The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 534
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534 Southwestern Hizstorncal Quarterly April
The chartering of Locals 279-A and 249-A resulted from more than
half a century of racial and economic subordination in an industry which
from its inception demonstrated little movement toward racial inclusion.
Emerging during the 189os as a labor organization focused primarily on
redressing workplace grievances of white theater workers, as IATSE grew
its development continued hand-in-hand with racial exclusion, black
workers being consistently marginalized. At the 1895 IATSE national con-
vention in Boston, white-controlled union locals affiliated with the Amer-
ican Federation of Labor (AFL) were granted sole authority to determine
whether blacks would be offered membership in their unions. Most white
unionists refused to accept biracial unionism and only reluctantly made
concessions to black workers who desired union membership or wished
to participate in their union activities and gatherings. This opposition to
black unionization, which persisted throughout much of the first half of
the twentieth century, stemmed in part from white unionists' belief that
blacks were not deserving of union representation.2
Not until delegates for the Texas Federal Labor Union (TFLU) crashed
labor, particularly in the South, developed a tradition of activism that helped shape the labor-
union identity. The historical literature on the black working-class has been dominated by discus-
sion of unskilled black workers and of those belonging to the larger and more powerful unions
and federations. For recent studies on the role of black workers in the American labor movement,
see Eric Arnesen, Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politzcs, 1863-1923 (New York.
Oxford University Press, 1991); Michael Goldfield, The Color of Polztzcs: Race and the Maznspnngs of
American Politzcs (New York: New York Press, 1997); Keith Griffler, What Price Alliance? Black Radi-
cals Confront White Labor (New York: Garland, 1994); Wilham H. Harris, The Harder We Run- Black
Workers since the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982); Michael Honey, Southern La-
bor and Black Cizvl Rights: Organzzzng Memphis Workers (Urbana: University of Ilhnois Press, 1993);
Robin Kelley, Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communist during the Great Depresszon (Chapel Hill: Uni-
versity of North Carohna Press, 199o); Tera Hunter, To Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women's
Lives and Labors after the Civil War (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1997), Daniel
Letwin, The Challenge of Interracial Unionism: Alabama Coal Miners, 1878-1921 (Chapel Hill: Uni-
versity of North Carohna Press, 1998); Ernest Obadele-Starks, Black Unionism in the Industrial South
(College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2ooo); Joe William Trotter Jr., Coal, Class, and Col-
or: Blacks in Southern West Virginza, 1915-32 (Urbana: University of Ilhnois Press, 199o).
2The first organization of stage employees began in NewYork in the late 188os as a fraternal or-
ganization but soon became identified with the Knights of Labor and later the American Federa-
tion of Labor (AFL). While it is generally accepted that the IATSE modeled itself on unions of sim-
ilarly sized industries, inadequate records prevent a full understanding of the early development
of many of the first IATSE locals. Locals were initially organized in the larger cities to ensure a
large membership. The National Union was formed to facilitate control over the industry and to
address grievances. After two previous attempts, the IATSE was finally organized in 1893, com-
plete with its own constitution and bylaws. It was chartered as an international union in 190o. For
more on the history and early years of the IATSE, see Michael C. Nielsen, "Motion Picture Craft
Workers and Craft Unions in Hollywood: The Studio Era, 1912-1948" (Ph D. diss., University of
Ilhnois-Champaign-Urbana, 1985), 26-36; Robert Osborne Baker, "The International Alhance of
Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators in the United States and
Canada" (Ph.D. diss , University of Kansas, 1933); Michael C. Nielsen, "Toward a Worker's Histo-
ry of the U.S. Film Industry" in Vincent Mosco and Janet Wasco (eds.), Labor, the Working Class, and
the Media (Norwood, N.J.: Ablex Publishing, 1983); Janet Wasko, "Trade Unions and Broadcast-
ing: A Case Study of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians," m Ibid.;
Alfred L Bernheim, The Buszness of the Theater: An Economic History of the American Theater,
1750-1932 (NewYork: B. Blom, 1964).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/612/: accessed October 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.