December 3, 2020

'Black Workers in the Labor Movement' oral histories now available online

The Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, is pleased to announce that “Black Workers in the Labor Movement,” a collection of 31 interviews with Black unionists, is now available to all via archives.wayne.edu.

Herbert Hill, Jim Keeney, Roberta McBride and Norman McRae built the collection between 1967 and 1970. While many of the interviews focus on the experiences of Black men in the auto industry, conversations also include issues of race within the garment industry, Pullman workers and the United Automobile Workers. Other topics include the 1943 Detroit race riots and racial discrimination in housing and day-to-day life. The Reuther is pleased to share these materials representing the voices of working-class Black Americans.

Kristen Chinery, reference archivist at the Reuther, says the collection “contains a wealth of content detailing Detroit’s unions, trades and labor-related organizations. However, it is in the vivid descriptions of everyday life that researchers find the most value. Stories of the civil rights movement, housing discrimination, Detroit city government and Black political activities, Black churches, and police brutality from 50 years ago are still very relevant today.”

About the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs

The Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs is the largest labor archives in North America and is home to the collections of numerous unions and labor-related organizations. Its collection strengths extend to the political and community life of urban and metropolitan Detroit, the civil rights movement in Michigan and nationally, and women's struggles in the workplace. It is also the home of the Wayne State University Archives.