms.
Majority of Negroes are workers.—Since the great majority of Negroes are in the working class, their permanent interests are as laborers, and those interests are in the maintenance of living wages and of good working conditions.
The Negro’s value to North Carolina.—There is no question as to the value of the Negro to the South; but circumstances are bringing other sections to an appreciation of his value also and the Negro, too, is coming to understand something of his worth to the community. If North Carolina would keep the Negro and have him satisfied she must give more constructive thought than has been her custom to the Negro and his welfare.
The outline of facts stated above should help us to approach our local problems with greater understanding, greater sympathy, and a great willingness to cooperate in their satisfactory adjustment. With this understanding and sympathy we are better able to appreciate the statesmanlike policy of the Department of Labor in creating and maintaining the work of Negro economics.
On May 1, 1918, the Secretary of Labor, Hon. William B. Wilson, realizing that the Negro constitutes about one-seventh of the total working population of the country, appointed a Negro, Dr. George E. Haynes, as advisory to the Secretary with the title Director of Negro Economics. This was done in order that the Negro might have a representative in council whenever matters affecting his welfare were being considered; and that more extensive plans might be developed for improving his efficiency and production in agriculture and industry.
There were appointed in four Southern States and five Northern States supervisors of Negro economics who have established cooperative committees of representative white and colored citizens to work out together the local labor problems. These Negro workers’ advisory committees, as they are called, have a program of work which is carried on by the colored members, the whites serving as cooperating members. So successful has the work of the committees proved that the Division of Negro Economics have been continued for the important work of reconstruction. This work is not separate from the other work of the department, but is carried on as an integral part. The supervisors are under the authority of the Federal directors of the United States Employment service.
North Carolina led the way.—On June 19, 1918, Gov. T. W. Bickett, called a conference in his office which was attended by 17 of the most substantial Negro citizens from all parts of the State and 5 white citizens. Out of this meeting came the plan of Negro workers’ advisory committees, which is now operating in nine States. A State Negro workers’ committee of leading Negro men and women of North Carolina was appointed and plans were formed for the creation of county and city committees. There were on April 1 of the present year 25 of these committees actively at work in our State.
The supervisor’s report.—The supervisor of Negro Economics for North Carolina and the assistant supervisor have visited 23 counties since their organization, holding conferences with leading white and colored citizens which have been most helpful. On the basis of this personal investigation throughout the State, the supervisor wishes to present under separate headings a summary of conditions as found:
White employers and liberal white citizens. There is the greatest cordiality and willingness to cooperate upon the part of these persons. In many instances, they rivaled the colored citizens in spirit and enthusiasm. They spoke freely as well as the Negroes, and are asking on every hand to be called upon for cooperation. Some of them came from the rural districts and from near-by towns to attend the conferences.
Many employers are already offering special inducements to their Negro workers. For example, a cotton oil company is giving free life insurance for $500 to all who remain in its employ for six months; many older employees have been given free insurance for $1,000. Knitting mill companies are carefully selecting colored girls for their plants and are giving employment at good wages throughout the year. Lumber companies are giving bonuses to men who go to the lumber camps.
The labor situation in North Carolina.—Broadly speaking there is a scarcity of Negro labor in the State. All the industries are feeling this at present. But a greater suffering will be felt in the fall when it is time for crop gathering. The farmers are suffering most. Cotton is standing in the fields in all parts of the State from last year.
It is highly desirable that leaders of white workmen cooperate with our committees.
SPECIAL PROBLEMS INVOLVING NEGRO LABOR
1. Tobacco, guano, and cotton-oil industries. Tobacco work is seasonal; the wages are high and no great intelligence is required for much of the work. When the great warehouses open, crowds of workers leave year-round industries, often demoralizing the latter. The work of the industries here mentioned is dirty and does not invite workers of any particular skill. It is hard to promote cleanliness, efficiency, and thrift among workers whose lives are haphazard, who come and go through the streets in their working clothes and who are not generally considered as advanced workers.
2. Many of the seasonal plants run 12-hour shifts, often doubling the work day of the most faithful employees. This leads to the workers “laying off on Saturdays and Mondays. In one 12-hour plant visited the colored workers had “struck” for Saturdays off.
3. Lumber camps: In some instances the quarters provided for logging and mill camps have not attracted respectable workers and their families. “Floaters” and crap-shooters were mainly the classes who were willing to go to such camps. Their work has, of course, not been satisfactory. On the other hand, one concern visited had made its location a real community and stimulated local pride in it. The manager of this concern spoke of his success in getting and holding labor of a splendid class in his little town.
4. Hosiery mills: The plants visited are clean and sanitary, well-lighted, and safe. They pay good wages and run all the year. The owners are trying to select their workers carefully and to encourage the development of character. But very few of them have been highly successful in getting an adequate force; and most of the girls leave as soon as the tobacco work opens. Some of these plants have never been able to increase their output; and one of them is still compelled to close on Saturdays because of a general shortage of girls.
In line with our official program of work our committees should—
(1) Promote the efficiency of colored workers in order to overcome the loss from shortage of labor.
(2) Encourage the use of farm machinery to increase farm production and to create a surplus of farm labor for use in the harvest time.
(3) Prevail upon white leaders as well as white employers to cooperate with our committees.
(4) Encourage white employers in the tobacco, guano, and cotton oil industries to make the work as clean and as pleasing as possible. The installation of clothes lockers and washrooms will impress the workers with the advantage of coming and going from work in clean clothes.
(5) Advise with employers whose plants are running long hours as to whether shorter hours will not mean greater efficiency and greater regularity. Many workers are now averaging only four days a week; the proportion of “laying off” on Saturdays and Mondays is distressingly large.
(6) Pay close attention to seasonal plants, following especially shortage and surplus, and endeavoring to assist in transfer of workers to new jobs as these plants close. The United States Employment Service should be aided in recruiting Negro workers so as not to draw away workers from “year-round” industries. Reports as to shortage and surplus should be made regularly by the committeemen to the office of the supervisor so that colored workers may secure jobs without going great distances.
(7) Suggest to employers of lumber concerns the development of community life in their camps, with better housing and family settlements.
(8) Call to the attention of steady and capable young women in the community who are not employed the excellent sanitary condition of the knitting mills and opportunity for steady employment in them.
It is urgently hoped that all public spirited citizens of both races who have at heart the agricultural and industrial expansion of our State, and who realize that such expansion and development can only come through the improvement of Negro labor will sustain this far-sighted effort of the Department of Labor and will give active support to the program of work of the Division of Negro Economics, and to the undersigned,
A. M. MOORE, M.D.,
Special Agent and Supervisor of Negro Economics for North Carolina, Durham, N.C.
It is deemed to be in place to quote commendations from Hon. T. W. Bickett, governor of North Carolina, regarding the Negro economics work in his State:
There is the greatest cordiality and willingness on the part of the white employers and liberal white citizens to cooperate with the Negroes. In many instances they rival the colored citizens in spirit and enthusiasm. They speak freely and are asking on every hand to be called into cooperation.
This report sets out that in many industries and on the farms intelligent efforts are being made to improve living conditions of the Negro and to afford him every incentive to put forth his very best efforts. In one plant the committee devised a plan to publish an honor roll containing the names of all Negroes who worked steadily six days in the week. Under this system the loafing list was decreased 57 per cent and there was a corresponding increase in the number of steady workers.
If every man, black and white, in the United States, could read and digest this report, it would go a great way toward solving all our questions. I shall keep and use this report as a basis for my future work.
The Chief Justice of the State, the Federal Director of the United States Employment Service and a number of employers all expressed themselves as profoundly impressed with the scope and character of the work done by the committee. . . .
In the early development of the plans of the department for the Division of Negro Economics it seemed feasible that one man should advise on policies and plans for one district comprising Michigan and Illinois. As the work developed this district was divided into the two States, Michigan and Illinois.
At the beginning of June, 1918, Mr. Forrester B. Washington of Detroit, Mich., was appointed as supervisor of Negro economics in the district comprising Michigan and Illinois. It had been estimated by the department that about 30,000 Negro migrants had moved into Detroit and that probably 50,000 had come into the Chicago district within the period during 1917 and 1918. Mr. Washington, trained at Tufts College and the New York School of Philanthropy, had had three years’ experience and unusual success as executive secretary of the Detroit Urban League in cooperation with the Employers’ Association of Detroit in handling the industrial problems growing out of the influx of the thousands of Negro newcomers.
During July and August, he very successfully dealt with these problems of his district, which centered mainly at Detroit and Chicago. About September 1, Michigan and Illinois were made separate districts and Mr. Washington was transferred to Chicago and began the intensive development of the work in Illinois. He began with a study of the communities of the State where large numbers of Negroes resided and arranged for a State conference, which was held Monday, September 30, 1918, at Springfield, in the old historic Sangamon County courthouse, so well known in relation to the revered memory of Abraham Lincoln. Delegates representing Negro workers, white employers, and white workers were present from 14 points in the State. They spent a day in discussing general conditions and adopted the form of organization of a State advisory committee with local committees. In the weeks that followed the conference, Negro workers’ advisory committees were formed in 17 counties and 9 cities throughout the State to deal with the many delicate and difficult labor problems. Some of the results of the activity under the supervision of Mr. Washington are outlined in the following pages.
During sessions of the conference several committees were appointed and made reports, among them the committee on general conditions, which gave such a concrete review of the relationships between Negro workers and white workers and white employers that a greater part of the report is included as follows:
We, your committee on general conditions as to labor and general war work relating to Negroes in the State of Illinois, beg leave to submit the following report:
First, we find that the city of Chicago is the greatest center of Negro influx on account of the conditions produced by the war of any community in the State of Illinois; and that the cities of East St. Louis, Cairo, Springfield, and Peoria follow in their order. The city of Decatur does not have the same condition as does the cities above named, neither does the city of Danville, nor Quincy, as they are governed in some degree by local conditions which have to do with only their own particular vicinities.
We find that in the mining districts in southern Illinois, composing the counties of St. Clair, Perry, Jackson, Franklin, and Williamson and adjacent counties, the conditions of the colored miners as to housing and economic conditions are on par with those of the white miners. In fact, all mining districts of the State are guided by the miners’ union, and the purpose of the leaders of the miners, and of the mine owners as well in those districts, seems to have been directed to the task of winning the war by doing and giving effective service and every effort has been lent to neutralizing the opposing forces that both white and colored workers may understand and help each other and in this way work for a common purpose.
In Chicago, at the stockyards, we find that conditions are much improved and better relations created by organization. The colored men and workers and the white brother in toil have been brought together.
In the other parts of Illinois we find that the Negro as a laborer is not understood. The white men have been led to believe that the Negro was his common industrial enemy and as a result some very grave disturbances have taken place, such as the recent one at East St. Louis.
In many instances ill feelings have resulted in the employers suffering from shortages of effective workers and the propagandists of German connection have, no doubt, seized upon this spirit of unrest to further their wicked ends and many instances of this spirit have fallen within the knowledge of some of the members of your committee. Some employers have misunderstood, in that they had been led to believe that Negroes were not faithful nor yet effective workers, but that notion has been pushed into the discard and now, thanks to the work of the Department of Labor and the leaders of the various organizations having these matters at heart, Negroes are entering all the avenues of endeavor.
Some of the cities above mentioned are not cursed with the bad conditions above complained of. We are pleased to refer to the city of Decatur as a city where the best of relations exist between white and colored people and in the large factories of that city. They work side by side in harmony, and general helpfulness results from that condition.
