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Charles Stewart, III

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Information about Charles Stewart, III

Profile image of Charles Stewart, III

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Labor Activist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
Frosted Flakes
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Hunting Season
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Omaha, Nebraska, Yankton, South Dakota
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
8/7/1910
Birth Location:
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Labor Activist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
Frosted Flakes
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Hunting Season
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Omaha, Nebraska, Yankton, South Dakota
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
8/7/1910
Birth Location:
Tuscaloosa
See how Charles Stewart, III is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Electrician and organizer Charles Vernon Stewart was born August 7, 1910, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and Chicago, Illinois, Stewart attended Dore Elementary School, Phillips High School and was the first African American admitted into Greer College, a trade school for electricians. Determined to succeed, Stewart, at eleven years of age, alongside his stepfather, Sam Taylor, formed an underground educational effort to learn the trade of electricians, a trade that blacks were not allowed to practice. Stewart and Taylor had a Greek friend who helped them by ordering electrical home study magazines for them because the publishers refused to mail copies to blacks. The group successfully completed each test they took and soon began working alongside other black electricians in Chicago. In 1922, Stewart helped his stepfather establish Taylor Electric Company, and in 1927, he graduated from Greer College.

In 1929, black electricians in Illinois were not allowed to join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 134. Competing white electricians often vandalized Stewart’s and other black electricians’ electrical jobs at night, forcing them to redo their work at their own expense. As a result, Stewart helped organize twenty other black electricians, and together they persuaded U.S. Congressman Oscar DePriest and a black state senator to grant them a charter that permitted them to legally practice as electricians, contract for electrical jobs, and legally stopped white electricians from destroying black electricians’ work. Stewart and his associates formed the first black electrical union in the United States. In 1943, the government forced the Local Union 134 to desegregate by making three percent of their members black. Stewart and his stepfather were among those who left the black union (primarily because the black union was not allowed to bid on major electrical contracts) to desegregate Local Union 134.

Stewart was hired by Berry Electric in 1942 and soon became the first black foreman for one of the largest electrical contractors in Chicago. Stewart built a racially integrated team of electricians capable of completing large jobs, such as the Jewell Grand Bazaar. Stewart also built the electrical source box for the River Oaks Shopping Mall in Calumet City, Illinois. Stewart, who retired from Berry Electric after thirty-seven years, remained a resident of Chicago’s south side.

Charles Stewart passed away on February 13, 2006 at the age of ninety-five.

See how Charles Stewart, III is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles Stewart, III's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles Stewart, III lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles Stewart, III describes his maternal family history
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Charles Stewart, III talks about his mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles Stewart, III talks about his father and paternal family
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles Stewart, III talks about his family and their livelihood in Nebraska
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles Stewart, III mentions his sister and father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles Stewart, III describes his childhood and schooling in Omaha, Nebraska and Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charles Stewart, III recalls an early childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Charles Stewart, III recalls the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Charles Stewart, III remembers his love for hunting and his dogs
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Charles Stewart, III recalls liking school
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Charles Stewart, III recalls World War I
  • Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Charles Stewart, III describes his move to Chicago, Illinois and his stepfather
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charles Stewart, III talks about hunting with his father and stepfather
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charles Stewart, III recalls race relations in Omaha, Nebraska
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles Stewart, III recalls the 1919 race riots in Omaha, Nebraska
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles Stewart, III remembers black institutions and newspapers in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles Stewart, III recalls Chicago, Illinois in the 1920s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles Stewart, III remembers playing piano and violin as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles Stewart, III describes his childhood in the Catholic Church
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Charles Stewart, III states the schools he attended in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Charles Stewart, III recalls an electrician teacher and the state of electrical wiring and electronics during his youth
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Charles Stewart, III talks about attending Wendell Phillips Academy High School in Chicago, Illinois and Greer College in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Charles Stewart, III remembers jobs he took on in his youth
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Charles Stewart, III describes how he came to attend Greer College in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Charles Stewart, III recalls experiences as an electrician and shares how to avoid static shock
  • Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Charles Stewart, III talks about organizing black electricians in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles Stewart, III recalls receiving and learning from a set of electrician's books while working with his stepfather
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles Stewart, III talks about the history of charter #9632, a group of black electricians, and their relationship to I.B.E.W. Local 134
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles Stewart, III recalls how white electricians destroyed black electricians' work
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles Stewart, III recalls the road to union membership for black electrical workers in the 1930s and early 1940s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles Stewart, III recalls when he and other black electricians were allowed into I.B.E.W. Local 134
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles Stewart, III talks about benefits of being part of I.B.E.W. Local 134
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles Stewart, III talks about projects he worked on as an electrician, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Charles Stewart, III talks about electrical work he did for Al Capone, Red Sullivan and others
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Charles Stewart, III talks about projects he worked on as an electrician, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Charles Stewart, III remembers an engineer's costly mistake on an electrical project
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles Stewart, III recalls his experiences as a foreman for Berry Electric Contract Company
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles Stewart, III shares a story about working as a foreman for Berry Electric Contract Company
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles Stewart, III reflects upon his physical strength
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles Stewart, III describes his sister's work in desegregating suburban Illinois schools and remembers wiring her newly built home
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles Stewart, III responds to HistoryMaker William Bonaparte, Jr. being cited as the first black electrician in I.B.E.W Local 134
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles Stewart, III recalls making a dangerous choice while doing electrical work for a store in Bronzeville, Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles Stewart, III describes how he tried to help other black electricians get into I.B.E.W. Local 134
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles Stewart, III describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Charles Stewart, III talks about his sister's efforts to desegregate South Holland, Illinois schools
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Charles Stewart, III reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Charles Stewart, III talks about his family
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Charles Stewart, III talks about his stepfather's business, Taylor Electric Company in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Charles Stewart, III reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Charles Stewart, III reflects upon how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Charles Stewart, III offers advice to those who are interested in pursuing electrical work
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Charles Stewart, III narrates his photographs