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" Edwards Award.

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.
African American Labor Leaders
A Philip Randolph Institute







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Webmaster John Davis

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