In the capital city of Illinois (Springfield) for many years colored workers have not been given employment in many of the factories; but, owing to conditions brought about by the war, a sign of betterment is seen. Now some of the steam laundries are finding colored workers a decided success. A watch factory has increased its quota of colored workers, but we find that in many of the factories the closed door stands between the colored worker and employment. Your committee is driven to the conclusion that in many instances the lack of efficiency on the part of the workers who apply, the lack of attention to duty, the lack of thrift and energetic effort is proving the undoing of the colored workers.
We recommend that steps be taken to educate both the colored and white toiler to the fact that the interest of both the white and colored toiler and of their employers as well is finally centralized only in the finished products of their toil when it is ready for the markets of the world. We further recommend that an effort be made to bring the Negro workers of the country into a closer relationship with the employers of labor of the State of Illinois and at the same time with the various labor organizations of this State in order that the interests of all parties, namely, white workers, colored workers, and employers of labor, and the trade-union as a medium of conciliation and arbitration, may all be conserved, remembering at all times that the supreme and centralizing efforts of every American citizen should be, and is, winning the war.
Respectfully submitted by your committee.
GEO. W. FORD, Chairman.
J. B. OSBY
GEO. W. BUCKNER
A. K. FOOTE
CHAS. S. GIBBS
The situation in southwestern Illinois, particularly the East St. Louis situation, was so vital with the whole question of Negro labor and war production in this territory that the department soon found it necessary to have the supervisor of Negro economics give attention to St. Louis and to territory in the State of Missouri in further work to adjust relations of Negro workers and white workers. Accordingly, at the request of the Federal director for Missouri of the United States Employment Service, the department called a conference of Negro workers, white employers, and white workers, which was held at St. Louis, Mo., December 18, 1918. An interesting incident in connection with this conference was that it was held in the Poro Building, a new structure just completed by a Negro corporation of unusual success. The conference was attended by select delegates from about 12 centers throughout the State and its significance is shown by the program of work attached.
PROGRAM OF WORK ADOPTED BY THE MISSOURI CONFERENCE ON PROBLEMS OF NEGRO LABOR, DECEMBER 18, 1918
a. This committee should take steps to get white and colored labor together in order to better understand the ideals and ambitions of each.
1. Negro labor leaders shall be urged to teach their people that their interests are common with those of white labor.
2. White labor leaders shall be urged to teach their people that their interests are common with those of colored labor and also instruct them regarding the high standard of living of Negroes.
2. Release of Negro labor.
a. Steps should be taken to prevent wholesale discharge of Negroes in order not to cause race friction.
1. Visits should be made by representatives of the local committee to factories where they seem to be discharging Negroes wholesale.
2. Visits should be made by representatives of the committee to factories where large numbers of Negroes are employed, urging that the latter be discharged only in the same proportion and for the same reason that employees of other races are discharged.
a. This committee should make plans to house returning colored soldiers.
1. By establishing a room registry for colored soldiers in the various communities.
2. The Government shall be urged to grant land to those returning colored soldiers who desire to settle in the agricultural districts.
b. The local committee will urge employers that they provide their colored employees with housing that is sanitary.
4. Make plans to create openings for Negroes.
a. By investigating every public construction program and ascertaining whether or not Negroes are to be used.
b. By encouraging Negroes to go into business for themselves.
5. Distribution of labor.
a. Prevent unequal distribution of Negroes through exchange of information re shortage or surplus of colored labor by committeemen from various localities.
b. Cooperate with the nearest United States Employment Service office.
6. Act as agency representing the Negro in soldiers’ bureaus—about to be established by the United States Government.
7. Cooperation of agencies.
This committee shall seek to develop cooperation in the carrying out of its program from—
a. Labor union.
b. Philanthropic agencies.
e. Employers’ organizations.
1. Shop talks on efficiency.
2. Lectures in colored churches and fraternal organizations on efficiency.
3. Neighborhood visits on better living.
4. Special attention shall be paid to the encouragement of thrift.
b. White employer.
1. Employers should be furnished with information re Negro’s efficiency.
It may be added that local committees were set up in this State in only four places, as the restriction of activities developed in this direction commenced a few weeks after this conference. It should be added, however, that Missouri offers in many places one of the most important fields where Negro labor may be more efficient and where there is a necessity for developing better understanding between white workers, white employers, and Negro workers. A large part of the unskilled labor in the industrial districts in St. Louis and some mining and coal districts make this matter of interest to all, both employees and employers in this city.
The supervisor of Negro economics for Illinois, following the State conference at Springfield, quickly lined up his work with the private agencies and organizations in various parts of the State. Consequently each city and county Negro workers’ advisory committee was able to bring to its assistance the cooperation of many white and colored citizens; so that despite subsequent racial disturbances in Chicago it may justly be said that much friction, both in Chicago and elsewhere, was removed by this cordial effort of advisory committees and local organizations. In fact, in three places—one of them East St. Louis—acute racial situations were met and adjusted through this means. One of the first pieces of work was to ascertain the firms employing colored workers, so as to give some substantial idea of the extent to which they were employed. The list included some of the largest firms in Illinois, the number of firms in each locality being as follows:
Of particular significance was the work in Illinois of assisting in the placement in civilian occupations the returning Negro soldiers and sailors. General cooperation in Illinois in the matter of caring for these returning men was well organized. Such organizations as the Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A., the Knights of Columbus, the Jewish Welfare Board, the Chicago Urban League, and many other agencies cooperated effectively and closely with the United States Employment Service, the supervisor of Negro economics, and the State employment office. The State employment service and the United States Employment Service, immediately following the signing of the armistice, adopted the plans of the Federal service for meeting needs of the returning soldiers by the establishment of placement bureaus with the cooperation of private organizations, some of which are named above. In addition to the returning soldiers, many workers had been released from war industries. This complicated the labor situation in Chicago and other points in Illinois in the months following the signing of the armistice, and required the most delicate handling in the most sympathetic manner. With the hearty cooperation of the Washington office the plans went forward rapidly, and the work was undertaken in the placement of the 10,000 Negro soldiers who returned to Chicago. In addition to the central office, a special bureau was opened on the South Side of Chicago, in the main district containing large numbers of Negro residents in professions and profitable enterprises.
In conducting this special office, however, no restriction was made limiting it to the use of colored soldiers. Its sole purpose was to put the placement facilities within the easiest reach of those whom it was designed to serve. An appeal letter signed by a central committee representing a number of welfare agencies and the Federal Government was sent to over 5,000 employers in Chicago urging especially that they give attention to employment of members of the Eighth Illinois Regiment just returned from service overseas. This letter was approved by the State Advisory Board of the Employment Service, the executive committee of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Bureau, and the Federal director, United States Employment Service. In addition, a sort of flying squadron of returning soldiers in uniform was sent throughout the city to solicit opportunities for these men. The success of this effort as a part of the general response may be judged from the fact that, although there was rather an acute unemployment situation in Chicago at the time, it was not many weeks before the situation had been cleared up and the supervisor reported that it was possible to say that a job could be found for every man that really wanted work. As an example of the activities in the placement of returning Negro soldiers, the following figures for one week are given: Attendance, 468; registrations, 198; help wanted, 152; referred, 156; reported placed, 114; transferred, 26.
Although the following figures were included in the report of the United States Employment Service the following report of the South Side office during the month of May, 1918, is given, as it had more placements than any other office in Chicago for that month:
Men.—Attendance, 1,430; registration, 795; help wanted, 824; referred, 637; reported placed, 570; transferred, 3.
In all this work special mention should be made of the assistance given by private organizations, especially the Chicago Urban League, which maintained an employment office in cooperation with the United States Employment Service and the State Employment Service throughout the period of the United States Employment Service work in the city of Chicago.
One of the special forms of the work in Illinois was to assist in the improvement of depressing housing conditions in the State. When the plans of the United States Homes Registration Service had developed to the point that a field worker was needed in this territory, the supervisor of Negro economics canvassed urban localities in Illinois. Chicago, East St. Louis, Springfield, Quincy, Alton, Cairo, Peoria, Bloomington, Centralia, Decatur, Danville, Jacksonville, and Monmouth were covered by the Negro workers’ advisory committees at each point. Through the assistance of these committees, the field agent of the Homes Registration Service and the Illinois supervisor of Negro economics formulated plans for a campaign on housing. These plans suffered curtailment due to a change in plans of the housing bureau.
As a means of developing stability of labor and thrift among Negro workers, a study was made of cooperative store enterprises, and the laws governing same. Thereafter plans of organization were outlined giving details as to incorporation, stock values, share and loan of capital, stock holders meetings, duties of boards of directors, management, buying of goods, bookkeeping auditing of accounts, dividends and surplus earnings, and similar details. The results of this study were issued in mimeographed form and put into the hands of Negro workers’ advisory committemen for State-wide distrubtion. So valuable does this outline seem that it is given in full as follows:
116 NORTH DEARBORN STREET,
Chicago, Ill., June 17, 1919
[From the supervisor of Negro economics in Illinois to the Negro Workers Committee on the subject of cooperative stores.]
One of the lines along which the Director of Negro Economics is laying great emphasis is that of the development of business enterprises among our people. Because of the small number of Negroes who handle any large amount of capital the most successful business enterprises among colored people must necessarily be cooperative.
I am sending you today a brief outline of the method of starting and carrying on a cooperative store.
Cooperative stores have been very successful in a great many places in this country and enormously successful in Europe.
Already a cooperative store conducted by Negroes is on foot in Illinois. It is being promoted by the members of Butcher Workmen’s Local 651 of Chicago.
It seems to me that there are enough colored people in your community to support such a store.
Too much of the money that is being earned by the colored group at present remains in their hands only for a short time, then goes to the hands of others, usually foreign born of short residence in this country.
A cooperative store planned and carried on by Negroes will mean that a large portion of the money earned by Negroes will be kept within the group.
Further information can be obtained by writing to the Supervisor of Negro Economics in Illinois or to the Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. for Bulletin 394 on cooperative stores, price 10 cents, or to Mr. Duncan McDonald, secretary-treasurer, Central States Cooperative Society, Springfield, Ill., who has issued some very interesting pamphlets on this subject at a small cost of not over 5 cents.
Very truly yours,
FORRESTER B. WASHINGTON,
Supervisor of Negro Economics in Illinois
9. Special conferences.—(a) President Chicago Federation of Labor; (b) men of public works in Chicago; (c) State Advisory Board, United States Department of Labor, executive committee Soldiers’ Bureau, Assistant Federal Director United States Employment Service, superintendent Soldiers and Sailors’ Bureau, chairman of board of management, representatives of churches, lodges, women’s organizations.
10. Cooperation—Cooperation was had through the supervisor of Negro economics and through local Negro workers’ advisory committees with the following organizations: Y.M.C.A., Y.W.C.A., Chicago Urban League, Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, American Federation of Labor, Chambers of Commerce, mayor of Cairo, aldermen of Chicago, superintendent of public schools, Springfield; city attorney of Cairo, State auditor of Jacksonville, and many other organizations and public officials.
11. Miscellaneous.—(a) Addresses to colored workers in industrial plants, emphasizing regularity, punctuality, and efficiency, etc,; (b) opportunities for colored college women; (c) opportunities for colored women in domestic work; (d) establishment of homes registration service. . . .
REPORT OF WORK IN OHIO
The number of Negro migrants who settled in the principal industrial centers of Ohio were large. Estimates secured upon visits to those centers by investigators of the Department of Labor in 1917 give some definite notion of these numbers. The following figures, of course, are largely general estimates and probably should be double, and, in some cases, increased to a large extent as of September 1, 1919.
