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Overview

Proclamations of equality and decrees of non-discrimination are at best hollow documents unless enforced by the governments and courts that mandate them. One of the landmark attempts at bridging this gap between theory and practice in the area of equal employment opportunity can be studied through this collection. Nearly all records of the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC) during its five-year existence as a Federal investigatory agency are contained in this primary research source.

Established in 1941 by Executive Order of Franklin D. Roosevelt to end discrimination against blacks in the defense industry, the Committee was charged to deal with any accusations of discrimination that might arise. In five years it investigated more than 14,000 complaints--80 percent based on race, 14 percent on national origin, and the remaining six percent on creed or religion.

Students in African American studies, labor history, social history, defense, economics, and civil rights can access these records as a recent historical base collection for their research into contemporary labor discrimination. Included in the more than 500,000 pages of official documents are:

 

  • correspondence
  • case records
  • field reports from FEPC regional offices
  • minutes of FEPC meetings
  • internal studies
  • memoranda
  • individual workers' records

These documents are divided into two main series--Headquarters Records and Field Records. The latter series is subdivided into regional records covering the country.

The FEPC dealt solely with the needs of minority workers and had specific jurisdiction over:

 

  • complaints against the federal government
  • complaints against employers and employees' unions under contract with the federal government
  • complaints against employers and unions engaged in war production

Although the Committee depended on its powers of persuasion or on the cooperation of government agencies for enforcement authority, it contributed richly to promoting the cause of civil rights in the workplace.

Offering as it does both statistical and human insights into labor and race relations, this collection is considered a primary research source, essential for any comprehensive study of civil liberties in America.

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