Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for by Robert R. Korstad

By Robert R. Korstad

Drawing on ratings of interviews with black and white tobacco staff in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Robert Korstad brings to existence the forgotten heroes of neighborhood 22 of the foodstuff, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied employees of America-CIO. those staff faced a approach of racial capitalism that consigned African american citizens to the basest jobs within the undefined, perpetuated low wages for all southerners, and shored up white supremacy. Galvanized by way of the emergence of the CIO, African american citizens took the lead in a crusade that observed a powerful hard work circulation and the reenfranchisement of the southern bad as keys to reforming the South--and a reformed South as principal to the survival and enlargement of the hot Deal. within the window of chance opened via global warfare II, they blurred the limits among domestic and paintings as they associated civil rights and exertions rights in a bid for justice at paintings and within the public sphere. yet civil rights unionism foundered within the maelstrom of the chilly warfare. Its defeat undermined later efforts by way of civil rights activists to elevate problems with monetary equality to the ethical excessive floor occupied via the struggle opposed to legalized segregation and, Korstad contends, constrains the customers for justice and democracy this present day.

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Extra resources for Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth-Century South

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46 As it happened, the protest remained remarkably peaceful. No white thugs or policemen intruded. No hotheaded workers tried to channel the group’s anger in a violent direction. Someone produced an old megaphone and brought a car around to serve as a platform for the speakers. ” Simpson described what had happened in Number 65 on Thursday. “I told them they had nothing to 28 those who were not afraid be afraid of. Because we had stood together, the company couldn’t do anything to us. ” Frank Hargrove spoke of ’s policy of industrial unionism and nondiscrimination and of the great gains made by the .

49 The  and the workers’ committee studied the company’s proposal. Although it did recognize that problems existed, the proposal offered nothing but vague assurances. The  feared that the company would fire all the leaders as soon as production resumed, something Reynolds had done repeatedly in past organizing drives and a possibility that all the rank-and-filers understood. “The only way we knew we could beat Reynolds,” Robert Black observed, “was to keep those people out of those plants.

But social movements rarely evolve in a predictable manner. Indeed, most embryonic campaigns fail to leave any imprint on the historical record. 73 Given the volatility of the situation at Reynolds and the emergence of rank-andfile leaders within the , skirmishes between workers and supervisors might have broken out in a number of places. Robert Black, Eddie Gallimore, and Velma Hopkins were all capable of leading revolts in their departments. As it happened, it was the reaction of Theodosia Simpson and her confederates to the tears of a hardpressed woman and the death of an ailing man that led to the sit-down in Number 65 and sparked the subsequent protest in Number 60 and Number 60 Extension.

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