It will be noticed that Alliance, Bellaire, Hamilton, Ironton, Lima, Springfield, Steubenville, Youngstown, and Zanesville were not included in this survey. These points, as well as other cities, contained a large number of iron, steel, coal, coke, and other industries which called for the kind of labor which Negroes were readily able to supply. As the figures indicate, large numbers of Negroes migrated into Ohio and were distributed over it generally. Therefore, this State received early consideration in the program of the Department of Labor.
Organization—Supervisor of Negro economics.—The departmental State supervisor of Negro economics, Charles E. Hall, was appointed with the view of general efficiency to the department and to the State of Ohio. For more than 18 years Mr. Hall had been an employee of the Bureau of the Census in the United States Department of Commerce, and had had considerable experience in field work. He had supervised the gathering and preparation of statistical material relating to the manufacturing interests and to the Negro population in the United States. He had received special commendation from the Department of Commerce for this work. During 1916, the early period of Negro migration to the North, Mr. Hall had been detailed to the Department of Labor for field investigations. His valuable work in a report of more than ordinary worth, served as a basis for first steps by the Department of Labor.
Being a native of the Middle West, Mr. Hall enjoyed a wide contact with public officials and representative citizen, through whom it was believed the fullest cooperation could be obtained. He took the field in Ohio on June 17, 1918, just preceding the State conference. The later success of his work gave substantial indorsement to the judgment of the department in assigning him to Ohio.
Conference on Negro labor.—Following the assignment of Supervisor Hall to the State, under the auspices of the United States Employment Service, plans for the Ohio conference on Negro labor were started with the hearty cooperation of both State and Federal officials, the State Council of National Defense and a number of private citizens and agencies. Special mention should be made of the personal interest and attention of Gov. James M. Cox and Mr. Fred D. Croxton, chairman of the State Council of National Defense.
The conference was called by the Department of Labor to get action upon those things that needed to be done in Ohio to promote the welfare of wage earners, and to stimulate the production for winning the war. Dr. F. L. Hagerty, professor of sociology, Ohio State University, presided. After considerable discussion and a number of addresses the body of the work of the conference was done, through committees, reports from which were adopted for the further guidance of the department’s work in the State.
Some of the committees’ recommendations were as follows:
1. Investigation into the difficulties arising from discrimination against Negroes by local labor unions.
2. Efforts to stabilize labor by giving new opportunities for promotion, by standardizing wages, by reclassifying work, by the employment of colored foremen, and by educational work among the working classes with the view of making them satisfied with their occupations.
3. An endeavor to employ the Negro worker in full accordance with his fitness.
4. The opening of new places of employment in keeping with the fitness of Negro wage-earners.
5. The conducting of welfare work in plants and factories.
6. The setting up of facilities for community recreation.
7. Increased attention to rooms, lockers, ventilation, and adequate space for employees.
8. Special attention to health problems.
The committee on industrial conditions reported to the conference that there was sufficient work to be secured in the State for Negro laborers in industry doing government and other work and that the Negro laborers were generally reliable. It also reported that in some industries there was discrimination as to the kinds of work and conditions under which the work was done with reference to Negro laborers. The committee stated that the demand for labor was more than the supply and in order that the Government might get the greatest return out of the amount of the actual and potential energy of the Negro workmen it was recommended that where skilled Negro laborers were doing unskilled work because of their inability to secure work at the skilled trades on account of color that the Government adopt rules for governmental contracts and make a special effort to see that every such man be given the opportunity to do that for which he was best fitted. The final recommendation of this committee closed with the averment that “race or color should be no bar to advancement.”
The committee on organization adopted with modifications to meet local conditions for use in Ohio the form of constitution for the Negro workers’ advisory committee which the department had developed.
The committee on Negro women in industry submitted a report on this subject of such special importance for future procedure that it is reproduced here in full:
1. We, as a committee, recommend that a Negro woman be placed on the State committee of women in industry, recently named by the Ohio Branch, Council of National Defense.
2. We, as a committee, recommend that the United States Employment Service place Negro placement secretaries in any employment office where numbers of colored women seek employment, to be determined by the State director.
3. We, as a committee, recommend that we indorse the standard which the women’s committee, Ohio Branch, Council of National Defense, have drawn up through the committee on women in industry.
4. We recommend that this committee bring to the attention of the national committee on housing any housing conditions as they affect Negro women.
5. We recommend that a pamphlet be drawn up stating the necessity of loyalty to duty and efficiency on the part of the worker, and the financial loss entailed through the neglect of such, upon the part of the employer and community, be given each worker through the employment office.
6. We, as a committee, recommend that a woman be placed on the committee of hygiene and sanitation, if the committee appointed this morning is a standing committee.
7. We recommend that no worker shall be permitted to leave her present employment without giving a week or more notice before being accepted by another employer.
8. We recommend and urge that a Negro welfare worker be placed in industries over Negro women as a solution to the employers’ problem of adjustment.
9. We recommend the encouragement of an adequate system of training within plants which recognizes the difference between showing and teaching for all new employees.
MISS JENNIE D. PORTER,
Chairman, Cincinnati, Ohio
Miss Elsie Mountain,
Secretary, Columbus, Ohio
Hon. James M. Cox, governor of Ohio, was present at the conference and made the closing address, which included the following remarks:
I have no disposition to interfere with your deliberations, but upon the statement of Dr. Haynes, with whom I have had a brief but delightful conference with reference to the earnestness of this meeting and the fact that it seems to be the most serious, if not the most successful, meeting that has been held in any of the States, I felt that we would be derelict in our responsibility to the duties that come and go each day, as governor of this State, if I did not come here and express my appreciation of your coming.
First, we need your people and need them badly in the war. We, likewise, need your people and need them badly in the industrial life of this country.
Last winter I had the privilege of visiting Tuskegee Institute. I had a long visit with that splendid type of your race, Dr. Moton. The opportunity was mine of making a survey of what was being done at this institute. I took pains to make considerable inquiry with reference to national and industrial conditions in the State of Alabama, and I am prepared to say, in the candor of my own judgment, at least, that you, as representatives of the race, are just now coming into your own. Even in the Southern States, when the great flow started northward, the southern people found they could not get along without the colored people.
The war gives you a great opportunity. I can say with pride, now, and reiterate it all through the corridor of time, that not a single member of your race is following the standard of the Kaiser. I have had the opportunity of reviewing colored troops, and I hope you will not feel that I am speaking flippantly when I recall the circumstances of reviewing the troops at Camp Sherman. Capt. Talbott, with Gen. Glenn’s staff, came over to the reviewing stand and said: “I have just left the colored regiment, and they are so full of pep that if they do not dance the Cakewalk when they come by, I will be surprised.” They presented the best line of the day—it was generally conceded to be the best line of the day by the general, the persons in the reviewing stand, and the thousands of white people who were assembled there. I hope that when the war is over we can then join together members of our race and yours in helping to work out in Ohio what they have in Alabama.
The colored man is here, and here to stay, and since that is true we not only want to improve the educational opportunities that come to him but we also want to give attention to vocational training. I want you to carry home to those you represent the assurance that whatever help this State can render, either to the people in your State or to the soldiers at the front, needs but an evidence of your desire.
The Department of Labor takes this special opportunity to thank every agency and every individual who helped to make successful the Ohio conference August 5, 1919.
Negroes workers’ advisory committees.—Immediately after the conference, Supervisor Hall, with the assistance of public-spirited citizens of Ohio, recommended to the department a number of the strongest persons for appointment to service on the State Negro workers’ advisory committee, and to local, county, and city committees of 25 important centers of the State where Negro workers in considerable numbers resided. The complete personnel of the State committee follows:
Edward Berry, Athens; Leroy W. Bobbins and Chas. C. Cowgill, Middletown; Chas. L. Johnson and Chas. P. Dunn, Springfield; Robert K. Hodges, D. R. Williams, Alexander H. Martin, and (Miss) Hazel Mountain, Cleveland; Chas. W. Bryant, Harry B. Alexander, J.H. Hendrick, and (Mrs.) E. W. Moore, Columbus; J. E. Ormes, Wilberforce; R. E. Holmes, Zenia; F. D. Patterson, Greenfield; Joseph L. Jones, H. S. Dunbar, Fred A. Geier, and (Miss) Anna Laws, Cincinnati; B. M. Ward, B. H. Fisher, and (Mrs.) Minnie Scott, Toledo; Rev. W. 0. Harper, and T. E. Milliken, Youngstown; H. T. Elliott, Dayton; Rev. A. M. Thomas, Zanesville; (Mrs. Stephen Bates, Chillicothe; James French, Sandusky; T. E. Greene, Akron.
Persons serving on these committees did so at the special request of the Secretary of Labor, and, in but one or two instances where the appointees were confronted with extreme pressure of business, were the invitations declined. Throughout the work the patriotism and spirit of service of the citizenship of Ohio made possible the successful carrying out of virtually every plan which the department launched, and the Ohio committee, like similar committees in 10 other States, assisted in the handling of industrial problems with a maximum degree of satisfaction.
Surveys of labor conditions.—The general industrial conditions in Ohio were investigated either by the supervisor directly or by the committee members, who reported to the supervisor on a blank form, of which the following is a copy:
NEGRO WAGE EARNERS IN OHIO
Information for supervisor of Negro economics
To members of county and city committees of Negro workers’ advisory committee.
Please fill out blank and return.
1. Are there many out of work in your city or county? _______
2. Have many been released during the past 30 days? _______
3. If so, were they absorbed by other occupations? _______
4. Have any new avenues of employment been opened? _______
5. If so, state the kind of work. _______
(Under “Remarks” please furnish the supervisor with any other information which you think should be brought to his attention.)
Information furnished by . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Address: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Date: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Negro workers had not been greatly disturbed because of the many industrial readjustments and temporary suspensions of the manufacturing enterprises not essential to winning the war, during the war and preceding the signing of the armistice.
The counties of Hamilton, Lucas, and Montgomery, whose principal cities are Cincinnati, Toledo, and Dayton, respectively, were largely engaged in war contracts. In Toledo the opportunities for employment were steadily improving. Local industries in Cleveland, Columbus, Youngstown, Akron, Canton, Lima, Delaware, Greenville, Steubenville, Zanesville, Chillicothe, Sandusky, Portsmouth, Marietta, and other centers were employing large numbers of Negro workers. In Butler County, the American Rolling Mills were giving employment to hundreds of workers. In Lima, the Swift Packing Co. was giving employment to Negro men and women, who were making good. In Youngstown, Mahoning County, an increasing number of elevator girls and male truck drivers were given employment.
In Dayton a large firm was making calls for considerable numbers of Negro laborers. This company was able to guarantee prospective workers housing facilities of the better type. Columbus reported a garment manufacturer who was unable to get a sufficient number of Negro women who could operate power machines. Youngstown reported insufficient wages ($9 and $10 a week) for girls. Dayton reported an industry using from 15 to 30 colored women, sorting rags on a piece-work basis, at $15 per week.
Job selling.—Among the special conditions found in Ohio was one which related to job selling in industrial establishments; and there is incorporated herein a full report of the Ohio supervisor respecting this condition, evidences of which were very apparent. This report was approved by the Director of Negro Economics and sent to advisory committeemen in all parts of the State.
