The Pre-Civil Rights Era: 1920-1955
Photograph of a group of United Packinghouse Workers of America strikers. At the front of the group is a woman holding a sign that reads, "CIO UPWA Jones-Chambliss Employes [sic] on Strike Unfair to Organized Labor = 40 cents per hour."
Courtesy of the Southern Labor Archives, Georgia State University, United Packinghouse, Food and Allied Workers records.
1945 photograph of four members of United Automobile Workers Local 988 in Memphis, Tennessee, posing with back pay checks from Fisher Aircraft Company. The total amount of money given to the workers in the company was 4.5 million dollars.
Courtesy of Georgia State University, United Automobile Workers Records.
Photograph of three women singing into a microphone while a man behind him plays guitar. These women were performing for other United Gas, Coke, and Chemical Workers of America Local 281 strikers currently meeting in tents outside Patent Button Company.
Courtesy of the Southern Labor Archives, Georgia State University, AFL-CIO Region 8 records.
In its early stages the American Federation of Labor (AFL) admitted both unions that included Black workers and unions that completely excluded them. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, AFL leadership focused on maintaining relationships with white politicians and organizing white-majority craft unions, and so declined to enforce any stand on unions hiring Black, female, or unskilled workers. As a result, some 1.4 million Black workers remained unorganized. In contrast, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was made up of unions that had split from the AFL and specifically organized so-called unskilled laborers, many of whom were Black. It would take Black union leadership itself, beginning in the 1920s with A. Philip Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), and the rise of nationally-recognized civil rights organizations to reduce racism within the labor movement.