Primary Source Set

Anti-CIO political poster from Eastman, Georgia, circa 1946.
Anti-CIO political poster from Eastman, Georgia, circa 1946.
Employers often used anti-Semitic and racist propaganda to persuade their prejudiced white employees to reject union organizers. This poster, targeting workers of a Georgian textile mill, emphasizes George Baldanzi of the CIO and “a man called SMITH” as un-Southern outsiders.
Operation Dixie [L1987-38], 1987 [page 4]
An excerpt from a memoir manuscript by George Johnston describing his work as union organizer in Georgia during Operation Dixie.
During the 1940s, the Congress of Industrial Organizations sent organizers into the South to persuade workers to unionize in a drive called Operation Dixie. The workers, Black and white, were often poor and lived in segregated communities, sometimes in homes owned by their employers and policed by employer-paid security.
Operation Dixie [L1987-38], 1987 [page 5]
Operation Dixie [L1987-38], 1987 [page 6]
Operation Dixie [L1987-38], 1987 [page 7]
Operation Dixie [L1987-38], 1987 [page 8]
White Citizen's Councils (2 of 3) [page 27]
A 1956 letter from union organizer Jack Gager to AFL-CIO President Meany describing the challenge of organizing Southern white workers in the wake of the AFL-CIO's public pro-integration stance.
Integration was such a contentious issue in the Jim Crow South that union organizers, such as the author of this 1956 letter written to the President of the AFL-CIO, found themselves having to work against the AFL-CIO’s official policy of desegregation. Jack Gager, an organizer in Mississippi, writes that when leaders of the labor movement publicize their intent to integrate all unions, it becomes nearly impossible to convince un-organized white workers to join.
White Citizen's Councils (2 of 3) [page 28]
White Citizen's Councils (2 of 3) [page 29]
White Citizen's Councils (2 of 3) [page 62]
A February 1956 letter from Robert Payne, a Southern unionist, to George Meany after Meany's speech condemning White Citizens Councils.
White citizens councils (WCCs) were groups made up of white working men that became widespread throughout the South in reaction to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which overturned legal segregation in public schools. WCCs intimidated Black communities, disrupted integrated labor drives, and boycotted local businesses. In 1955, AFL-CIO President George Meany and the Executive Council published language calling WCCs the “Ku Klux Klan without hoods.” In response, angry Southerners wrote to Meany directly, threatening to leave their unions before they would ever leave their councils.
Jewish Labor Committee Survey of Southern States on Labor Union Integration: Georgia (1 of 2) [page 29]
The surveyor's notes after speaking to white segregationist workers in an Atlanta local about “racial matters.”
Following Brown v. Board, the Jewish Labor Committee sent surveyors down South to interview union workers and administrators and find out their attitudes towards integration. Some Southern unions were already integrated, while others claimed they weren't officially segregated but simply had no Black members. The surveyor of Local #3204 in Atlanta notes that “[m]any WCC members are also loyal union members” and describes both white members’ and the company’s policies designed to keep out Black and Jewish workers.
Jewish Labor Committee Survey of Southern States on Labor Union Integration: Georgia (1 of 2) [page 30]
School Desegregation: Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957 [page 61]
An October 1957 fundraising letter from the National Urban League following its forced withdrawal from the Little Rock community chest.
The National Urban League advocated for educational and employment opportunities for Black Americans and had a local branch in the Pulaski County Community Chest of Little Rock, Arkansas. In the fall of 1957, white segregationists in Little Rock responded to the integration of nine Black students into a formally all-white high school with a “hate campaign” against the Urban League. Flyers and letters threatened an organized boycott against any businesses that contributed funds to the Chest as long as the Urban League was a member. The League voluntarily withdrew and sent out this letter for contributions to its emergency fund.
Charleston Hospital Strike, printed materials, 1969 [page 12]
Two New York Times articles comparing the tense Charleston hospital workers strike to the sanitation strike in which Dr. King was murdered.
