This is the seventh volume of THE BLACK WORKER: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY FROM COLONIAL TIMES TO THE PRESENT, a series which 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 in historical context by introductions and notes. Original spellings have been retained except where they obscure the intended meaning.
Volume 7 begins with the relations between the Congress of Industrial Organizations and black workers. In contrast to the American Federation of Labor, which continued its refusal to attack the color bar erected by union affiliates, the CIO offered blacks an opportunity to make real strides toward equality in the labor market. Led by John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers of America, one of the historically interracial unions, the CIO organized America’s basic industries by actively recruiting black workers with a corps of black organizers. Since Negroes played a prominent role in the organization of steel, auto, tobacco, transit, and other industries, Afro-American leaders and their organizations came to view the industrial organization as “Citizen CIO,” and such organizations as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Urban League were won over to the movement. Support also came from leftist black organizations such as the National Negro Congress and the National Negro Labor Council. During World War II, the federal government gave further impetus to the fight against job discrimination by establishing the Fair Employment Practices Committee to monitor hiring practices.
The editors wish to express their appreciation to those who have assisted in the compilation of these documents. In particular, we thank the staffs of the following institutions: American Federation of Labor Archives; Birmingham Public Library Archives; Chicago Historical Society; Franklin D. Roosevelt Papers, Hyde Park, New York; Fur and Leather Workers’ Union Archives; Library of Congress; Lincoln University Library, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania; National Archives; Paul Robeson Archives, German Democratic Republic; Schomburg Collection of the New York Public Library; Tamiment Institute; University of Delaware Library; U.S. Department of Labor Library; Walter Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University. Also, we are grateful to Stephen Brier and to Daniel Leab for permission to reproduce a document from LABOR HISTORY, and to H. L. Mitchell of the Historic Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union, Montgomery, Alabama, for permission to reproduce materials from the STFU Papers and for his informative comments on those documents.
We owe a special note of appreciation 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 appear 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.
There is no adequate phrase which conveys our gratitude to Lila Prieb for her long labors at the typewriter, to Susan Lewis for copyediting the manuscript, and to Gail Brittingham for her crucial assistance. We can only reiterate our sincere appreciation. Finally, we gratefully acknowledge the material assistance granted to this project by the Black American Studies Program, and the College of Arts and Science at the University of Delaware.
Philip S. Foner
Ronald L. Lewis
University of Delaware