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

A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY

Compiled by Rudolph Lewis

 

 

 

Octave Blake Says: Unions Working

'Night and Day' To Bring End To Segregation

Central Carolinian

(Monday, July 9, 1956)

           

            Labor unions are working day and night and pouring out the money which they collect in dues to bring an end to racial segregation, Octave Blake, president of the Cornell Dubilier Electric corporation, charged in a letter which was distributed to employees of the firm's Sanford plant over the past week-end.

            The eight-page letter dated July 7 and mailed over Blake's signature contained the firm's complete ideas on the matter of unionization plus the essential facts regarding time, place and manner of voting for the representation election set July 20. The election will determine whether or not the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers will become the bargaining agent for employees at the Sanford plant.

            Commenting on the union position on segregation Blake said:

            "With respect to the Union organizers leading you into their fold, there is another matter which I want to lay before you very clearly and very frankly. All over the South today there is deep concern on the question of racial segregation versus integration. That is a matter on which each person is entitled to his or her own views. This company does not consider, and I do not consider, that it is appropriate for the Company to try to influence you one way or another on this deep and vital issue.

            "But the Unions have taken and are taking a very extreme position on this matter. When the union organizers try to lead people to believe that the Union does not take any stand one way or another on integration or segregation and that they consider the matter as on which should be handled by each community on a local basis, they are not telling you the truth as to what the Union's real position is. You are entitled to know, and you should understand the organizers are misleading you and deceiving you when they pretend that the Unions are neutral on this matter. The actual truth is that the Unions are working day and night, and pouring out the money which they collect in dues, in an effort to eliminate segregation and to bring about integration in the schools and elsewhere between the white people and the colored people as rapidly as possible.

            "In the case which was before the United States Supreme Court on the question, the CIO, now merged with the AFL in what is called the AFL-CIO, filed an official document in which it stated emphatically and positively that the Union 'supports the elimination of racial integration . . . from every phase of American Life.' Further the union urged that segregation should be ended 'forthwith' rather than by 'gradual adjustment.' The document further states that where the 'Unions have there way, there is like wise no segregation in the use of plant eating places, locker rooms, rest rooms, etc.'

            "You may not have noticed in the newspapers that the AFL-CIO at its recent convention took $75,000.00 of the dues paid to it by the people who are its members and gave this money to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is the organization aggressively working for the wiping out of all racial segregation, both in schools, manufacturing plants and elsewhere."

            Other points covered in Blake's letter included the matter of union dues as he charged that "What they (the organizers) are after is MONEY -- YOUR MONEY."

            Commenting on pay in the local plant Blake said . . . "Your pay is the best for this line of work in the entire area . . . It is our hope that this shall continue to be so. You can count on that without having to pay any union dues to accomplish it."

            He also called attention to physical facilities at the local Cornell-Dubilier plant, stating "while most people work in the sweltering heat of summer, you have the best of air conditioning. There is no other plant in our line of work in the whole country, Union plants or non-union plants--where the people have as good conditions of work as you have here. Furthermore we hope to expand here in this plant, which would provide more jobs all along for your friends, relatives and other people of the community."

            Commenting on job security, Blake said that the basis on which personnel are laid off in times of short orders and work is the same in the local plant that it is in the company's union plants.

            The Cornell-Dubilier President further said that in the company's union plants the total employment has dropped down to one-third what it used to be. He said that this was the type of job security the union gave those employees in exchange for $728,000 in union dues over the years.

            Blake in commenting on conditions at the local Cornell-Dubilier plant said, 'I do not mean to claim that everything is just as perfect as it might be here. I do not believe that things have been improved a lot and we hope to keep on  improving them. And I would like to emphasize to you before, that if there is anything you wish to call to our attention at any time, there is no reason why you should not do so and we will sincerely welcome you doing so'.

            In concluding his letter Blake said, "In light of all these considerations, I believe you will surely come to the conclusion in your own good judgment: That you stand to lose if this Union were to come in here and that you stand to gain by keeping it out!"

            Asked this (Monday) morning if he wanted to comment further on the letter Leslie A. Johnson, manger of the local Cornell-Dubilier plant said that he felt the letter covered the situation and that he had no further comment of the union organizing activities.

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Blacks Give Funds to White Strikers in Mississippi

New York Times

(October 19, 1971)

 

            Laurel, Miss.--Striking white pulpwood cutters from what was once regarded as Klan country queued up today to receive emergency relief funds from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people.

            Checks ranging from $15 to $50 were given to the woodcutters by the Rev. K.L. Buford, Alabama field secretary of the association. He came here to distribute $5,000 to the predominantly pulpwood organization that struck in September at the Masonite Corporation mill here.

            Grim-faced woodcutters, whose cause was recently taken up by Charles Evers, the Negro gubernatorial candidate, came in steady streams to receive the funds from the black men. The money is expected to be used mostly to acquire food stamps to help feed their families.

            Dr. B.E. Murff, president of the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., said, "This was not black and white. These were people who needed help."

            He said that numbers of the whites willingly joined the association, "although we didn't make them."

            Dr. Murff was a key target of the Klan. His home was shot at twice in 1965 and his automobile shot at in 1963. A cross was burned on his lawn in 1967.

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

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#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
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#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

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#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

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#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
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#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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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

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Hopes and Prospects

By Noam Chomsky

In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky surveys the dangers and prospects of our early twenty-first century. Exploring challenges such as the growing gap between North and South, American exceptionalism (including under President Barack Obama), the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza, and the recent financial bailouts, he also sees hope for the future and a way to move forward—in the democratic wave in Latin America and in the global solidarity movements that suggest "real progress toward freedom and justice."

Hopes and Prospects is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the primary challenges still facing the human race. "This is a classic Chomsky work: a bonfire of myths and lies, sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky is an enduring inspiration all over the world—to millions, I suspect—for the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him." —John Pilger

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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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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 7 April 2012

 

 

 

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