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


Compiled by Rudolph Lewis



Textile Workers Union  & Thuggery in the South




Textile Workers Union of America -- AFL-CIO

99 University Place

New York 3, N.Y.

Office of the Exec. Vice-President

March 14, 1956

The Honorable Herbert Brownwell, Jr.

Attorney General

Department of Justice Washington 25, D.C.

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

Within the past hour I have been informed by Mr. Boyd Payton, Southern Director of the Textile Workers Union of America, telephoning from Gaffney, South Carolina, giving the bare facts of a flagrant violation of civil rights involving brutal assaults with possible serious injuries upon four representatives of this union. we especially invite your attention to the fact that the sheriff of Cherokee County was apparently a party to the unprovoked attack and is now threatening to illegally arrest the victims of the beating.

The four representatives of our union were quietly on a public thoroughfare across from the Limestone Mill of the Lowenstein Manufacturing Company when nine men rushed from inside the plant gates and knocked our men to the ground and kicked them while they lay prostrate in the street. Harry Robertson and Hamilton Martin are badly bruised and cut up; martin's nose appears to be broken.

About three months ago the workers at Limestone first asked our assistance in forming a union. Harry Robertson of our union visited Gaffney to talk with these people who had written us. At this time Robertson was accosted on the street by a group of men who said they were from the plant and threatened to run Robertson out of town. Because of this previous incident, Payton called the sheriff of Cherokee, a Mr. Julian Wright, informing him that a literature distribution was planned for today and asking for protection. The sheriff flatly refused to function as a police officer and threatened our organizers with charges of inciting to riot even before they had come near Gaffney. This afternoon, after the beating occurred, Mr. Payton called the sheriff and requested that those guilty of the attack be apprehended. Instead, the sheriff ordered the union representatives to leave Cherokee County or face arrest and prosecution.

The men from the mill who committed the assault must have known of the time of arrival of our representatives because they were waiting inside the plant gates when the four organizers parked across the street. Obviously, someone must have informed the company in advance. The sheriff was the only person who knew when the union men would be in Gaffney.

We urge and insist you take action to halt such flagrant brutality and the employment of tax supported local officials as storm troopers.

Sincerely yours,

William Pollock

Executive Vice-President

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March 16, 1956

The Honorable Herbert Brownell, Jr.

Attorney General

Department of Justice

Washington 25, D.C.

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

Late on Wednesday afternoon (March 14) Mr. William Pollock, Executive Vice-President of the Textile Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, sent you a telegram requesting immediate investigation of a palpable violation of civil rights at Gaffney, South Carolina, involving attacks on organizers representing this union.

I am now informed that the Department of Justice does not acknowledge telegrams in such areas but insists upon a formal letter before considering the matter. We have, there fore, recast our information of the 14th. Please find herewith letter from Mr. Pollock

In this communication we are including supplementary information bearing on this case which was obtained within the past few hours.

The Textile Workers Union of America can furnish the names of all nine roughnecks who did the slugging in front of the Limestone Mill in Gaffney on Wednesday afternoon. At least one of those nine was hired on Tuesday afternoon, evidently as part of this "goon" squad. This character has a police record in town fo assaults, non-support and other such miscellaneous offenses, and appears on the company payroll from time to time when union organizers are expected in the community.

The beating of the organizers was instigated and planned in the mill on Tuesday evening. At least one of the nine rowdies went from department to department attempting to recruit additional volunteers to take part in Wednesday's violence.

It is perfectly clear that the sheriff must have informed the company that the textile Workers Union of America would distribute organizing leaflets at the plant on Wednesday; the union had officially notified Sheriff Wright; no one else in Gaffney knew just when the distribution was scheduled.

One interesting additional fact we were not aware of when we sent you our original account of the Gaffney affair was that the Organizer Harry Robertson was actually beaten up not once, but twice. After Robertson had picked himself up out of the gutter, following the initial attack, he went to a nearby garage to 'phone the sheriff. As Robertson walked across the garage parking lot after telephoning, he was knocked down and kicked by the ring leader of the mob. Mrs. Ray Norris, wife of one of the organizers was sitting in her car right where this slugging took place. She screamed for help. The assailant, Albert Moore, desisted from his beating of Robertson and reviled Mrs. Norris. Meanwhile, Robertson got to his feet and walked away.

We have additional information demonstrating that the sheriff of Cherokee (Julian Wright) was a party to this thuggery. An investigation on the spot would, we insists fully substantiate these allegations.

We invite your immediate attention to this matter.

Very truly yours

John W. Edelman

Washington Representative

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Debt: The First 5,000 Years

By David Graeber

Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.  Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.   Economist Glenn Loury  /Criminalizing a Race

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The White Masters of the World

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

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Ancient African Nations

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

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