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Blacks, Unions, & Organizing in the South, 1956-1996
A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY
Compiled by Rudolph Lewis
FEW BLACKS IN CONSTRUCTION UNIONS
Maynard Jackson Backed in Construction Plan Bid
The Atlanta Constitution (Thursday, April 1, 1971)
Metro Atlanta builders and unions took a verbal pasting at a federal hearing Wednesday and Vice Mayor Maynard Jackson drew unexpected support in a try to head off a federally imposed labor integration plan. The hearings resume today. Jackson was questioned by the hearing chairman, Nathaniel Pierson, an official of U.S. Labor department, who asked if it is still possible to come up with a voluntary integration plan for the Atlanta construction industry.
“Maybe,” answered Jackson. “We should make one more try” for a “home town agreement” with a short time limit, the vice mayor answered. Jackson was one of the catalysts of a year-long attempt to get a local agreement on minority hiring and avoid the federal hearings which began Wednesday. The federal panel is gathering evidence which could result in an order to Atlanta contractors to integrate their work forces by specific percentages. The order is enforceable against any contractor who does any federally supported work. Similar orders have been issued in Washington and Philadelphia.
The Atlanta talks broke down after the so-called Black Coalition refused to negotiate further. The Labor department moved in. The Black Coalition walkout came after its leaders accused unions of refusing to be specific in the negotiations, refusing to say how many blacks each trade would hire. Jackson testified Wednesday that there are black people available to fill construction jobs in Atlanta but they “do not believe that the unions mean business and why engage in a futile act” of applying for union membership.
Either the labor movement continues as “one of America’s few recourses for the disposed,” he said, or “it will become an absurd and hypocritical caricature of meandering meaninglessness.” But the 30-day negotiations failed, Pierson said, and the Labor department imposed an order which demanded some unions become 43 per cent black by 1974.
Harry Bexley of the Atlanta electrical workers and George Peterson of the Atlanta chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association testified their groups would like to resume talks on an Atlanta plan for construction integration. Bexley’s union, with 1,206 members, includes six blacks and two Indians. Peterson said the 33 firms in his group, with 80 per cent of the union construction payroll in 43 Georgia counties, hires only members of Bexley’s union.
Harold O. Gray, the only white official of the local roofers union, testified that he would support any effort to hire more black workers. He said his union is about 98 per cent black now. [ed. note: The temperature of the kettle that melts the asphalt used for roofing must be maintained at 500 degrees to keep the asphalt melted.]
The hearings started with a series of federal official testifying on the integration of workers on federally funded projects in Metro Atlanta. The agreed:
1. About 2 per cent of the work force is black.
2. The top-pay unions send few minority workers to the jobsites, sometime none.
3. Union contractors are afraid to hire anybody not sent by the union because the union would strike.
4. Non-union contractors don’t hire any more blacks, in percentages than union contractors.
the only exception was the Federal Highway Administration which said its contractors were employing blacks at an ‘acceptable level’ except for men provided by the electrical union. Only white electricians are on the job, the road agency said.
5. When blacks are union members, they are in the low-paid crafts
especially common laborers.
There are very few Atlanta blacks in high-paying construction jobs, the federal government says. There are plenty of Atlanta blacks willing to work but the construction unions won’t let them, the state contends. We would be glad to hire more blacks, but the unions won’t send them to us and would strike if we went out and hired them, the contractors say. There are 37 black men in the five top-paying construction trade unions in Atlanta. The same unions have 3,993 white members. This although one-third of metro Atlanta citizens are blacks and blacks are in the majority in Atlanta.
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Not Gone With the Wind Voices of SlaveryHenry Louis Gates, Jr.9 February 2003Unchained Memories, an HBO documentary that makes its debut tomorrow night, provides a powerful answer to that question. It gives us, through the faces and voices of African-American actors, an introduction to a vast undertaking that took place in the 1930’s: the collection and preservation of the testimonies of thousands of aged former slaves in an archive known as the Slave Narrative Collection of the Federal Writers’ Project. This archive unlocked the brutal secrets of slavery by using the voices of average slaves as the key, exposing the everyday life of the slave community. Rosa Starke, a slave from South Carolina, for example, told of how class divisions among the slaves were quite pronounced:
”Dere was just two classes to de white folks, buckra slave owners and poor white folks dat didn’t own no slaves. Dere was more classes ‘mongst de slaves. De fust class was de house servants. Dese was de butler, de maids, de nurses, chambermaids, and de cooks. De nex’ class was de carriage drivers and de gardeners, de carpenters, de barber and de stable men. Then come de nex’ class, de wheelwright, wagoners, blacksmiths and slave foremen. De nex’ class I members was de cow men and de niggers dat have care of de dogs. All dese have good houses and never have to work hard or git a beatin’. Then come de cradlers of de wheat, de threshers and de millers of de corn and de wheat, and de feeders of de cotton gin. De lowest class was de common field niggers.”
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”
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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 incarcerationbut her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 27 May 2012