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BLACKS, UNIONS, & ORGANIZING in the South (1956-1996):

A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY

Compiled by Rudolph Lewis

 

 

THE CICERO SCOTT CASE

 

 

 

International Molders and Foundry Workers Union

of North America, AFL

1225 East McMillan Street

Cincinnati 6, Ohio

June 19, 1956

 

Mr. John W. Livingston, Director of Organization

American Federation of Labor

& Congress of Industrial Organizations

815 Sixteenth St., N.W.

Washington 6, D.C.

 

Dear Sir and Brother:

            I am writing you in regard to Organizer Cicero Scott who is now working in Cleveland, Ohio. Some time ago I made a request for Brother Scott to be assigned to the Cleveland area as it was most difficult and I thought that Brother Scott could be of great assistance to our membership in that area.

            Now comes several protests in regard to Brother Scott's activities around Cleveland and it seems that he has created considerable dissension among some of our members in our local unions there and the officers there have requested that I write you and ask that Brother Scott be assigned to some other locality. I do not like it, but when officers cannot get along together, then they ought to be separated. There is no question or reason for this; Brother Scott became a member of one of the local unions in Cleveland in our organization, and then was elected as its President; then he was elected as a delegate to our convention and considerable trouble has developed since that time.

            I believe it would be better for Brother Scott and for organizing purposes especially, if he would get away from the idea of being a delegate to the convention and no doubt you know how these things develop trouble in local unions. As a general rule, I do not pay much attention to these protests, but Brother Scott has worked in the interests of our organization in a number of localities and I believe he can do a lot of good for our organization, or any other organization, in some other locality, and that is the reason I say I believe it would be to his interest if he would be transferred to some other locality.

            I would appreciate it if you would give this request some consideration.

With best wishes, I remain

Fraternally yours,

Chester A. Sample

 *   *   *   *   *

 June 26, 1956

Mr. Chester A. Sample, President

International Molders and Foundry Workers

Union of North America, AFL-CIO

1225 East McMillon Street

Cincinnati 6, Ohio

 

Dear Brother Sample:

            This will acknowledge your letter of June 19. Please be advised that I have discussed the matter on two occasions with our Regional Director Gallagher who advises me that Organizer Scott is resigning as a local union president since it is not in line with policy of this department for our staff members to serve in such offices of subordinate bodies.

            With respect to the other matter raised in your letter, I would suggest that a meeting between you and regional Director Gallagher be held in order to discuss fully all of the facts in this situation. I am quite confident that there are several phases in this matter of which you are not fully aware. It might also be helpful for you to discuss this matter in more detail with your representative in Cleveland.

            I am sure that you concur in my desire to approach this problem in such a matter as to bring about the most helpful solution to you and your organization as well as to our staff and the individuals involved. The regional office is not far from your headquarters and I am sure that your efforts in this matter will be worth while.

Sincerely and fraternally,   

John W. Livingston

Director of Organization

*  *  *   *   *

Labor Leaders Support Loeb

Cleveland Call and Post

(Saturday, September 22, 1956)

            Cleveland's Negro labor leaders took an unprecedented step last Thursday night. They threw aside all partisan considerations and inter-union rivalries to united solidly behind a Negro candidate, Charles H. Loeb, a candidate for Congress from the 21st District. Loeb is a Republican.

            The meeting, in Majestic Hotel, was called by a steering committee composed of the city's top-ranking labor leaders from industrial unions in the CIO and AFL. It ended in the formal organization of the Non-Partisan Labor Committee, Loeb for Congress.

            Frank Evans, who as international executive board member of the Allied Industrial Workers, AFL-CIO holds the highest elective position of any Negro labor leader in the Cleveland area, sounded the keynote in a letter accepting the co-chairmanship of the new movement.

            Said Evans:

            "Personally, I look upon Mr. Loeb's candidacy as the finest opportunity in the past quarter-century to win Negro representation for the workers of Ohio--a chance we have muffed for too many years."

            "Never was there a more critical need for a militant, dedicated, articulate Negro to raise his voice in the Congress to secure both civil rights and labor rights for the nation's working people.

            "This need compels every real spokesman of labor to wish Mr. Loeb well in his campaign and to work earnestly and diligently in his behalf."

            Charles Chavers, president of the 10,000-member Ford Local 1250, UAW, AFL-CIO, who accepted the chairmanship, echoed by Evans by stating:

            "The 21st District is the brightest spot in the nation for securing Negro representation in Congress through united action of the working people."

