The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998 Page: 498
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
People (NAACP), and African American unionists in the IMW to break Jim
Crow's grip over Hughes Tool's workforce.-
Ivory Davis's struggle for shop-floor racial equality at Hughes Tool,
however, has a deeper meaning when placed within the context of the
early 196os and the growing militancy of black workers nationwide
who demanded justice and equality in industrial America. Black work-
ers capitalized on the country's growing commitment to civil rights
and desegregation to launch an assault against institutionalized racism
in organized labor.3 They received help from new federal policies such
as President Kennedy's Executive Order 10925, which required fair
employment practices in companies awarded government contracts;
from the NAACP's increased attacks on racism within organized labor;
and from the willingness of individual black workers to fight racism
This study examines an important episode in the struggle of black
workers to abolish Jim Crow segregation in labor unions. The IMW's
refusal to process Davis's grievance presented the union's black leaders
with an opportunity to put an end to the IMW's racism. With the help
of the NAACP, they pushed the NLRB to decertify the IMW for discrim-
inating against Davis. The crusade against the IMW is important
because it marked a major turning point in the NLRB's policy in pro-
tecting the rights of black workers. For the first time in its history, the
NLRB ruled that racial discrimination by labor unions is an unfair labor
practice prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act. The Labor
Board's decision was of great significance not only because it purged
2 "NLRB To Act in Local Union Case: Race Discrimination to be Charged on Hughes Tool
Union," Houston Post, Aug. 21, 1962, sec. i, p. 1, "Hughes Tool Local Claims Racial
Discrimination," Houston Chronicle, Aug. 20, 1962, sec. 1, p. 1; "NLRB to Probe Hughes Labor
Rift," Houston Press, Aug. 21, 1962, sec. 1, p. 1; Informer (Houston), Aug. 22, 1962, sec. 1, p. 1
s For a survey of blacks in organized labor see William H. Harris, The Harder We Run. Black
Workers Since the Cavl War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982). Earlier studies of racial
practices in labor unions in the United States can be found in Herbert Northrup, Organized
Labor and the Negro (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1944); and Horace R. Cayton and George
S. Mitchell, Black Workers and the New Unions (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
1939). Current scholarship that questions the effectiveness of labor unions in promoting
racial equality can be found in August Meier and Eliot Rudwlck, Black Detroit and the Rase of the
UAW (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979); Robert J. Norell, "Caste in Steel: Jim Crow
Careers in Birmingham, Alabama," Journal of American Hstory, 73 (Dec., 1986), 669-694,
988; and Bruce Nelson, "Organized Labor and the Struggle for Black Equality in Mobile
During World War II,"Journal of American History, 80o (Dec., 1993), 952-988 For an excellent
examination of black labor historiography see Joe William Trotter Jr., "Afro-American
Workers: New Directions in U.S. Labor Historiography," Labor History, 35 (Fall, 1994),
Ray Marshall, "Unions and the Negro Community," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 17
(Jan., 1964), 193-194; Herbert Hill, "Racism Within Organized Labor: A Report of Five Years
of the AFL/CIO," NAACP Labor Department (1960), reprinted in Journal of Negro Education,
30 (Spring, 1960), o109; MLR, 85 (Dec., 1962), 14o6.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998, periodical, 1998; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/m1/581/: accessed July 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.