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Blacks, Unions, & Organizing in the South, 1956-1996

A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY

Compiled by Rudolph Lewis

 

 

LETTER TO THE CIVIL RIGHTS DEPARTMENT

Boris Shiskin &  H.L. Mitchell

 

National Agricultural Workers Union

2140 P Street, N.W.

Washington 7, D.C.

Birmingham, Ala.

March 7, 1956

Mr. John Livingston, Director of Organization

AFL-CIO

901 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.

Washington 1, D.C.

Dear Jack:

Enclosed is a copy of a letter I have sent to Boris Shiskin concerning the infiltration of trade union by the White Citizens Councils. Paul Christopher whom I saw on my way down here, told me you were quite concerned about this matter. I am to see Lew Rhodes in Atlanta before returning to Washington. He too is quite concerned with the rapid developments, especially here in Alabama.

I shall be in Washington the first of next week and hope I can see you.

Fraternally yours,

H. L. Mitchell

President

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Birmingham, Ala.

March 7, 1956

Mr. Boris Shiskin, Director

AFL-CIO Civil Rights Committee

901 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.

Washington 1, D.C.

 

Dear Boris:

As you can see by the newspaper clippings, President Meany has become one of the figures in the controversy here in Alabama as a result of the statements made in Miami about the White Citizens Councils. It is unfortunate that his office did not accept the registered letter sent by 200 members in Bessemer.

There is substantial disaffection among all of the trade unions both here in Birmingham and in Montgomery and it is being exploited to the fullest extent by the leaders of the White Citizens Council movement. I am also told that this extends throughout the state and is beginning in other areas. So far, I have not found conclusive evidence of an independent union movement actually being organized, but there is talk of such being done. For instance, Dial Murphy, Southern Director of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers told me of a local union composed of 1,200 workers employed in several plants in Montgomery, whose officers advised him that all of the members were withdrawing from the union. With the greatest difficulty he persuaded the officers to retain their posts. How long they will continue in office with their membership pulling out, is a question. There are no lines of communication between the white and Negro workers. Men working side by side on the job no longer even talk to each other.

In Unions which have no Negro members--telephone workers, railway, printing and others--there is also talk of getting out of the national and international unions and establishing a southern federation of labor based on segregation.

So far, I have not found out what the situation is in the United Steel Workers which appear to be the center of activity of the White Citizens Councils. The entire staff of the Steel Workers Union is in Chicago this week, attending the wage policy committee meeting. The State Federation people are away on trips too.

I have been in touch with J.L. Rhodes, AFL-CIO Regional Director, who was out of his office for a week or so due to illness and a death in his family. Lew told me he is quite worried about what is going on here and elsewhere. I am to see him in Atlanta tomorrow.

Here is what I think should be done, and the reason for this letter. This situation should be called to the attention of President Meany and Organization Director Livingston immediately. They should alert the AFL-CIO regional directors and their staff and the presidents of the national and international unions whose members are involved. Staff organizers or officials who know the union leaders personally should come into Alabama, meet together and agree on a procedure. They should then contact or call together local union officers where this disaffection exists and put on a campaign to hold the loyalty of the local union officers and secondly, conduct mass meetings of the membership wherever that is possible. They should approach this matter on the basis that the WCC leadership is anti-labor and is using the trade unions to further their own political ambitions. The integration issue will have to be handled very carefully.

The next thing is to get approval of the project we worked out for a long range research and educational program on the civil rights issue. It should be recognized that what we have in the southern labor movement is a mass of uneducated workers who are willing to pay dues to the unions in return for the high wages they receive. The vast majority of them are from rural areas and they do not understand the first principles of trade unionism.

I shall return to Washington the end of this week, but let me urge that this matter be called to the attention of the officers of AFL-CIO immediately.

Sincerely and fraternally,

H.L. Mitchell

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

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Malcolm X

A Life of Reinvention

By Manning Marable

Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.

Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties.

Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story

of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer

American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility.

Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest. We’re all better off when we’re all better off. The model of citizenship depends on contagious behavior, hence positive behavior begets positive behavior

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Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change

By John Lewis

The Civil Rights Movement gave rise to the protest culture we know today, and the experiences of leaders like Congressman Lewis have never been more relevant. Now, more than ever, this nation needs a strong and moral voice to guide an engaged population through visionary change. Congressman John Lewis was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played a key role in the struggle to end segregation. Despite more than forty arrests, physical attacks, and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. He is the author of his autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of a Movement, and is the recipient of numerous awards from national and international institutions, including the Lincoln Medal; the John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage” Lifetime Achievement Award (the only one of its kind ever awarded); the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, among many others.

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So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America

By Peter Edelman

If the nation’s gross national income—over $14 trillion—were divided evenly across the entire U.S. population, every household could call itself middle class. Yet the income-level disparity in this country is now wider than at any point since the Great Depression. In 2010 the average salary for CEOs on the S&P 500 was over $1 million—climbing to over $11 million when all forms of compensation are accounted for—while the current median household income for African Americans is just over $32,000. How can some be so rich, while others are so poor? In this provocative book, Peter Edelman, a former top aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a lifelong antipoverty advocate, offers an informed analysis of how this country can be so wealthy yet have a steadily growing number of unemployed and working poor. According to Edelman, we have taken important positive steps without which 25 to 30 million more people would be poor, but poverty fluctuates with the business cycle.

The structure of today’s economy has stultified wage growth for half of America’s workers—with even worse results at the bottom and for people of color—while bestowing billions on those at the top. So Rich, So Poor delves into what is happening to the people behind the statistics and takes a particular look at the continuing crisis of young people of color, whose possibility of a productive life too often is lost on their way to adulthood.DemocracyNow 

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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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Negro Digest / Black World

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

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 24 July 2008 

 

 

 

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