Labor Fights All Injustice
By George Meany
was not merely by accident that from its earliest days the trade
union movement in this country became identified as a proponent
of civil rights and an opponent of racial and religious
The very nature of a trade union, in which
workers unite to fight for economic justice, conditions it for
voluntary enlistment in the war against all injustice.
Thus, the basic drive of the labor movement, from its
inception to this very day has been for all forms of human
justice and political justice, as well as economic justice.
And the continuing denial of equal civil rights to
million of our citizens, merely because of their race or color,
constitutes, in our opinion, wholesale injustice that stains the
honor of our country. It
is a blot that must be erased, with more than deliberate speed.
Among our adult population, reason and logic
have been powerless to cope with the more bitter manifestations
of racial hate and prejudice.
Therefore, I have always had a good deal of sympathy for
the view that the only effective way of overcoming such
prejudice was the slow but sure path of education from the
kindergarten up. However,
it was obvious that this process of education would be
completely futile as long as the well-springs of education—the
public schools themselves—were poisoned by segregation.
The historic decision of the Supreme Court
three years ago, declaring segregation in the public schools
unConstitutional, opened new vistas of hope that at last the way
would be cleared for the elimination of racial prejudice and
discrimination through the permanent and democratic process of
But let us face it—progress has been
painfully slow in the three-year period since the Supreme
Court’s decision was handed down.
It is not my purpose to criticize the Supreme
Court for modifying the speed of enforcement of its decision
with the word “deliberate.”
Taking all the facts into consideration, the Court had to
act realistically. But I do want to say a few words about elected public
officials, especially in the South and from the South, who have
violated their oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the
United States by willfully obstructing and flouting the Supreme
In a free country like ours, it is the
privilege of any citizen to disagree—even with a Supreme Court
obedience to the law in incumbent even upon dissenters.
Respect for and compliance with the law is the
responsibility of all citizens.
Certainly public officials, elected to uphold and
administer the law, are doubly bound to discharge that
in the past three years, we have seen the unedifying spectacle
of Governors of States, Senators, Congressmen and lesser lights
in our political life conspiring together to defy the Supreme
Court, to circumvent its decision and to make a mockery of the
In school we are taught that this is one
nation, indivisible. The
history of our country is marred by a great civil war which had
to be fought to prove that this is one nation, and that
secession and nullification are not permissible.
Surely, that truth should now prevail.
Without question, the great majority of the
people of the South, under wise leadership, would be willing to
go along with the law of the land as interpreted with finality,
by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Unfortunately, however, the South, for the
most part, lacks that kind of leadership.
Some of the Southern States have produced outstanding
public figures, Governors, Senators and Congressmen.
But, let us examine the lowest grade of
professional politician we encounter in the South.
He trades on ignorance.
He is tied in with a political machine that draws its
revenue from the contributions of vested interests.
This politician, in fact, is owned by the local utility,
or mill owner or bank or oil interests.
He makes emotional appeals to Southern pride and beats
the drums for the moth-eaten myth of white supremacy.
He is an accomplished spellbinder and an unprincipled
liar. His credo
calls for opposition to any progressive change that would
disturb the existing order of society and its economic control.
This is the type of unscrupulous politician
most active in the organization of White Citizens Councils in a
number of Southern States.
To say that the development of these extralegal
organizations is disturbing to the trade union movement is a
gross understatement. I
am convinced that they represent only a tiny minority of the
people of the South—but a loud and belligerent minority.
These councils seek to substitute the intimidation of mob
action for law and order. They
are aimed not only at Negro organizations, such as yours, but at
trade unions as well, and any other liberal group or individual
that dares to support and defend the Supreme Court decision.
We have done a little research into the
people back of these White Citizens Councils and we have
discovered an interesting and significant fact—they are the
same people who have fought the trade union movement most
viciously over the years. In
other words, the forces dominating this setup are against not
only equal right for Negroes, but equal rights for labor.
Under the circumstances, your organization
can be proud of the way the beleaguered Negroes of key Southern
communities have stood up to the test.
They have been law-abiding.
They have resisted the temptation to retaliate under
extreme provocation. They
have conducted themselves with dignity and restraint.
By their own civilized and commendable conduct, they have
shamed their traducers and created a strong- running tide of
sympathy for their plight among all the American people.
Let me assure you that the trade union
movement is not going to run away from the challenge presented
by the White Citizens Councils.
There have been many attempts in the past to drive union
organizers out of the Southern communities by intimidation and
mob action. They
failed before. They
will fail again.
It is true that the emotional stresses of
this issue are so strong as to warp the good judgment even of
veteran trade unionists. I
have received letters from union members saying they regarded
themselves as Southerners first and trade unionists second.
I told them they had things a little twisted—that under
the philosophy of our movement a man first has to be a good
citizen before he can be a good union man and that the first
duty of a good citizen is to obey all the laws of the land.
The interest of the trade union movement in
the universal enjoyment of civil rights stems, as I said at the
outset, from our dedication to human justice.
At the turn of the century, a convention of the American
Federation of Labor enunciated our basic philosophy in one
simple sentence—“We call all men brothers.”
That spirit of brotherhood was built into the
Constitution of the merged AFL-CIO.