In March 1969, hundreds of Black hospital workers in Charleston, South Carolina, went on strike. They wanted union recognition from the administration, which meant they could collectively bargain with the hospital for fair wages and advocate against racial discrimination. The administration refused to negotiate. As the strike wore on, national newspapers compared the rising tension among the workers, employers, police, and community to the 1968 sanitation strike in Memphis during which Dr. King was murdered.
Charleston Hospital Strike, printed materials, 1969 [page 28]
A photograph of Coretta Scott King in an edition of Local 1199 Drug and Hospital News published during the Charleston Hospital Strike, April 1969.
Strikes, marches, and boycotts were crucial tools of both organized labor and civil rights. In the years following her husband's murder, Coretta Scott King often invoked his name to support demonstrations, like the Charleston hospital strike, for civil and economic rights.
Correspondence: Edward Thomas Kehrer, 1968-1971 [page 4]
The program for a December 16, 1971, mass rally held in support of the striking Derst employees.
By December of 1971, Local 100 of the Baking and Confectionery Workers International Union had been on strike at the Derst Baking Company for eight months. The Savannah company had refused to increase its employees’ wages, even though that was a requirement won by a previous union contract. As the strike continued, civil rights and labor leaders joined in support of the workers and held rallies, like the one this program advertises, to encourage religious leaders and civilians to support the strike and boycott Derst products.
Correspondence: Edward Thomas Kehrer, 1968-1971 [page 5]
Porters, Sleeping Car, Little Rock, AR, 66E-111 [page 6]
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's findings of a discrimination complaint made against the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company.
In 1965, the federal government established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an agency that could investigate discrimination and enforce civil rights laws in the workplace. The commission finally gave employees a system to file complaints against their employers without fearing they might be fired. This 1966 report concludes an EEOC investigation into a complaint against the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company alleging that the Company classified Black workers differently than white workers to get away with paying them less for “equivalent and interchangeable” labor.
Porters, Sleeping Car, Little Rock, AR, 66E-111 [page 7]
Porters, Sleeping Car, Little Rock, AR, 66E-111 [page 9]
Porters, Sleeping Car, Little Rock, AR, 66E-111 [page 8]
AFL-CIO Compliance Docket Forms, 62-50 to 67-41 [page 21]
A chart of discrimination complaints filed against various unions through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Unionized workers could file discrimination complaints with the EEOC against their unions as well as their employers. Black employees represented by white union management, especially in the South, often found that their union would not support grievances against their employers without EEOC backing. Employers or unions would be fined if they were found in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change, correspondence and printed materials, 1976 [page 43]
The January 1976 edition of the National Committee for Full Employment newsletter quoting Mrs. King on the eve of the Full Employment March.
In honor of his birthday, every January the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center held conferences and celebrations so the public could gather and hear civil rights leaders speak. The theme of 1976 was full employment, an economic ideal where everyone willing and able to work could find a job. Alongside civil rights and organized labor groups such as the NAACP, National Urban League, and United Auto Workers, Coretta Scott King planned a march through Atlanta in support of working class Americans' economic rights. Years of rampant inflation had weakened incomes and raised the cost of living, and African American families were often hit the hardest
Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change, correspondence and printed materials, 1976 [page 46]
William Pollard [Executive Director], correspondence, 1978 [page 58]
Report from Ben Bozeman, a white union organizer, on his experience recruiting workers in segregated and anti-union Allendale, S.C. [contains harmful language]
The everyday South remained heavily segregationist even after the victories of the Civil Rights Movement. Labor organizers still struggled to unionize Southern workers: white employees were prejudiced against Communism and integration, and Black employees knew they could be punished for showing interest. In April of 1978, a white AFL-CIO organizer named Ben Bozeman was punched by a white assailant while gathering potential yes-votes in the mill town of Allendale, South Carolina. The majority of white Allendale was anti-union, and about half of the Allendale plant workers were Black pro-unionists. In his report on his experience, Bozeman writes, “Many workers, whites in particular, are too busy hating each other to take time to hate working conditions.”
William Pollard [Executive Director], correspondence, 1978 [page 59]
[contains harmful language]
William Pollard [Executive Director], correspondence, 1978 [page 60]
[contains harmful language]
William Pollard [Executive Director], correspondence, 1978 [page 61]
[contains harmful language]