Black Workers Remember: An Oral History of Segregation, Unionism, and the Freedom Struggle

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University of California Press, Jan 3, 2000 - History - 423 pages
The labor of black workers has been crucial to economic development in the United States. Yet because of racism and segregation, their contribution remains largely unknown. Spanning the 1930s to the present, Black Workers Remember tells the hidden history of African American workers in their own words. It provides striking firsthand accounts of the experiences of black southerners living under segregation in Memphis, Tennessee. Eloquent and personal, these oral histories comprise a unique primary source and provide a new way of understanding the black labor experience during the industrial era. Together, the stories demonstrate how black workers resisted racial apartheid in American industry and underscore the active role of black working people in history.

The individual stories are arranged thematically in chapters on labor organizing, Jim Crow in the workplace, police brutality, white union racism, and civil rights struggles. Taken together, the stories ask us to rethink the conventional understanding of the civil rights movement as one led by young people and preachers in the 1950s and 1960s. Instead, we see the freedom struggle as the product of generations of people, including workers who organized unions, resisted Jim Crow at work, and built up their families, churches, and communities. The collection also reveals the devastating impact that a globalizing capitalist economy has had on black communities and the importance of organizing the labor movement as an antidote to poverty. Michael Honey gathered these oral histories for more than fifteen years. He weaves them together here into a rich collection reflecting many tragic dimensions of America's racial history while drawing new attention to the role of workers and poor people in African American and American history.
 

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Contents

Segregation Racial Violence and Black Worders
15
Fannie Henderson Witnesses Southern Lynch Law
20
William Glover Recounts His Frameup by the Memphis Police
23
Longshore Leader Thomas Watkins Escapes Assassination
29
From Country to City Jim Crow at Work
43
Hillie and Laura Pride Move to Memphis
49
Matthew Davis Describes Heavy Industrial Work
54
George Holloway Remembers the Crump Era
59
Leroy Boyd Battles White Supremacy in the Era of the Red Scare
194
Arts of Resistance
213
Civil Rights Unionism
237
Leroy Boyd Tells How Black Workers Used the Movement for Civil Rights to Revive Local 19
241
Factory Worker Matthew Davis Becomes a Community Leader
247
Edward Lindsey Recalls Black Union Politics
255
Alzada and Leroy Clark Fight for Unionism and Civil Rights
261
Alzada Clark Organizes Black Women Workers in Mississippi
271

Clarence Coe Recalls the Pressures of White Supremacy
72
Making a Way Out of No Way Black Women Factory Workers
86
Irene Branch Does Double Duty as a Domestic and Factory Worker
93
Evelyn Bates Reflects on Her Lifetime of Factory Work
99
Susie Wade Tells How She Built a Life around Work
108
Rebecca McKinley Remembers the Strike at Memphis Furniture Company
114
Not What We Seem
123
Freedom Struggles at the Point of Production
132
Clarence Coe Fights for Equality
136
Lonnie Roland and other Black Workers Implement the Brown Decision on the Factory Floor
150
George Holloways Struggle against White Worker Racism
154
Organizing and Surviving in the Cold War
177
Leroy Clark Follows the Pragmatic Road to Survival in the Jim Crow South
183
I Am a Man Unionism and the Black Working Poor
286
Taylor Rogers Relives the Memphis Sanitation Strike
293
James Robinson Describes the Worst Job He Ever Had
302
Leroy Boyd and Clarence Coe Recall a Strike and the Death of Martin Luther King
309
William Lucy Reflects on the Strikes Meaning and Outcome
314
The Fate of the Black Working Class The Global Economy Racism and Union Organizing
322
Confronting Deindustrialization
324
Ida Leachman Tells How Her Union Continues to Organize LowWage Workers
335
George Holloway and Clarence Coe Reflect on the Importance of Unions and the Struggle against Racism
356
Scars of Memory
369
References and Notes
375
Index
391
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About the author (2000)

Michael Keith Honey is Harry Bridges Chair of Labor Studies and Professor of African-American, Ethnic and Labor Studies, and American History at the University of Washington, Tacoma. He is the author of the prize-winning Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights: Organizing Memphis Workers (1993).

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