JOB SELLING IN INDUSTRIAL ESTABLISHMENTS TO NEGROES
To prevent job selling by foremen, assistant foremen, “straw bosses” and “go-betweens” a very comprehensive bill was enacted by the last General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Industrial Commission of Ohio, the penalty being as follows:
“SECTION 2. Whoever violates any provision of this act shall be fined for the first offense not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars and the costs of prosecution; and for the second or any subsequent offense not less than two hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars and the costs of prosecution.”
“SECTION 6. The Industrial Commission of Ohio shall have full power, jurisdiction, and authority to administer the provisions of this act.”
Before the migration of Negroes from the South had reached a considerable volume, the foreign-born wage earners were the ones who were the victims of this pernicious system and the Department of Investigation and Statistics secured definite information that the collection of fees for jobs, or assessments of various kinds by foremen was a well-established custom in many of the industrial establishments through the State. It was found at the time the investigation was made that the price paid to foremen was generally $15, $20, or $25 for a job paying approximately 25 cents per hour, and that the custom appeared to have become so well established that no demand for payment needed to be made as the applicant understood that he must make a payment of money before he got the work.
Definite information was secured by the department to the effect that the shrewd foreman seldom received the money directly from the applicant, but usually had a number of men who acted as “go-betweens” and who were generally “straw bosses” or workmen.
This system of petty graft became so pronounced and the demands of the grafters became so insistent that the investigators experienced no great difficulty in securing the evidence upon which a number of indictments were made under the old law relating to private employment agencies which was not broad enough in scope, however, to fit the entire situation.
The new law includes the acceptance of fees, gifts, or gratuities, or promises to pay a fee or to make a gift under the agreement or with the understanding that the grafter will undertake to secure or assist in securing work for the applicant, or with the understanding that he will advance or undertake to secure or assist in securing an advance in pay or prevent or undertake to prevent or assist in preventing the discharge or reduction in pay or position of the worker in the employ of the company. The law which was enacted by the eighty-second general assembly covers all of these points and carries with it the penalty indicated above.
There are indication that there has been a revival of the practice of job selling, but that instead of working on the foreigners, the grafters have turned their attention to the helpless, ignorant, and destitute Negroes who are coming from the South to seek opportunities to better their condition and it is not unlikely that the system of job selling in industrial establishments in Ohio will again be investigated as the practice is not only unlawful and highly dishonorable but has a tendency to destroy the morale of the workers and thereby seriously affect production. All such cases should be reported.
CHARLES E. HALL,
Supervisor of Negro Economics
GEORGE E. HAYNES
Director of Negro Economics
Living conditions of Negro workers.—It was the experience of the department that unfavorable living conditions, more than anything else, made difficult the advancement of the Negro worker in efficiency and increased contentment. At times the housing conditions were due to lack of employment; at times the conditions were due to lack of pride on the part of the worker; and at times the boardinghouse keeper of the low type set up conditions which necessity forced the working men to accept.
As to the latter class, in one instance Supervisor Hall reported as follows:
OCTOBER 11, 1918
DR. GEORGE E. HAYNES,
Director of Negro Economics, Department of Labor, Washington, D.C.
DEAR SIR: On the evening of October 9, 1918, I visited the boarding and lodging house conducted by ______ ______, a colored man, for the ______ Co., ______, Ohio.
This very dilapidated two-story frame building is located at ______ Street, and is known as ______. It is the most filthy boarding and lodging house that has come under my observation. A foul-smelling closet adjoins the unclean dining room. I noticed broken windows upstairs in the sleeping quarters, and in the south wing even the skylights were without glass or other protection from the elements.
There is no shower or bathroom for the 42 men who occupy this house, and it has been found necessary to borrow a washtub from the neighbors to accommodate the men who wish to take a bath. The place is heated by small stoves and natural gas heaters and the building is lighted by electricity. The kitchen was fairly clean but the range had no hot-water boiler, which greatly inconveniences the cooks and other kitchen help as well as the boarders.
A number of the dirty sunken floors need jacking up and the rooms would not be less attractive if they were painted or whitewashed. Although there are a few new bed mattresses, I found most of them alarmingly filthy with bed coverings in the same condition. Although there are plenty of rooms in the house, many of them are unfurnished. Upon inquiry I was informed that the men coming off the night shift are obliged to occupy the rooms just vacated by the men going on the day shift. In some instances four or five men sleep in a room about 10 by 12 at the same time. Some of the bed springs are worn out, necessitating the sleeper to lie in most uncomfortable positions, regardless of the fact that he has been working hard and that the efficiency of his work depends largely upon comfortable repose. There is no assembly room, music (except a nickel-in-the-slot piano), pool, billiards, or books.
For these most inferior accommodations the men are charged $7.25 per week for room and board as compared with $4.55 per week charged by the ______ Co., located in the same city and within a few blocks. The ______ Co., maintains a large boarding and lodging house, known as “The ______,” which is now being papered, painted, and generally overhauled.
In my opinion, the ______ is extremely insanitary and a disease breeder, a condition which could not have escaped the attention of the local officials of the company, one of whom visits the house daily for the purpose of checking up.
These conditions are doubtless the causes of the large turnover and inefficiency of the colored workers of this company.
CHARLES E. HALL,
Supervisor of Negro Economics, Ohio
This report was approved by the Director of Negro Economics for submission to the general manager of the _____ Company. Subsequent action by the company in the renovation of this place and change of these conditions followed the receipt of this report by him.
Critical housing conditions in Cleveland, together with other economic problems, gave to that city a special need which the department planned to give attention to through a local representative member of the Negro workers’ advisory committee. This plan, however, was delayed and finally given up because of necessary changes in the policy of the department.
Acute housing conditions were found also at Akron, Cleveland, Dayton, Lime, Portsmouth, Toledo, and Youngstown; and, subsequently, the Department of Labor, through the United States Housing Corporation, had surveys made in several of these cities, but the sudden termination of the war, accompanied by a readjustment of the industries to a peace-time basis, threw a great many persons out of work and the housing condition was somewhat relieved through the general exodus of Negro and white wage earners to other localities within and without the State where there was a shortage of labor and where adequate housing facilities obtained. One permanent result in stimulating building and loan associations is fully described below.
The failure of congressional appropriations for the furtherance of the Negro economics work unfavorably affected the industrial progress of this class of wage earners who had watched with increasing interest the development of this new agency which was established to better their industrial welfare and to act as a clearing house for industrial opportunities. Men were no longer obliged to live in idleness, because they were able at all times to learn through the supervisor where work could be obtained, the rate of wages, the hours of labor, and the attitude of the residents of any community toward Negro labor. Negro professional men, skilled and unskilled workers, and others, freely communicated with the Director of Negro Economics and with the State supervisor for the purpose of securing a location or an opportunity in a community where conditions were favorable to their prosperity, and the failure of appropriations to provide for the continuance of this field work was keenly felt.
Discrimination in occupations on account of color was one of the conditions which, in some instances, confronted the Negro worker. The Ohio Conference on Negro Labor made recommendations on this point. Whether such discriminations were approved by private or public employers made a difference in the action which the department could take. The private employer might hire whomsoever he chose. Aside from an appeal for justice and fair play on his part, the department was unable to take any specific action in such cases. Where such discriminations, however, were alleged to exist within the ranks of employers who because of war contracts or other relations came under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government, investigations were made and definite steps taken to remove such discriminations.
Complaints.—Complaints, other than those noted above, were generally of three types:
1. Discrimination in the matter of opportunities for the Negro worker.
2. Unfair treatment of the Negro worker by employers.
3. Inefficiency of the Negro workers.
On the whole, there was a minimum amount of complaint in Ohio either by employer or employee. The stamp of efficiency was often placed upon the Negro worker, and the Negro worker often recognized the effort on the part of employers assuring to him equal pay, equal hours, recreation facilities, pleasant relations with white workers, and decent living conditions.
Results.—Under the supervision of the United States Employment Service, the State supervisor of Negro economics made direct reports of placement of Negro workers to the Federal director. He assisted the employment offices throughout the State with their problems of placing Negro workers. Reports of the United States Employment Service give him the recognition for this help. Placements were many and varied. Services were frequently rendered to firms which had not formerly employed Negro workers. Following the signing of the armistice and the resulting nonemployment situation the efforts for the returning Negro soldiers and sailors were carried along side by side with the efforts of the Federal and State machinery for the employment of all persons.
An outstanding feature of the Ohio work was the project of furthering the organization of building and loan associations among Negroes of the State as one concrete means of remedying the housing situation. In a letter dated May 8, 1919, which was given Statewide publicity, Supervisor Hall made the following points:
1. Industrial opportunities in Ohio are ever opening.
2. The housing facilities offered to Negro workers are inadequate.
3. Negro people themselves should make some of the financial arrangements for meeting the housing situation.
4. Overcrowded and insanitary housing conditions destroy the efficiency of the worker.
5. The home owner is ever a permanent working factor, contributing to the growth of the State and to its civic and commercial progress.
Thereafter Supervisor Hall compiled, from the Laws of Ohio, a skeleton outline of the statutes regulating the organizing and conducting of building and loan associations. He also formed a plan and model constitution for such associations among colored people of the several localities. This outline of laws and plans was placed in the hands of members of the Negro workers’ advisory committees and of special groups in the cities and counties throughout the State having a considerable Negro population. This was supplemented by talks made by the supervisor to interested groups in various places. Wilberforce University gave special courses of lectures on building and loan matters in three centers of the State. So numerous became the requests for additional information that the supervisor found it necessary to prepare a model form of constitution and by-laws for distribution. In rapid succession building and loan associations were organized in several Ohio cities where they are greatly needed. Requests for the “Ohio Plan” were also made by persons living in Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, and New York, and several associations in these States have since been organized. All are reported to be doing good business financially and are helping to alleviate the housing conditions. Companies in other places are proposed and will doubtless be launched.
In carrying out the purpose with which it was charged by Congress, the Department of Labor has steadfastly been a neutral administrator regarding union and nonunion workers, and has endeavored to promote alike the interests of all workers, white and colored, male and female, union and nonunion. With this in view, the department has sought to keep fully informed of the attitude of labor organizations toward Negroes in territories where the question is a vital one for amicable relations of the two races in industry.
Consequently, statement of the change in the attitude of organized labor in Ohio during this period is of special note. The copy of a letter of Mr. Thomas J. Donnelly, secretary-treasurer, Ohio Federation of Labor, outlining the attitude of that organization in the matter of unionizing Negro wage earners covers this important point:
COLUMBUS, OHIO, January 22, 1919
MR. CHAS. E. HALL,
Supervisor of Negro Economics,
Department of Labor, Columbus, Ohio
DEAR MR. HALL: Supplementing our conversation recently upon the subject of Negro labor and the unionizing of colored men in this section of the country, I am writing you at this time. Best results would be obtained, in my opinion, if efforts should be made to bring into the union those colored men who were born and educated in the North, where through contact and association with the whites they have formed the same viewpoint on industrial affairs, see the same necessity for a sustained effort, have the same “pep,” and the same determination to protect their rights as wage earners and as citizens. These men can be taken in by the organizations representing both the skilled and unskilled branches of the labor unions, and I believe that no great objection would be found, especially if in communities where there are large numbers of both white and colored, distinct locals were organized; but where there are only a few whites or a few colored men following the same trade it would be advisable for them to belong to the same local. A possible objection to a mixed local in communities where there are large numbers of both races employed in the same line of work is that both elements might vote along the color line upon questions of organization and policies. This of course would have a tendency to destroy the solidarity of the organization and to discount its work. I believe that once these colored workers were fairly well organized they would be a valued aid in organizing the illerate ones who have migrated from the South and give them a clearer view of northern ideals and the responsibilities accompanying citizenship.
