By Daniel Lewis, Senior Product Manager
"On this Labor Day may all workers, black and white, Catholic and Protestant, Jew and Gentile, join hands as members of one common human family of which God is Father and Creator, to banish fear and human hate from this land.
If all men are members of one common human family then all men are brothers; if all men are brothers then all men are equal; if all men are equal then all men are entitled to equal treatment; if all men are entitled to equal treatment, racial discrimination and segregation are morally wrong and should be abolished, and respect for the dignity of the personality of every human being recognized as his sacred right, a right which is God-given and not man-made.”
These were the concluding words of A. Philip Randolph during a speech he made in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Labor Day, September 4, 1967.
The speech and the speaker bring to mind many topics that students can effectively research via the collections in ProQuest History Vault.
First, there is A. Philip Randolph himself, the leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and one of the most important civil rights leaders for over four decades. History Vault includes the Papers of A. Philip Randolph. The Randolph Papers are particularly strong for the period since World War II. They illuminate Randolph’s role in the Socialist Party and in creating coalitions with other groups on behalf of labor, civil rights, and civil liberties. The Randolph Papers are also an important source for studying Randolph’s efforts in working to eliminate racial discrimination in the trade union movement.
Closely related to the Randolph Papers are the Bayard Rustin Papers. Rustin worked closely with Randolph for many years, including as the organizer of the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage, and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Beginning in 1964, Rustin worked with Randolph to create the A. Philip Randolph Institute. The Rustin Papers in History Vault document Rustin’s career and work with A. Philip Randolph and the A. Philip Randolph Institute on the issues of labor and civil rights from the early 1940s to the 1980s.
Second, Randolph’s Labor Day remarks highlight the topic of labor and employment. History Vault contains many significant collections on these topics. Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Organizational Records and Personal Papers, Part 1, includes the Records of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first national union of black workers officially affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and later with the AFL-CIO. This module also includes papers of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, a radical organization that formed in June 1969, following a wildcat strike at the Dodge Main Plant in Hamtramck, Michigan, and organizing of workers at other automobile plants in Michigan.
Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Federal Government Records contains records on Black workers during the Great Migration from 1916-1929; files on fair employment practices during World War II; and documents on employment and employment discrimination during the presidencies of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon. The NAACP Papers include a substantial amount of documentation on NAACP efforts to fight against employment discrimination and on NAACP relations with organized labor.
Third, the fact that Labor Day is a national holiday indicates a recognition by the federal government of the importance of work in the daily lives of Americans. Later this month, we will release a new History Vault module, Workers, Labor Unions, and the American Left in the 20th Century: Federal Records. This new module has a special emphasis on the interaction between American workers, labor unions, and the federal government. Notable collections in this module include:
- Strike Files of the U.S. Department of Justice, providing a detailed record of the Department of Justice’s evolving policies of intervention in labor disputes and documentation on the major strikes during the period from 1894-1920.
- Papers of the President’s Mediation Commission, covering labor struggles by Arizona and Montana copper miners, the infamous deportation of Industrial Workers of the World-affiliated miners in Arizona in July 1917, and the tumultuous situation among workers in the Chicago meat-packing industry.
- U.S. Military Intelligence Reports: Surveillance of Radicals in the United States, containing significant files on IWW strikes and organizing efforts during and immediately after World War I.
- Labor Strife and Race Relations during World War II, regarding the U.S. Army’s interest or involvement in the conflict between labor and management that could impede war production.
- Papers of the President’s Committee on Migratory Labor, Part 1: Correspondence with States, 1955–1963, focusing on migrant transportation, housing, education of migrant children, and issues pertaining to health care and sanitation.