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

A Documentary History

Compiled by Rudolph Lewis



MD Freedom Union Files Constitution

Afro-American (May 10, 1966)


            The Maryland Freedom Union (MFU) Monday filed its constitution with the National Labor Relations Board, thus making it a legally established union.

            Howard Quandry, a volunteer organizer for the MFU, said Miss Vivian Jones and Miss Ola Johnson, president and secretary of the union, went to Washington with two other organizers to file the document with the NLRB's Labor Disclosure Division.

            Mr. Quandry said Monday was the deadline for the filing of the constitution which must be done 90 days after a union is first organized.

            If no constitution is filed before the deadline, "union officers are subject to a year in jail and a heavy fine."

            Mr. Quandry said the union had discussed its constitution with NLRB officials previously and had expanded it after being informed of various points which such constitutions are required to cover.

            The MFU was founded early in February when workers went out on strike at two West Baltimore nursing homes. Since then the union has begun to organize workers in small retail and service establishments in the inner-city and won a recognition agreement from Silverman's Department Store chain.

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New Group 'Now a Union':

Freedom Unit Files With Labor Department

Baltimore Afro-American, May 10, 1966


            The infant Maryland Freedom Union yesterday filed a copy of its constitution with the Bureau of Labor Management of the United states Department of Labor in a move to gain recognition as a legitimate labor organization.

            "We are a union now, not just a group," said Howard Qunder, a field representative of the Congress of Racial Equality. He is one of the several C.O.R.E. workers--in town for the summer project--who are also assisting the Freedom Labor Union.

            The filing of the union's constitution is a requirement of the Labor Management Disclosure and reporting Act of 1959.

            1st Victory Won. Filing of the constitution came after the Freedom Labor Union won its first victory last week, when it gained a recognition agreement as the bargaining agent with Silverman's department Stores. C.O.R.E. had organized a boycott of the stores for two days before the agreement.

            John V. Moran, assistant director for compliance operations in the Office of Labor Management said yesterday that if "the Maryland Freedom Union says they're a union, we'll take their word for it."

            "You don't have to be very big or very formal to be a labor organization," he said.

            Strikes Unsuccessful. The Maryland Freedom Union got off to an unpromising start in Baltimore three months ago, when it organized two unsuccessful nursing home strikes.

            Since then, the union's staff has been beefed up by C.O.R.E. field workers and has shifted its target to the smaller, non-union retail stores.

            "It's much easier to boycott a retail store than a nursing home," said Michael Flug, another C.O.R.E. field worker.

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Retail Clerks International Association, AFL-CIO

305 W. Monument St.

Baltimore 1, Maryland

Mr. Oliver Singleton


AFL-CIO, Region No. 4

305 W. Monument Street

Baltimore, Maryland 1


Dear Brother Singleton:

            As you are aware, the Freedom Union has allegedly organized a retail food store on Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore.

            Specifically, I wish to know the policy of the Civil Rights Department in regards to this action. Based on information that this group is apparently trying to organize in the retail field, I field it is imperative that we have a decision as rapidly as possible.

            With kindest regards, I am

Fraternally yours,

Alvin Akman

Secretary Treasurer

posted 24 July 2008

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Roy Wilkins and Spiro Agnew in Annapolis  /  Agnew Speaks to Black Baltimore Leaders 1968

The End of Black Rage? Class and Delusion in Black America (Jared Ball)

The Black Generation Gap (Ellis Cose)  / Walter Hall Lively   Forty Years of Determined Struggle 

Putting Baltimore's People First  Dominance of Johns Hopkins   A Brief Economic History of Modern Baltimore

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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.  . . .—WashingtonPost

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What This Cruel War Was Over

Soldiers Slavery and the Civil War

By Chandra Manning

For this impressively researched Civil War social history, Georgetown assistant history professor Manning visited more than two dozen states to comb though archives and libraries for primary source material, mostly diaries and letters of men who fought on both sides in the Civil War, along with more than 100 regimental newspapers. The result is an engagingly written, convincingly argued social history with a point—that those who did the fighting in the Union and Confederate armies "plainly identified slavery as the root of the Civil War." Manning backs up her contention with hundreds of first-person testimonies written at the time, rather than often-unreliable after-the-fact memoirs. While most Civil War narratives lean heavily on officers, Easterners and men who fought in Virginia, Manning casts a much broader net. She includes immigrants, African-Americans and western fighters, in order, she says, "to approximate cross sections of the actual Union and Confederate ranks." —Publishers Weekly

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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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update 3 May 2012




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