While it has been my experience that colored men as a rule make good union men, I do not think that the colored agricultural illiterates from the South are adaptable to skilled industry and membership in unions of the skilled white workers.
Negroes reared in Ohio, having the advantage of the public schools in the State, should be adaptable to skilled industry and no doubt could secure membership in the unions of the skilled white workers or have separate organizations chartered by the international trades-unions. Places could possibly be found for a number of southern colored agricultural illiterates at common labor and in semiskilled trades. They would then be eligible to membership in the unions of the workers in these lines of industry.
Improved machinery has greatly lessened the demand for muscle, but at the same time has increased the demand for men who are trained to use their heads as well as their hands.
A great number of accidents in the Ohio factories and mills during the past few years has largely been due to the employment of illiterate foreigners from southern Europe, who formerly followed agricultural pursuits and the employment of large numbers of Negroes of the same class from the South would result, no doubt, in a like number of accidents. Until they become factory-broken, more punctual and dependable in attendance, more intelligent, and more accustomed to the northern method of living they will not really constitute an asset of large value to skilled industry.
Yours, very truly,
THOS. J. DONNELLY,
Secretary-Treasurer, Ohio State Federation of Labor
In closing the work in Ohio, after the failure of appropriations, Supervisor Hall gave the following statement of concrete results of his efforts:
1. The growth and stimulation of the opinion among colored workers that the Government has recognized them industrially, that they now have a medium through which to voice their complaints, and that because of the moral effect of such recognition they will be less subject to exploitation.
2. A more helpful attitude on the part of employers and a less hostile one on the part of white wage earners brought about through contact with colored members of committees.
3. The gradual elimination of racial objection at “the gate” or point of hiring, through the cultivation of superintendents, managers, and directors of employment.
4. The announcement of the official attitude of the Ohio State Federation of Labor concerning skilled and unskilled Negro labor.
5. The increase in efficiency and decrease in labor turnover brought about through the knowledge or belief that they would be given a “square deal” industrially.
6. The awakening of Negroes, through the circulation of frequent Statewide reports, to the industrial opportunities open to them.
7. The location, through questionnaires sent to county committees, of points where a surplus or shortage of Negro labor obtained, and the adjustment of these conditions, when possible, through the Clearance Division of the United States Employment Service.
8. The placing of movable wooden racks on cold cement floors of shower baths in several industrial plants in order to encourage a more frequent use of the bath.
9. The closing of several dilapidated, filthy, disease-breeding Negro boarding and lodging houses maintained by large manufacturing companies. The personal inspection of other lodging houses, camps, etc.
10. The creation of a better understanding of the functions of the Department of Labor, and a greater appreciation of governmental agencies brought about through the efforts of the State and county Negro worker’s advisory committees.
11. The development of cooperative groups through the encouragement and information given to committees in communities where the organization of a building and loan association would be both practicable and advisable.
12. The appointment of several colored “labor scouts” whose efficient work in congested industrial centers was of great value to the service and to the Negro wage earners.
The opinions and attitude of white and colored citizens of Ohio on the work of Negro economics in that State show something of its effort. A few excerpts from the communications to the department are given below:
Your circular with reference to Negro economics in Ohio under date of December 14th was received by us and read with lively interest. Any further communication or publication you may have on this subject I am sure will be appreciated. We are interested in this problem as you are, and desire to help in its solution so far as it is possible for us to do so.
I am glad to know that your work is progressing satisfactorily. I sincerely hope that we will continue to hold our own industrially, and that the Government will continue to cooperate with us and allow us representation in the Department of Labor.
I shall be glad to cooperate with you to the extent of my ability in trying to bring about the conditions we both desire during readjustment.
I received your circular, and most heartily welcome its coming. Words are inadequate to express my appreciation. Please let the good thing continue to come this way.
The work you are in calls for a first-class race man’s efforts, and I believe that you should be retained with the Government in the same capacity. I am pleased to have met you, to have learned of your work, and to have been brought in touch with it, and I believe you will be successful.
I am glad you have completed your organization, and I assure you you have my full support.
In returning your information blank, I would state that the United States Employment Service is filling a long-felt need among our people and that your methods meet my approval and will receive my earnest support. Let me hear from you at any time.
Congratulations on your report. Keep it up. Just simply the information is a tremendous factor in cementing the race, and that means ultimate solidarity and success.
Your very concise and yet informative letter relative to labor and labor conditions among the Negroes came to hand. It is a splendid document. You are to be congratulated upon its production, for in it you have at your fingertips the best and most information it has been my good fortune to receive to the Negro in this important field of endeavor in Ohio. I wish you continued success in all your efforts.
I thank you for the circular letter concerning the readjustment of Negro labor. Keep me posted, and if I can serve you, call on me.
We have also got good service from the United States Employment Service, and Mr. Hall, State supervisor, is doing a great work.
I wish to congratulate you upon the excellent work you are doing in Ohio for the industrial advancement of our people. We all appreciate the opportunity to cooperate with you and the Department of Labor.
Your letter with the inclosed statement marked “Personal, not for publication” has been received. We are grateful to you for your kindness in sending this information.
I wish to advise you that as a result of your efforts here in Cincinnati to organize a building and loan association managed by colored men, we have the Industrial Savings & Loan Co., incorporated for $300,000, which commenced doing business January 31. We will be prepared to make our first loan within the next week or 10 days and our prospects are very bright for a large and growing company. . . .
NEGRO LABOR IN THE UNITED STATES SHIPYARDS
The widespread demand for ships to “beat” the unlawful submarine warfare of the Germans led the Nation to see that ships were needed to win the war. The building of ships called for labor of all kinds, skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled, and those who responded to build ships were serving the cause no less than those who responded for service in the Army. During the war the Negroes showed their patriotism in this particular fully as they did in others. In the shipyards under the jurisdiction of the United States Shipping Board—Emergency Fleet Corporation—covering four shipbuilding districts on the Atlantic coast, one on the Gulf coast, two on the Pacific coast, and one in the Great Lakes district, there were 24,648 Negroes employed during the war and 14,075 employed up to September, 1919, following the signing of the armistice. In the southern district during the war there were 11,991 and for the period after the war 5,504; in the middle Atlantic district there were 4,506 and 5,223, respectively; in the Delaware River district, 5,165 and 2,230, respectively; in the northern Atlantic district, 371 and 297, respectively; in the Gulf district, 1,830 and 309, respectively; in the southern Pacific district, 582 and 399, respectively; in the northern Pacific district, 176 and 96, respectively; and in the Great Lakes district, 27 and 17, respectively. Both the numbers involved and the distribution of the numbers, both during the war and the months following the signing of the armistice, give ample evidence that Negroes played a large part in the building of the ships. Unfortunately, it has not been feasible to secure the figures of the white workmen under the United States Shipping Board for these districts.
We do have, however, a full record of the occupations in which Negro workmen were engaged. During the war 4,963, or about 20.7 per cent, were engaged in occupations which may be classed as skilled occupations, leaving 19,685, or about 80 per cent, in unskilled occupations, some of which could probably be classed as semiskilled occupations. After the war 3,872, or 27.47 per cent, were in skilled occupations and 10,203, or 72,53 percent, in unskilled occupations, some of which may be classed as semiskilled. It is significant that the largest number of Negroes in skilled occupations both in steel and wooden ship construction was in the southern district, both during and after the war. The second largest during the war was in the Delaware River district and after the war in the middle Atlantic district.
Negroes participated in 46 of the 55 separate shipbuilding occupations listed during the war period, and in 49 such occupations after the war. In addition, during the war 21 occupations had less than 10 Negroes employed and after the war 17 occupations had less than 10 Negroes employed in them. This leaves 25 occupations with 10 or more Negroes during the war and 22 occupations with 10 or more Negroes employed after the war.
The details are given in full in the accompanying table, but some illuminating comparisons may be made here. During the war there were 1,464 Negro carpenters, 225 calkers, 21 chippers and calkers, 631 fasteners, 11 blacksmiths, 102 blacksmiths’ helpers, 36 riggers, 38 riveters, 22 foremen, 240 drillers and reamers and 399 bolters. These all are important skilled or semiskilled occupations in the building of ships. After the war there were only 74 carpenters, 59 calkers, 36 chippers and calkers, 143 fasteners, 7 blacksmiths, 45 blacksmiths’ helpers, and 191 reamers and drillers. There were, however, 49 riveters and 1,116 bolters, these occupations showing increases.
The analysis of these figures indicates that in the more highly skilled and therefore the more highly paid occupations there has been a greater decrease in the number of Negroes in the shipyards than in the less skilled or semiskilled occupations, but taking the skilled and semiskilled occupations together, Negro workers held their numbers and showed less decrease after the war than they did in the unskilled occupations, altogether, after the war. The total decrease after the war of Negroes in all skilled or semiskilled occupations was only 20.7 per cent, while the total decrease after the war of Negro workers in the unskilled occupations was about 48 per cent, or nearly one-half. While these figures show a very decided decrease in the more highly skilled occupations, on the whole they make a favorable showing for Negro workmen in the shipbuilding industry, both during and after the war.
Not only did Negroes enter the skilled and semiskilled occupations during the war in large numbers but they remained in these occupations in larger proportions than in the unskilled occupations. . . .
RECORD-BREAKING NEGRO WORKERS
How a Negro pile-driver gained the world’s pile-driving record is told, partially in his own language, as follows:
WORLD’S PILE-DRIVING RECORD SMASHED
Edward Burwell, the Negro pile-driving captain whose Negro crew of 11 men broke the world’s record in driving piles on shipway No. 46 (Philadelphia, Pa.), was asked how he came to break the standing record. Burwell smiled and pointed to a placard nailed on the pile-driving machine. The placard read: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.”
The record prior to Burwell’s wonderful drive was 165 piles in 9 hours. Burwell and his crew drove 220 65-foot piles in 9 hours and 5 minutes, and a good part of the time the crew worked in a terrific downpour of rain. Since coming on the job in January, 1918, Burwell’s crew has driven 4,141 piles with a total of 241,573 linear feet. The crew under Burwell is employed by the Arthur McMullen Co. This company had the contract to drive 21,434 piles. Burwell and his crew drove about 20 per cent of this number.
“I went into the pile-driving business 15 years ago,” Burwell said in speaking of his new record. “I was never on a job as large as this one before. It was due to rivalry between another Negro foreman and myself that I made up my mind to go after the record of 165 piles held by another company.
“This sign filled our crew with enthusiasm. We decided, one night, that a new world’s record would be made on the morrow, and it was. Of course, we had our little mechanical troubles, and instead of fretting and fuming, the men just glanced at the sign and started in with renewed vigor and the record was smashed.”
Capt. Burwell then produced the log of the crew on the day the world’s record was made. It is rather interesting reading and is printed below:
NOTE.__Total linear feet of piles, 14,260. Previous world’s record, 165 piles in 9 hours and 15 minutes.
Of no less interest is the performance of a gang of Negro riveters working at Sparrows Point, Md., in the plant of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, in breaking the world’s record for driving rivets. One of the gang, Charles Knight, drove 4,875 three-quarter-inch rivets in a 9-hour day. The highest record was 4,442, made by a workman in a Scottish shipyard. Mr. Knight is a highly respectable and industrious citizen of Baltimore, Md., and a native of Virginia. . . .
