This is the sixth volume of THE BLACK WORKER: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY FROM COLONIAL TIMES TO THE PRESENT. Recently there has been a surge of interest in working-class history, but this series represents the first compilation of original materials to encompass the entire history of Afro-American labor. As with the preceding volumes, the documents presented are placed into historical context by introductions and notes, and original spellings have been retained except where they obscure the intended meaning.
THE BLACK WORKER DURING THE POST-WAR PROSPERITY AND THE GREAT DEPRESSION, 1920–1936, begins with an assessment of the economic condition of black workers by such astute observers as W. E. B. Du Bois, Charles S. Johnson, Robert C. Weaver, and Ira De A Reid. The considerable space given to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters suggests the importance black workers attached to that union’s success, a significance far beyond what was warranted by size alone. Volume VI also gives special consideration to relations between the American Federation of Labor and the black worker, and the struggle to eliminate the color bar in the labor movement. The frustration generated by the recalcitrance of organized labor to changing its policy regarding black members led some Afro-Americans to seek support from the political left. But it was not until the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations that blacks had an opportunity to make real strides toward equality in the labor market.
The editors wish to express their appreciation to those who have been generous in their assistance toward the completion of this book, especially the staffs at the following institutions: American Federation of Labor Archives, Birmingham Public Library Archives, Chicago Historical Society, Library of Congress, University of Delaware Library, United States Department of Labor Library, International Fur Workers’ Union Archives, National Archives, State of Alabama Department of Archives, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and the Shomberg Collection of the New York Public Library.
We owe a special note of thanks to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for permission to reprint articles from THE CRISIS. A number of articles from OPPORTUNITY also are reproduced in this volume, and they are reprinted with permission of the National Urban League. For decades both organizations have been in the forefront of the struggle for economic equality, and without their cooperation this book would not contain a representative gathering of documents.
After six volumes it is difficult to turn a new phrase which conveys our gratitude to Lila Prieb for another virtuoso performance at the typewriter, to Susan Lewis for reading the manuscript, and to Gail Brittingham for assisting at critical moments. We can only reiterate our sincere thanks.
Ronald L. Lewis
University of Delaware
Philip S. Foner