UAW Celebrates Black History Month
February is recognized as "Black History
Month." This celebration has taken place each February since 1926.
African-American Scholar Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, along with a group
of white scholars, began the push in 1926 to insure that the contributions
of African Americans to American History were recognized.
African Americans have played a vital role in labor's
history in America as well. In 1869 the Colored National Labor Union was
formed. This was the first national black labor organization, with Isaac
Myers leading the way. Myers became an apprentice caulker for the clipper
ships coming into Baltimore harbor. Under the leadership shown by Myers
the white union, the National Labor Union, opened its conference to persons
of all color in 1869. Myers was invited to speak at that convention, and
was one of nine blacks that attended their convention.
A Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood
of Sleeping Car Porters, was elected as the AFL-CIO's first black vice
president in 1957. "The labor movement traditionally has been the
only haven for the dispossessed, the despised, the neglected, the downtrodden
and the poor." So spoke A. Philip Randolph from the convention floor
of the AFL-CIO. And so believed A. Philip Randolph all his life long.
It was this belief that sustained his spirit through the
long, long, bitter years when he was the voice crying in the wilderness.
Nelson "Jack" Edwards was the first African
American to be elected to the UAW International Executive Board. Edwards
began his union career during the big surge to unions in the 1930s. After
going north, from a farm near Montgomery, Alabama, to industrial Detroit,
Edwards was elected UAW union steward to represent workers in Chrysler's
Foundry plant. Later, he became active in Local 900, where he was elected
to the local's bargaining committee in 1944. The International UAW appointed
him an International Representative based on Detroit's west side in 1947.
He held this post for 15 years,
until May 1962, when delegates to the UAW's national convention elected
him Member-at-large on the UAW's International Executive Board. A year
later, in May 1963, he was asked by UAW President Walter P. Reuther to
go to Birmingham, Alabama to assist African Americans in their historic
struggle for equality. Sadly, shortly after Edwards was elected CBTU's
first national treasurer, he was slain in Detroit in November 1974. In
honor of his long and distinguished career and his unflagging commitment
to empowering black workers, CBTU established the prestigious Nelson "Jack"
UAW Region 8 is proud to recognize the contributions made
by African Americans to the labor movement and our country.
To learn more about Labor's African American Leaders,
follow the links listed below.
American Labor Leaders