NEGRO WOMEN IN INDUSTRY
SUMMARY OF REPORTS MADE BY MRS. HELEN B. IRVIN, SPECIAL AGENT OF THE WOMEN’S BUREAU IN 1918–19
Desiring to give recognition to all major questions affecting women in industry and keeping in mind the declared purpose of the United States Department of Labor “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of wage earners of the United States,” the Women’s Bureau, early in its career as the Woman in Industry Service, made provision to include in its program a study of the problems of Negro women in industry. The summary of data here given was secured from several industrial centers where typical conditions were known to prevail during visits made within the seven months beginning December 1, 1918, and ending June 30, 1919.
This summary is by no means extensive. One hundred and fifty-two plants, employing more than 21,000 Negro workers, were visited, and the figures and statements here presented cover recent phases and developments in this industrial situation.
The plants and industries visited were located in Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, and in portions of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In a number of cases recommendations were made for the improvement of conditions. Wherever subsequent information could be obtained showing that action had followed these recommendations and some instructive experience resulted a statement has been included in this summary.
INDUSTRIAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR NEGRO WOMEN
The total number of Negroes 10 years of age and over who were gainfully employed in 1910 as reported by the Thirteenth Census was 5,192,535; of these 3,178,554 were male workers and 2,013,981 were female workers. Of the female workers, 1,051,137 were included in agriculture, forestry, and animal husbandry. Only 8,313 were listed in trade and transportation occupations, and 67,967 in manufacturing and mechanical pursuits.
While these figures include women in all sections of the country, of wide range of training, and of all ages above 10 years, it is reported that, on an average, Negro women in industry are between 16 and 30 years of age. With the great labor shortage during the war, especially in northern industries, colored women had the opportunity to enter industrial pursuits never opened to them before. For the country as a whole there are at present no available figures to show the full extent to which they embraced the opportunities. The figures included below, however, are so typical as. to give a good indication for the territory covered. As a result of recent migration in the North, these women were frequently new to urban life and to the factory type of community. They were, therefore, largely in process of adjustment to unaccustomed conditions, climatic, social, occupational, and economic.
The great need for workers to replace men drafted for Army service brought women into occupations not heretofore considered within the range of their possible activities. Negro women shared to some extent these new fields. In response to the industrial demand, large numbers dropped their accustomed tasks in the home and in domestic service to take up the newer, more attractive work of supplying the need of the fighting world for the products of industry.
In visits to 152 typical plants employing Negro women it was found that they were working at many different processes and under very different working conditions. Table VII gives an outline of the kind of work done by the women and the industries in which they were employed.
It will be seen from a study of this table that the two industries employing the greatest number of Negro women were the meatpacking industry, where 3,282 were employed in the stockyards and abattoirs, and the tobacco industry, where 5,965 were employed at stemming tobacco, and 2,373 in the preparation of chewing tobacco and of snuff.
Another very large group were doing office work, 5,538 being employed in 16 offices. The other occupations ranged from the simple work of sorting and packing to the operation of various machines requiring skill and dexterity. Some of these occupations, such as loading shells, operating lathes, cleaning and repairing automobiles, flagging trains, and salvaging from railroad wreckage, were new to all women. On the greater number of processes, however, white women had been employed many years before Negro women were taken on.
During the war the employment of large numbers of women at new tasks in munitions plants and other war industries led to a shortage of labor in the textile and garment factories, which had long been great employers of women. As a result many textile and garment manufacturers, being quite unable to secure the requisite number of white workers for their plants, accepted and even appealed to Negro girls and women to relieve the situation. The work of 1,670 girls and women in textile and garment trades was carefully observed. Several thousand others were known to be similarly employed.
In several arsenals and munition plants groups of Negro women were found mixing chemicals, loading shells, making gas masks, stitching wings for aeroplanes, and engaging in similar processes requiring great care, skillful fingers, patriotism, and courage. Most of these industries were housed in modern fireproof buildings, well ventilated to carry off the poisonous fumes, asbestos partitioned to prevent the spread of flames, and well equipped with hose, fire escapes, and first-aid apparatus for use in the occasional accidents that appear to be unavoidable in such places.
The 499 munition makers were found to be giving satisfaction as a whole, and in some instances were reported to respond more readily than others for doing the heavy and dangerous portions of the work. They were proud of their unusual tasks and of their uniforms, and seem to have appreciated the working day shorter than household hours in domestic and personal service.
In abattoirs, stockyards, and tanneries Negro women were engaged at different times in all processes except the actual butchering and inspecting of meats. They trimmed, sorted, and graded different portions of the carcasses; separated and cleaned the viscera; prepared, cured, and canned the meats; and graded, cleaned, cured, and tanned the hides for making articles of leather.
In Government clothing factories and in private establishments on Government contracts they made overalls, army shirts, and dungarees in large numbers. In other factories they made bolts, nuts, rivets, screws, motor accessories, and metal buckets. In rubber plants they made automobile tires, tubes, parts of rubber boots, shoe heels, toys and hospital necessities, such as rubber gloves, pads and hot-water bottles. In transportation service they cleaned cars, acted as switchmen and flagmen, mended roadbeds, salvaged small parts of engines and coaches from wreckage, painted and made simple repairs on automobiles, and occasionally acted as chauffeurs.
Power-laundry work has furnished the opportunity for many Negro girls and women to earn a livelihood. In considerable numbers they have followed into the factory their former occupations of laundering clothing. Under good factory conditions this permits escape from the more undesirable conditions of the household laundry service. Because of the difficulties and dangers of the work, and because of the traditional linking of Negro women to such tasks, there has been in most places little objection to them or color discrimination against them in laundries. They have learned, consequently, to operate all kinds of power-laundry machinery; to wash, iron, steam or dry clean garments of all sorts, as well as to do the hand finishing that is still in considerable demand.
Many of these industries being essential in peace times, it is probable that large numbers of the Negro women who were drawn into them during the war emergency, and have made good, will find permanent occupations at more desirable work than heretofore.
In these industries Negro women usually fell heir to the less desirable occupations or processes. As a whole, however, they stuck to these jobs and many won advancement to higher places in that way. Many are still to be found spinning coarse yarn; knitting gloves, stockings, and underwear of cheap grades; making lingerie fine waists, silk and woolen dresses, coats, caps, overalls, and men’s shirts.
The 8,388 tobacco workers observed in the factories visited were found chiefly in southern or border-line States, and, with the exception of two groups, are working under most objectionable, unsanitary conditions. Nearly 6,000 of these young, unskilled girls, work in stemmeries, where they prepare the stemmed tobacco for chewing, cigar making, snuff and cigarettes. Very few Negro girls are found at the more skilled processes, such as making cigars. For this work one employment manager insisted upon hiring only pretty types, of rather foreign appearance, “in order that they may be regarded by patrons as Cuban, South American, or Spanish.” Two women who were employed as weighers or inspectors were found to be both quick and accurate in their judgment, and are paving the way for others.
In hotels many Negro women performed the services of cooks, dishwashers, waitresses, maids, elevator operators, and even bell girls. These latter were afterward quite generally replaced by boys and men, the girls being unable to handle most of the luggage of patrons. The wages of maids and waitresses were usually low, the workers being largely dependent upon “tips.”
Elevator girls were operating both in hotels and in department stores as well as in many office buildings. They worked on alternate long and short “shifts,” with brief rest periods, and carried passengers or freight as required. However, they were not usually compelled to lift packages into or out of their cars. Not only have these girls succeeded as elevator operators, but also as maids, stock girls, bundle wrappers, and even, where given the opportunity, as saleswomen. Several employers expressed a marked preference for Negro stock girls, for reason that a greater variety of service might be demanded of them. For instance, in some stores they came to work 15 minutes before schedule time in order to polish mirrors and display cases.
Careful observation showed that bundle wrappers working in sight of customers of stores were often of types whose racial identity was doubtful, while those behind the screens, as in packing and shipping department, were more distinctly negroid in complexion. Three saleswomen of discernible Negro blood were of good appearance and showed keen intelligence about their work. Three or four quick and clever stock girls were found acting as sales assistants.
Excepting Government appointees, of whom varying numbers have held positions under civil-service regulations since the period of reconstruction following the Civil War, comparatively few Negro women were employed at office work until 1917. The general spur to industry consequent upon America’s participation in the war, the shifting of workers from home and farm to office, factory, and battlefield made opportunities for greater numbers at clerical tasks than ever before. In this emergency several thousand Negro women found opportunities to play their part. The total of 5,538 found doing office work qualified in the offices of shops, of mail-order and other business houses, as typists, stenographers, and bookkeepers, 2,303 were observed at this work. There were 2,705 filing clerks, 331 billing and addressograph operators, and 182 packing and shipping clerks. These included, of course, forewomen and supervisors of the various groups’ of workers. Clerical work was being done for the Government under civil-service and special classification. Also, there were 15 special investigators and lecturers and 2 telephone switchboard operators.
A majority of these clerical workers, both in general commercial and industrial plants and in Government service, were given temporary appointments under the war emergency. Many of them were being released after the armistice to make way for discharged soldiers or because need for their services no longer existed. Others were frankly told that such positions as remained available were intended for white workers, and that they had been used merely because no others could at that time be obtained. In known instances, however, Negro girls and women acquitted themselves in so satisfactory a manner that they have been retained, these having made pernament places for themselves. Also, a number of instances of individual success and achievement are known to have been rewarded by promotion and by assurance of continuance during satisfactory service.
The signing of the armistice, bringing about a gradual cessation of war industries, or a change in factory processes and products, probably meant the permanent dismissal of many of these Negro women industrial workers. Some have been provided for in the new plans of their employers and others have returned to their prewar occupations. Subsequent study is in progress to ascertain to what extent these Negro women have found a permanent foothold in these industrial occupations.
CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT
In individual plants conditions were found to vary from the least desirable to the most satisfactory, as judged by modern industrial standards. Outstanding examples of these differences are to be found particularly in types of factory work usually denoted as “women’s trades,” such as textile, clothing, and tobacco industries. On the whole, the working conditions where Negro women were employed along with white women the conditions appeared to be similar. A few typical cases will illustrate the situation.
In a hosiery mill employing Negro women no provision was made for first aid, although slight accidents are frequent. Other facilities for the comfort of the workers were at a minimum. The plant had no lunchroom or lockers. There were but two toilets and two sinks, and one separate faucet with a tin cup attached supplied the drinking water for the entire group. There was neither soap nor warm water for washing the hands, although the workers were expected to keep the white hosiery quite free of any soiling. They were taxed a few cents for each soiled spot found by the inspector.
On the other hand, another establishment, manufacturing men’s shirts, offered thoroughly desirable working conditions with adequate facilities for the comfort of its employees. Each unit, consisting of 140 to 200 girls, was furnished with an instructor for processes that were new, whether carried on by hand or by power machine. The shops were well lighted and heated and were fitted with modern machinery that runs with little noise and gives to the operators protection from accident. A small dispensary and first-aid room, with a nurse, were available. There was an excellent lunch room, with food furnished at cost. There were lockers, clean and adequate toilets, and sinks with soap and sanitary towels. All workers started with the same basic wage, with increases to more highly paid piecework as rapidly as their skill permitted.
Good and bad conditions were found also among industries heretofore carried on entirely by men. For instance, a plant manufacturing buckets and other sheet-metal products was very poorly heated, lighted, and ventilated. Its uneven cement floor held pools of water that had overflowed from the cooling tanks. Generously spilled paint and solder caused an uncertain footing the dim aisles.