            "It represents, to the Negro worker particularly, a golden opportunity to elect a real champion of human rights."

            "We in labor, of various political affiliations, take the position that the day has come when the Negro people -- both in and out of the labor movement -- must make their own decisions on the candidates to be supported in areas where they are the majority of the population. The majority of the registered voters in the 21st Congressional District are Negroes."

            Others voting pledges of support included: Cicero Scott, General Organizer on the AFL-CIO; treasurer of the committee; Clifford Watkins, Shop Committeeman in the Fisher-Euclid Local 1045, UAW, CIO-AFL, who is committee secretary.

            Wilbur Gratten, secretary of Local 1250; Floyd Blackwell of Local 1250; Henry A Crawford, Local 422, International Union of Teamsters; Murray Walker, Local 1005,

UAW; Admiral Kilpatrick Foundry Workers; Sebe Young, Local 1045; Ronald Grier, Culinary Workers; Frank Sykes, committeeman, Local 45, UAW; and Rev. C.S. Steele, AFL.

            The Group's endorsement had added significance because its members made it independent of the majority of the local labor organizations.

            Loeb appeared before the group and presented his platform in behalf of organized labor which won unanimous acceptance. In a strategy meeting set for Wednesday at &:15, the group expects an additional 50 trade unionists to meet with them in the Hotel Majestic Rose room to receive campaign literature and shop and area assignments.

            Copies of Loeb's strong labor platform and the commitee's hard-hitting statement of reasons for its unprecedented action will also be made available to those attending.

 *   *   *   *   *

Union Bosses Slip Loeb Supporter Out:

Scott Sent to Siberia

 Cleveland Call and Post

(Saturday, October 13, 1956)

            "Cicero is being sent to Siberia."

            This is labor union lingo meaning that Cicero Scott, general Organizer of the AFL-CIO staff in Cleveland, is being transferred to Cincinnati by his superiors.

            The action followed swiftly on the heels of the announcement that Scott, one of the top Negro labor union officials in Cleveland, had openly urged fellow unionists to support the candidacy of a Negro, Charles H. Loeb, for Congress in the 21st District.

            Scott's superiors are supporting the candidacy of Loeb's opponent, incumbent Charles Vanik, a Democrat. Simultaneous with their action to get Scott out of the city to prevent his active campaigning for Loeb, the pro-Vanik unionists called upon their followers to "redouble our efforts to elect Vanik."

            Scott broke the news to some 50 members of the Non-Partisan Labor Committee, Loeb for Congress, last Wednesday in Hotel Majestic Rose room, during an organization meeting of the committee.

            At that time Scott told his fellow unionist:

            "My support of Mr. Loeb was taken fully realizing that my endorsement might conflict with the official position of my union. I took it as an individual, and that is the right of each of you under the constitution of both your local and national unions.

            "I want to point out that my superiors have the right to transfer me at their discretion. Thus I have no choice, within the framework of union organization, but to obey the transfer order.

            "Nevertheless, I do not wince one inch from my firm belief that Negro unionists in the 21st District must remain united and work with greater zeal to accomplish Negro representation in the Congress through the candidacy of Charles H. Loeb.

            "Our non-partisan support of Charles H. Loeb for Congress grows out of the need of the Negro and the working class character of the people who make up the district in which he is a candidate. I am convinced that the election of Charles H. Loeb is best for both the Negro people and for organized labor."

            After lauding the courage of Scott, members of the committee pledged to recruit "a dozen more" workers to make up for his absence from Cleveland during the campaign, and 14 members of the committee volunteered, on the spot, to assume "minute men" status for the duration of the campaign.

            "Minute Men," Committee Chairman Charles Chavers explained, agreed to put themselves at the instant disposal of the committee, ready to carry out campaign assignments on a minute's notice, during any hour outside their regular working schedule in the plants in which they are employed.

            Informed of the abrupt transfer of a key officer of his Labor Committee, Loeb said:

            "This action was not altogether unexpected. Somebody in the Vanik camp apparently is getting a case of the jitters. Perhaps, in getting Cicero Scott out of the contest, they may derive some temporary satisfaction, but I am confident that this dictatorial act will serve only to intensify the activity of the committee during the campaign.

            "Scott's display of manhood and courage may be just the thing needed to throw the entire committee's activity into high gear and sustain it at that pitch until victory is realized on November 6."

*   *   *   *   *

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*   *   *   *   *

Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

*   *   *   *   *

Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson, III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson's stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who've accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela's rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela's regime deems Wilderson's public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America. Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness. Wilderson's observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid's last days.Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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