Among the objects and principles of the AFL-CIO, listed
in Article 2, are these:
To encourage all workers without
regard to race, creed, color, national origin of
ancestry to share equally in the full benefits of union
To protect and strengthen our
democratic institutions, to secure full recognition and
enjoyment of the rights and liberties to which we are
Again in Article 9, the Executive
Council is empowered to see to it that “all workers
whatever their race, color, creed or national origin are
entitled to share in the full benefits of trade union
And finally, in article 13, as an additional
empowering step, the Constitution calls for the creation of a
Committee on Civil Rights, “vested with the duty and
responsibility to assist the Executive Council to bring about at
the earliest possible date the effective implementation of the
principle stated in this Constitution of non-discrimination.
These provisions in the AFL-CIO Constitution
are not a dead-letter—they are an everyday working policy. Yet, a number of our 68,000 local unions still ignore or
violate that policy. Let
me assure you, we are working on them.
It is not our purpose to try to settle each
case that comes up on an ad hoc basis.
By direction of the AFL-CIO Executive Council I have
called a national conference of labor representatives in
Washington, D.C. At
that conference, our unions will be informed of measures we
expect them to take in order to make certain that all their
local unions comply fully with the basic AFL-CIO policy to
accord equality of economic opportunity to all workers,
regardless of race, color, or creed.
Aside from the problems of equality of
education and equality of economic opportunity—which, by the
way involves a great deal more employer cooperation than union
compliance—we are still stymied in our efforts to eliminate
discrimination by the failure thus far to overcome the hurdles
blocking enactment of civil rights legislation.
This legislation, as you know, seeks to
establish equal status before the law for minority groups.
Without such equality before the law, the American ideal
of freedom and democracy becomes a hollow mockery.
I am confident that this civil rights
legislation would be adopted by both Houses of Congress were it
not for the rule permitting endless filibusters in the Senate.
To date, all efforts to amend that rule so that the will
of the majority can prevail have been fruitless.
The cause of justice has been defeated time and again by
those elected to public office to administer justice.
The problem of coping with faithless and
hypocritical politicians, who thwart the will of the people, can
be solved in the same way we dealt with the faithless and
hypocritical Communists. They
must be exposed. The
voters must be aroused to the American ideal and betray it
ruthlessly at every turn. The
day of reckoning is coming.
Yes, it is coming soon.
To the impatient the progress achieved to date may appear
slow and disappointing. But
to anyone who studies the developments of the past decade, it
becomes apparent that a strong tide is running.
My confidence is based upon one all-important
factor. Aside from
our moral responsibility to accord equal justice to all
citizens, we are faced with a practical compulsion to do so in
order to survive. In
the court of world opinion, the great weakness in America’s
case—in the case of the free way of life against
totalitarianism—is our failure to eliminate racial
Unless we can rally world opinion to our
side, unless we can establish a solid front against the
philosophy of slave labor and human degradation for which Soviet
Russia stands, military power and atom bombs will not help us. Today, one of the most vulnerable flaws in our national
defense is discrimination.
In the clear realization of this truth, in
the full knowledge that racial discrimination and intolerance
have no rightful place in a free land, we must do our utmost to
end these evils as quickly as we can and thereby help to
strengthen and make secure the American way of life.
* * *
The president of the AFL-CIO gave
this address on receiving the 1957 Philip Murray
Award of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Source: Interracial Review
• June, 1957
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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The
Permanence of Racism
grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black
former Harvard law professor who made
headlines recently for his one-man protest
against the school's hiring policies,
hammers home his controversial theme that
white racism is a permanent, indestructible
component of our society. Bell's fantasies
are often dire and apocalyptic: a new
Atlantis rises from the ocean depths,
sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white
resistance to affirmative action softens
following an explosion that kills Harvard's
president and all of the school's black
professors; intergalactic space invaders
promise the U.S. President that they will
clean up the environment and deliver tons of
gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens
take all African Americans back to their
planet. Other pieces deal with black-white
romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job
Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine
And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back
in some of these ominous allegories, which
speak from the depths of anger and despair.
Bell now teaches at New York University Law
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Representing the Race
The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer
By Kenneth W. Mack
Representing the Race tells the story of an enduring paradox of American race relations, through the prism of a collective biography of African American lawyers who worked in the era of segregation. . . . Mack reorients what we thought we knew about famous figures such as Thurgood Marshall, who rose to prominence by convincing local blacks and prominent whites that he was—as nearly as possible—one of them. But he also introduces a little-known cast of characters to the American racial narrative. These include Loren Miller, the biracial Los Angeles lawyer who, after learning in college that he was black, became a Marxist critic of his fellow black attorneys and ultimately a leading civil rights advocate; and Pauli Murray, a black woman who seemed neither black nor white, neither man nor woman, who helped invent sex discrimination as a category of law. The stories of these lawyers pose the unsettling question: what, ultimately, does it mean to “represent” a minority group in the give-and-take of American law and politics? /
For Love of Liberty
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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered
the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It
By H. W. Brands
In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today.
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Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura María Agustín
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.
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Michelle Alexander: US Prisons, The New Jim Crow
Judge Mathis Weighs in on the execution of Troy Davis
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
mass incarceration of people of color through the War on
Drugs is a big part of the reason that a black child
born today is less likely to be raised by both parents
than a black child born during slavery. The absence of
black fathers from families across America is not simply
a function of laziness, immaturity, or too much time
watching Sports Center. Hundreds of thousands of black
men have disappeared into prisons and jails, locked away
for drug crimes that are largely ignored when committed
by whites. Most people seem to
imagine that the drug war—which has swept millions of
poor people of color behind bars—has been aimed at
rooting out drug kingpins or violent drug offenders.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This war has
been focused overwhelmingly on low-level drug offenses,
like marijuana possession—the very crimes that happen
with equal frequency in middle class white communities.
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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9 July 2012