One room, about 9 by 12 feet, with a single toilet in the corner and with hooks above two benches along the walls, furnished the only arrangements for women to change street clothing and working apparel and for the storage of coats and skirts of changed garments. There being no lockers, garments of workers were frequently reported as lost from the hooks. Two sinks just outside the door of this room were supplied merely with cold water, and only roller towels were furnished.
Under these conditions two groups of 35 Negro women each worked on alternate day and might shifts. One group worked from 7 p.m. until 5 a.m., with a half hour at midnight for lunch. Because of the extreme suburban location of this plant and the inconvenience to cars these employees were obliged to walk about half mile across an unpaved, poorly lighted, wind-swept area which was unpleasant even on a clear winter midday, not to mention inclement weather.
A group of young Negro women, selected and sent by the local United States Employment office in response to an urgent appeal from the woman proprietor, left this factory in a body on their first day because of the abusive language of a foreman in response to their protest against the conditions under which they were expected to work.
In marked contrast to these conditions were those found in an immense plant which was making bolts, nuts, small parts of motors, and other machine-shop products. The several hundred women employees were native-born white, Negro, and foreign-born of several nationalities. The workrooms of this factory were light and clean, neither unduly noisy nor overcrowded. The punch and drill presses were provided with guards to reduce the number of accidents. The Negro women wore caps and overalls and were directed by a Negro forewoman. The plant was adequately equipped with toilets, washrooms, and lockers. There was a plain but clean lunchroom, a dispensary with first-aid and visiting-nurse service without charge. There was also a company store where employees could purchase uniforms, other plain clothing, and a few necessary foodstuffs at wholesale rates. A training school offered certain instruction during a limited number of hours each working week. There was apparently no special arrangements made because of race, except that the colored women worked in a group to themselves and were superintended by a Negro forewoman.
Realizing that the opinion of their employers would seriously affect the future of Negro women in industry, an attempt was made to secure the opinions of superintendents or other officials dealing with Negro women in these plants. Of 34 employers who expressed a definite opinion on this subject, 14 said that they found the work of Negro women as satisfactory as other women workers, and 3 found their work better than that of the white women they were working with or had displaced. Of the 17 employers who felt that the work of Negro women did not compare satisfactorily with that of the white women, 7 reported that irregularity of attendance was the main cause for dissatisfaction, and 7 others felt that the output of Negro women was less because they were slower workers.
The chief of the problems of industrial training is presented by the very obvious need for a more carefully thought-out plan of education for Negro women, who are comparatively new to industry and who have no adequate standards upon which to base their estimate of their own worth or the requirements of their occupations.
If private and public facilities were to be generally opened to Negro women for their education there would not fail to be a very general increase in the efficiency of Negro women in industry. This is not education in the usually accepted sense, though an impartial enforcement of the school attendance law will improve economic conditions for future groups of workers. It is training for efficiency, with its contributing factors of personal hygiene, industrial sense, increasing skill, and realization of contractual obligation. It is the development of industrial consciousness through the fostering of pride in achievement, through increasing personal and family thrift and through encouraging an attitude of constancy toward a given task or locality. This type of education is essential in “training the work on the job.”
As is the case with any group new to a situation, Negro women on entering industry have need of patient, careful training in all processes required of them and in the use of all machinery employed in the specific work assigned to them. Such training plus the opportunity to advance individually or in groups, as their increasing skill may warrant, has been found profitable by most of the employers who are awake to the possibilities of Negro women as workers. Eighty per cent of the employers interviewed who had given a trial to the training-plus-opportunity method reported little or no difficulty with these workers, while 30 per cent expressed a preference for Negro women because of their cheerfulness, willingness, and loyalty in response to fair treatment.
One employer who had instituted these courses said: “We are getting all we hoped for and more.” In this plant the girls were doing clerical work. Each girl was given three days special training before being put to work. Up to the time of the visit (1919) their work was so satisfactory that a large number were employed. The management said that it had found that Negro girls did just as good clerical work as white girls as soon as the “breaking-in” training had been given.
In another plant, where a “superintendent of service” was detailed to superintend group and individual training for work on small machine products, it was reported that there was no difference between the work or attendance of the native-born white, Negro, and foreign-born women workers. This plant showed in the kind of women employed and the atmosphere of the workroom the excellent results of the absolutely equal chance given to all workers. In other plants training was more haphazard, being given by the forewoman and sometimes by fellow workers. It was from such establishments that the greater number of complaints of inefficiency and slowness came.
In addition to courses of training supplied by the employer within his plant and which are limited to the actual processes in use in his plant, there were found some opportunities for Negro women in the public schools, through continuation classes or night schools.
In one locality a plan of cooperation for such extension work between the vocational bureau of the public schools and a privately controlled industrial school was feasible. The school in question had already launched several courses designed to interest the young working girls of that community. The principal was quite willing to extend the opportunity to Negro women workers, making such course as practically attractive as the school facilities would permit. At the time this school was offering courses of interest to housemaids, cafeteria workers, butchers, core makers, motor mechanics, and various sorts of garment workers, including makers of overalls, shirts, and women’s clothing.
Possibilities for decent, sane, healthful recreation for the average Negro working girl and woman being in many communities distressingly inadequate, this phase of educational activity is very essential to efficiency. It appeared wise to attempt to arouse interest in this matter wherever the situation seemed urgently to warrant it. As an instance of what can be done, a community center organization which had previously taken no heed of the 300 to 400 colored girls at work in a local factory was persuaded to provide for them a weekly meeting place and a leader of games and athletics. The principal of a Negro school was induced to appeal to the school authorities to include in their plan for a new building some provision for a joint assembly room and gymnasium. Much to the principal’s surprise the appeal met a favorable reception, and the people of the little community are now watching the erection of their building with this addition.
Several recreational clubs of different sorts have been organized in churches, and a certain war service has given excellent and valuable assistance in this respect, following most willingly any lead or suggestion that might be given.
A very important part of the work which was done by the Women’s Bureau in connection with Negro women was the educational talks explaining to various groups interested in this subject the standards and policies that should attain in establishments employing women and girls.
In addition to the courses of training which could be made available for Negro workers in the private or public schools, there could be a most valuable educational stimulus and training given in the various leagues and clubs of industrial women workers which are organized in different communities.
METHODS OF SUPERVISION
If the Negro woman is to keep and increase her hold in industrial activities of the country, in addition to special training to fit her for the work, she will need the cooperation of employers who understand the special problems attending her employment, and who will make adjustments and establish policies accordingly. Various methods of shop management in plants employing Negro and white workers together were noted during this survey, and on the basis of successful experiments that were observed recommendations were made for the improvement of conditions in other localities.
In one northern community which had recently been subjected to a large influx of Negroes one well-known firm had already put into operation a plan of work for them on equal pay and conditions as other workers. The results were not only satisfactory but were promising of most desirable further development. The workers were making good in every department. The largest numbers naturally were found in sections where mainly manual operations were required. Besides the many operators on punch and drill presses there were several forewomen, five typists, two or three clerks, two messengers, two elevator operators, a first-aid assistant, a postwoman, and a woman chauffeur. With this particular firm as a successful example three others were persuaded to give their Negro workers similar opportunity.
Negro women supervisors of units of workers of their own kind were giving results. One very successful instance of such supervision can be used as an example of what might be accomplished through the more general adoption of the plan. This unit of approximately 200 girls in a large mail-order house had worked for about a year under the supervision of an intelligent Negro woman. The work of these girls consisted of all office processes, such as bookkeeping, stenographic work, typewriting, and operating office appliances as well as packing and preparing goods for shipment.
These workers were not only supervised but were also trained and instructed by Negro forewomen. The unit had a slogan, “Make good 100 per cent.” So successful had been the work of this group that shortly after their dismissal by a new, unsympathetic superintendent, they were reinstated and their number augmented because their work was so satisfactory in relation to the larger work of the entire plant.
Although there was a number of examples found of a carefully thought out policy in the employment of Negro women, there were complaints of discrimination made by these women too serious and frequent to be ignored. If a group of women persistently believes that they are given the lowest wages, the most disagreeable work, the poorest material, and that they will be the first to be laid off, whether or not the facts fully warrant their beliefs, they will hardly put their best efforts into the improvement of their work.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
From the foregoing account it would seem that the Negro women have taken an increasingly important place in industrial activities, largely as a result of labor shortage during the war. They increased in numbers in meat packing, in the tobacco industry and power laundries, and entered largely into textile and garment factories, munitions plants, and into clerical positions.
The conditions of the places of work varied from excellent to very poor, appearing to be similar to those surrounding white women where the two were working together. The Negro women workers need special attention to their industrial training and opportunities for community adjustment. Where employers have tried to do this they found it profitable. Special supervision, especially by persons of their own race, has proven effective.
So far as the situation may be regarded as peculiar to the Negro woman it may be said that she has been accepted, in the main, as an experiment; her admittance to a given occupation or plant has been conditioned upon no other workers being available, and her continuance frequently hinged upon the same. She was usually given the less desirable jobs. The Negro woman worker being new to industry has to learn its lessons of routine and regularity; the attitude both of the employer and of other workers toward Negro women workers was one of uncertainty. . . .
LABOR AND VICTORY
This a world struggle for democracy, and win it we must.
How can we win it? There is but one way. Everyone—man, woman, and child, be he a millionaire or a day laborer—must do his level best at his work, wherever he may be, whether on the farm, at the docks, in the machine shop, in the mill, at the White House in Washington, in the kitchen, in the home, or in the trenches. Even wealthy society women in our own country are giving up their luxuries, children are giving up their candy, that the children of Europe may have bread.
To win this war our soldiers must go to France and fight; but they cannot fight unless they have guns and ammunition. They cannot fight unless they have clothing and shoes, and tents, and plenty of food. They cannot have these things unless there are ships to carry them to France. We must have ships and more ships. We must build steel ships; we must build wooden ships; we must build concrete ships, to hurry our men and war supplies to the front. Thoughtful men and women, how can our soldiers have clothing and shoes and food? How can we have ships to carry our boys to France? There is but one way. Every man, and every child and woman, must work and save, to furnish food, to make clothing and shoes, to make guns and ammunition, and to build ships. And do not forget that any person, black or white, who does not work hard, who lags in any way, who fails to buy a Liberty bond, or a War Savings stamp if he can, is against his country and is, therefore, our bitter enemy.
I am happy to say that the majority of our men and women are working like all other good Americans to make their labor win the war. Only a few weeks ago the world’s record for driving rivets in building steel ships was broken by Charles Knight, a Negro workman at Sparrows Point, Md. In one nine-hour day he drove 4,875 three-quarter inch rivets in the hull of a steel ship. The newspapers of the country have lauded him for his work. The British Government sent him a prize of $125. Again, many of our men and women are making records as workers in the steel mills, in the coal mines, on the railroads, and on the farms. Our thoughtful, interested cooks and other helpers in the kitchen are really doing service at the front, by saving all the food they can. The newspapers and journals of the country, managed and edited by thoughtful men and women, are creating sentiment that will do much toward winning the war. For instance, the Albany (Ga.) Herald, a newspaper edited by Southern white men, advised and suggested to ladies of the city who offered to make and present to the city a service flag, that a service flag for Albany would not be complete unless there were placed in its field a star not only for every white soldier or sailor who has enlisted from Albany but a star for every Albanian, white or black. The first employee of this newspaper to join the National Army was a Negro, and the first star on the Herald’s service flag is his star.
