Frican American Women in Labor Unions: Black, Brave and Bold.

Jessica Clements
Professor Michael Goldfield
Honors 4200
30 March 2009
African American Women in Labor Unions: Black, Brave and Bold.

The above heading is potentially the title of my research paper. I am highly intrigued by how black women operated in American workforce and labor movements throughout the span of the mid nineteenth to mid-twentieth century. During this time, America was not a place where people of color, particularly African Americans, were treated fairly, which was more evident in the south. However, this was also the span of time that marked the emancipation of slaves through the Thirteenth Amendment, which caused a mass migration of African Americans into the northern parts of America. Blacks had a better opportunity, though immensely unequal to that of whites, to minutely progress in status due to many laws and stipulations placed upon them because of their skin tone. This prospect was more probable in the North.
Moreover, during this time, women in general were not viewed positively. In fact, women were also emancipated from the bondage of not being able to vote, just as blacks through the Nineteenth Amendment. Therefore, to be an African American female laborer in American society in this time period was accompanied with many trials and tribulations.
Since there were two strikes (being a black female) against African American women in the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century, I would like to research and investigate a few cases that showcase the strength of the black woman worker during this time. Moreover, I would like to compare and contrast the success of the various examples and explain how each one glorifies Marxists views. Marxist thinking caused black women of that era to stand for equality in the workplace. I plan to give a synopsis of each case and explain how they relate to Marxist ideas. For example, one overview of a Marxist view is that given the right circumstances, workers will unite in order to collectively achieve their goals. Moreover, throughout the history of labor unions, the sense of unity that dwelled among workers stretched beyond race.
I believe another possible option or approach would be to also explain how the incidents relate to other theories on unionism and labor movements proposed by Michael Goldfield, Bretcher and Costello, Beverly Silver, etc. Either approach can serve as the topic of my research.
I have searched incidents of African American women and unionism. The Nut-picker s Union in We Are All Leaders by Staughton Lynd is an excellent example to use to show the strength and unity of female African American laborers and how it glorifies Marxist ideas and/or is evidence of other theories we have read about this semester. The Tobacco incident in Winston-Salem is another example can be utilized in this research. Other examples include the Atlanta Washerwoman s Strike in 1881, which was a strike orchestrated by a group of African American women to increase their pay, the case of Nellie Stone, who was the first female vice president of the Minneapolis Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union Local 665, and the case of Lucy Parsons, a radical labor-union advocate in her own right. I believe these incidents will supply me with a substantial amount of evidence to argue how each example, or the selected ones, uphold Marxists ideologies.
Two questions that need to be addressed include; what particular Marxist idea is relevant to these historical examples and an explanation of its relevance. These inquiries would also apply if I choose to use other theories on labor unions by other authors. I will start with an explanation and description of the chosen idea or theory and then I will convene to address the questions. I believe that three or four examples will be sufficient to argue their relevancy to Marxist ideas (or another chosen idea).
The evidence for this paper should probably be qualitative. However, quantitative evidence can also be used to provide extended support for the argument. For example, if participants in any of these incidents studied Marxism or perhaps showed interest or participation in socialism/communism, it can be used as proof that Marxist ideas were utilized in unionizing methods. I will need quotes from participants, newspaper clips and articles, credible sources that will show what happened in the surrounding areas and timeframe of the events (such as the accounts found in We Are All Leaders by Lynd), pictures, etc. in order to construct a credible paper.
Some dedicated sources will include; We Are All Leaders by Lynd, Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Engels, Civil Rights Unionism by Korstad, and other internet sources that provide incite on the examples of African American females in unions. I will also make use of the WSU online library resource in order to find journals, periodicals, newspapers, magazines and other reliable resources that will benefit this research. These starting elements should allow me to continue to narrow my topic and argument concisely.