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Overview

In 1946 the South was all but untouched by unionism, despite the firm foothold trade unions held in the North. Most Southern industrial workers lived in what were "company towns," and the companies had, in effect, a labor force at their disposal that perceived itself to be at the mercy of its employers--and thus resistant to unionization attempts.

The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) moved into this union vacuum and launched "Operation Dixie," a concerted attempt to remedy the plight of the Southern industrial worker. This outstanding microfilm collection records the CIO's bold attack on the American South for students and researchers in the areas of labor history, sociology, political science, women's studies, minority studies, criminal justice, and more. Among the many topics open for analysis are:

 

  • employer opposition and refusal to recognize contracts
  • labor injunctions
  • rash and poorly planned strikes
  • the smear campaign by the AFL
  • internal feuds within the CIO
  • the "Red" scare

The correspondence, administrative reports, legal materials, membership records, serials and flyers, and newspaper clippings in this important labor collection offer a wealth of research materials into the CIO's attempts, successes, and failures at gaining a stronghold in the South. Another important aspect of this collection is the material directly relating to the extensive radio and newspaper publicity used to influence Southern communities during "Operation Dixie." Journalism and media researchers will be particularly interested in comparing this newer mass media approach with unionization campaigns earlier in the 1900s.

One of the collection's highlights lies in the papers of the CIO's leading "trouble shooter," Lucy Randolph Mason. Known as "Miss Lucy of the CIO," this aristocratic Virginian's fight for women's and minorities' equal rights and her work to protect labor's civil liberties stand out among the accomplishments of union giants.

These papers consist of the records from four states--North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Of the 12 states involved in the Operation Dixie campaign, these four are the only ones for which state records exist. The collection is conveniently organized into eight parts:

 

  • Part I: The North Carolina Organizing Committee Papers
  • Part II: The South Carolina Organizing Committee Papers
  • Part III: The Tennessee Organizing Committee Papers
  • Part IV: The Virginia Organizing Committee Papers
  • Part V: Lucy Randolph Mason Papers
  • Part VI: Political Action Committee Papers
  • Part VII: CIO Publicity Department Papers
  • Part VIII: Industrial Union Councils Papers

Although "Operation Dixie" ended in 1953, its effects continue to be felt as the South becomes a major industrial influence in America. These vital records permit a unique view of one of the nation's most important labor campaigns and its permanent influence on modern history.

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