Negroes are being asked in every city, town, and rural district to join in this work of winning this war. We, like other folk, are having an unusual chance to work and save our country. Let every one of us be wide awake and make the most of this opportunity. Let him bear in mind that every time he makes good on his job, he helps his country and the race. Let him also remember that every time a Negro falls down on his job, he pulls down his country and the entire race, and thus makes winning the war less possible.
A few months ago a friend printed a card to help the Negro workmen in factories and shops. The card read something like this:
WHY HE FAILED
He did not report on time;
He watched the clock;
He loafed when the boss was not looking;
He stayed out with the boys all night;
He said, “I forgot;”
He did not show up on Monday, and
He wanted a holiday every Saturday;
He lied when asked for the truth.
There is still another thing we ought to think about, if we are to make the most of these opportunities for saving our country. These are times of great demands and great prosperity. Wages are high. Everybody who will work can get work. Many who are working now are making more money than they ever made. Many of our families who have men in the Army are now getting from Uncle Sam more cash money than they ever had at any one time before. What then is the wise thing for us to do now? In the words of the proverbs of Solomon: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise. She layeth up her store in summer.” Now is the time to work every day we can. Now is the time to work every hour we can. Now is the time to make and save every dollar we can. Now is the time to buy every Liberty bond we can, and every War Savings stamp that we can, in order that our country may have that liberty for which she is fighting. The Negro has fought like a man in the battles from Bunker Hill to San Juan Hill. He has died to keep the American colors flying. Those left behind did their duty like soldiers, and today there are hundreds of black boys at the front in France laying down their very lives for their country, for you and for me. Will you, because of your refusal to work six days in every week, or because of your failure to save as much food as you can, or because of any lack of interest whatever on your part, have to answer to our boys on their return, maimed in battle or even to men who never return? We are our brothers’ keepers; we, too, are soldiers on duty, and in our hands rests the destiny of our country and our fellow men America needs, expects, and asks every man to do his duty.91
George E. Haynes, The Negro at Work During the World War and During Reconstruction (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1921), pp. 7–138 passim and rearranged.
The Secretary of Labor
My dear Dr. Haynes:
So important do I consider the information, advice, and departmental aid furnished through your work as Director of Negro Economics, a war service of the Department of Labor, which I created in order to harmonize the labor relations of white workers, Negro workers and white employers, and thereby to promote the welfare of all wage-earners in the United States, that I hereby request you to continue the service.
Owing to our failure to get the appropriations asked for from Congress, it will be necessary for you to continue without the field staff that would enable you to gather information and give assistance more promptly and fully. But I need your assistance in this work of conciliation and will make such provision for retaining it as is possible.
I hope that the white and colored citizens, both North and South, who have so heartily and beneficially co-operated with you, will continue their co-operation under the difficult circumstances in which the Department is involved due to curtailed funds. By correspondence with such citizens, you may enable the Department of Labor to continue in some degree the valuable service you have rendered in dealing with the delicate and difficult problems touching Negro labor, and thus to serve employers and workers of both races and all sections.
Let me supplement this request with the most emphatic assurances of my appreciation of your personal qualities as well as the value of your work.
Yours very truly,
(Signed) W. B. Wilson,
The Crisis, 18 (September, 1919): 239.
Dr. George E. Haynes
America is probably facing the greatest agricultural, industrial and commercial expansion in her history. For this purpose, there must be labor, unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled. The cessation of immigration during the war and the emigration of aliens now give no promise of an adequate supply of laborers from abroad. The Negro people furnish the largest potential supply available. This situation offers the long-sought economic opportunity for the Negro worker. It emphasizes, however, questions of relations of white workers, white employers and Negro workers on terms of full justice and opportunity. In the light of recent riots and the question of Negroes in the Chicago stockyards, these statements may seem too optimistic. But a brief sketch of the facts given here will indicate some of the grounds for faith.
Let us look more in detail at the facts: America faces a great economic expansion. She has already been called upon to furnish supplies for rebuilding and feeding Europe. The markets of Africa, Asia and South America are open to her as never before. The home market, after the self-denials of war, is calling for the products of the factory and the farm. To build and command ships, to produce raw materials from the fields, the forests and the mines, and to manufacture for the markets, call for laborers.
An adequate labor supply is not available through foreign immigration. At the close of the war America was more than three millions short of immigrant laborers. Today, aliens in this country are going back to Europe by the thousands, as fast as they can get passports and ocean passage. Investigations of the Department of Labor have shown that in many cities fully 50 per cent of aliens plan to return to their native lands. Many of them are going because they have not heard from their relatives during the war. Others desire to settle the estates of relatives killed in the war, or to gain land and other opportunities under their new governments. Furthermore, there is a strong pressure for additional laws restricting immigration. Mexican, Chinese and Japanese laborers are already excluded from the United States.
The Negro workers of the Nation, who form about one-seventh of the total working population, constitute an important available source of labor from which to meet the increasing demands of agriculture, industry and commerce. Already in at least six states, where Negroes are an important labor factor, there is a labor shortage.
An important change in the occupational condition of Negro workers took place during the war and seems likely to continue. Preceding the war the large majority of Negro workers were engaged in domestic and personal service and in agricultural pursuits. They found then a much more restricted opportunity in trade and transportation and manufacturing and mechanical pursuits than during and since the war. During the war the doors to industrial occupations swung open, particularly in the iron and steel industries, in foundries, in slaughtering and meat packing plants, in automobile and automobile accessory plants, in brick and clay product industries, in coke-making and in coal mines.
The shifting of large numbers of workers, white and colored, from agriculture to industry has created a shortage of labor on the farm. Planters and farmers are, therefore, having to offer increased inducements in wages and other terms for tenants and laborers. Some land owners are offering to Negroes land ownership on adjoining tracts, as a means of securing part-time workers for their own land.
With the coming of these economic opportunities for which the Negro has waited and worked, there arises, naturally, the question of practical plans for successfully grasping these opportunities. The entrance of the Negro into these new fields of work involves far-reaching questions of his relationship with white employers and white workers. These questions must be met and successfully solved in the local community on the basis of standards and needs of the wage-earners of the nation, white and black.
The Department of Labor took steps during the war to secure the co-operation and help of the three group interests involved in adjusting such questions. The Secretary of Labor stated as the basic principle of the plans that since Negroes constitute about one-seventh of the wage-earners of the United States, it seems only reasonable and right that they should have representation in council when matters affecting their welfare are being considered and decided.
The plans pursued recognized also that the majority of Negro workers are employed by white employers on jobs or in occupations with white workers, and that the racial difference is the occasion for fears, misunderstandings, prejudices and suspicions, thus producing problems calling for action on a cooperative basis and in the light of national standards and ideals. These local questions have a national bearing on the welfare of wage-earners, white and colored; on the interests of employers and on the interests of all the people.
Following out these principles, the Department of Labor formed co-operative Negro Workers’ Advisory Committees by states, counties and cities. Serving upon these committees were representatives of Negro wage-earners and, either upon them or co-operating with them, white employers and, wherever possible, white wage-earners. In this way, connecting links were established between white workers, white employers and the existing organizations of Negro workers, such as churches, lodges, labor unions, women clubs, betterment agencies, etc., through the feelings, desires and activities of Negro workers are expressed.
To make these committees effective in each state, the Secretary appointed Supervisors of Negro Economics. The Woman in Industry Service of the Department appointed two national agents to look after the interests of colored women in industry. Through these co-operative advisory committees the welfare of Negro wage-earners was advanced and amicable and helpful relations were established with white employers and white workers in ten states and about 250 localities.
As indications of the results achieved, mention may be made here of some of the varied and helpful activities carried on by these committees and supervisors. Bi-weekly reports were made on the demand and supply of Negro labor in different localities. For example, such reports were made regularly from thirty-one cities and counties in Ohio, from fourteen in Michigan, and from sixty in Virginia. Through co-operation with the U.S. Employment Service, the Committees and Supervisors helped in recruiting and placing thousands of workers and in opening new lines of industries and new plants to Negro workers, both male and female, in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Florida, and Mississippi. Numbers of employers in these states, as in others, were advised about improvements and methods of dealing with Negro workers. The supervisors in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, North Carolina and Mississippi gave a large amount of such advisory service. Complaints about the conditions and treatment of Negro workers were brought to the attention of employers. Following the armistice, special assistance was given in forming and making effective for Negro soldiers the Placement Bureaus for Returning Soldiers and Sailors. For example, in Illinois volunteer workers solicited by telephone or personal calls more than a thousand employers in the interest of returning Illinois Negro troops and about 5,000 letters in their behalf were sent out.
Conferences with employers and leaders of Negro workers were held in many localities, often in co-operation with local organizations and authorities. For instance, in Mississippi during December and January, more than thirty conferences of from 75 to 300 Negro school teachers and ministers were visited in co-operation with the Board of Education of that state. Preceding the establishment of the state and local committees in the ten states, state conferences were held. Four of these were called and presided over by the governors of the states. Sixteen sectional conferences were held. One informal national conference, with representatives from forty-five welfare agencies, boards and organizations, North and South, dealing with the welfare of Negro workers, was held in Washington last February. At these conferences programs of work and plans of co-operation were adopted and put into operation. At the informal national conference such a program and plans national in scope were adopted and recommended to the Department and are now being put into operation.
One of the most significant pieces of work begun, but not yet completed on account of failure of appropriations, was the study of the experience of employers in industries that employed Negro workers during 1918–19. This study was begun before the close of the war and continued into the present year. Up to the time it was stopped, records from 244 typical plants employing Negroes in seven states with a total of about 35,000 workers, white and colored, had been secured. A full report on Negro Migration in 1916–17 was edited and published.
The figures are not yet available, but two general indications have already been announced by the Department: First, that in all these plants Negro workers and white workers were employed with apparently good feeling on both sides. Second, with here and there an exception, the Negro workers in the matter of turnover, absenteeism, wage scales, quantity and quality of the work on which they were employed, compared favorably with the white workers in the same plant on the same work. Here is substantial answer to the old charge of shiftlessness and laziness.
With the new expansion of American agriculture, industry and commerce and with the prospect of a labor shortage during the next decade, adjustments must be made which will assure full opportunity and justice to Negro workers, which will safeguard the struggles of white workers for higher standards of wages, hours and working conditions, and which will give due consideration to the productive interests of employers and the economic interests of the entire nation. To those who have considered the question carefully, the experiment already made by the Department of Labor demonstrates that practical results to this end can be achieved through the co-operative Negro Workers’ Advisory Committees, described above, linked with and working through existing organizations, or through similar plans. Each community has felt the freedom of local autonomy, has had the experience of other communities as examples and inspiration and has had help of national standards, needs and policies through the Federal Government. The Secretary of Labor has continued the Department of Negro Economics even after the failure of appropriations asked for it from Congress. Many individuals and organizations have endorsed his action.
The problems of the future are many and will call for racial good will and co-operation on a basis of fair play and justice to all. The Negro needs help in building up a leadership that will guard his interest, and guide his steps toward thrift and efficiency. Living conditions, such as housing and sanitation, recreation, schools and community life, must receive attention. Better relations between white workers, white employers, and Negro workers on a basis that will insure a man’s chance, equal wages, hours and conditions of labor for Negro workers require some means by which they may meet in council.
As the Negro faces the responsibilities of these new opportunities the plans of labor adjustment carried out by the Department of Labor furnish a meeting ground to all under impartial auspices where employers and employees of the two races may meet and not only adjust their differences, but form constructive plans for mutual help.
The Crisis, 18 (September, 19): 236–38.