Throughout the twentieth century, organized labor and civil rights organizations fought for the advancement of working-class Americans. These social movements frequently combined strategies, such as strikes, marches, and boycotts, to bring about progressive change. But the opportunistic racism of politicians and employers throughout the anti-union South continually sabotaged their efforts. Activists found it nearly impossible to organize within poor white working communities, where employers incited white workers to abuse Black co-workers rather than protest their own working conditions. As a result, despite grassroots and large-scale efforts, much of the South remained segregated and nonunionized. This exhibit explores the intersection of civil rights and organized labor in the American South through the lens of AFL-CIO, which was formed after the organization’s merger in 1955 to enforce its new non-discrimination policy. The exhibit is made possible by the Council on Library and Information Resources’ Hidden Collections Grant and displays material from Georgia State University, the University of Maryland, and other Digital Library of Georgia collections. By examining the department’s conflicts and struggles over the twentieth century, this project hopes to shed light on an unsung, indispensable force in American history.

Exhibit and teacher resources by Meg Fancher.

This project was supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from the Mellon Foundation.