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Leslie Outerbridge

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Information about Leslie Outerbridge

Profile image of Leslie Outerbridge

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Fire Fighter
Labor Activist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Rust Orange
Favorite Food:
Cabbage, Ham, Potatoes
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Los Angeles, California
Favorite Quote:
In Order To Get The Proper Answer You Have To Ask The Right Question.

Birthplace

Born:
12/29/1936
Birth Location:
Chicago, Illinois

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Fire Fighter
Labor Activist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Rust Orange
Favorite Food:
Cabbage, Ham, Potatoes
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Los Angeles, California
Favorite Quote:
In Order To Get The Proper Answer You Have To Ask The Right Question.

Birthplace

Born:
12/29/1936
Birth Location:
Chicago
See how Leslie Outerbridge is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Fireman Leslie Outerbridge risked his life to save others and risked his job for racial justice. Born December 29, 1936 in Chicago, Outerbridge grew up in the Cabrini Green projects. His father, a former cricket champion from Bermuda, taught him about fair play. Outerbridge was a good student at Jenner School and entered Wells High School early at age twelve. Dropping out at age fifteen, he joined the Air Force in 1953. There, he played on the installations’ basketball, football and baseball teams. After his discharge, Outerbridge drove a taxi, until his father’s friend, Robert Thompson, a black firefighter, “sponsored” him for the Chicago Fire Department (CFD). Outerbridge passed the written exam, but “failed” his first physical. Later, Outerbridge found that his father’s donation of $300 ensured that he “passed” the second time around in 1961. Outerbridge later returned to school, earning a B.S. from Chicago State University in 1981.

In 1968, Outerbridge, along with Jim Winbush and Wesley Thompson and backed by the NAACP, Operation PUSH, and the Chicago Urban League, with inspiration from Father George Clements, Anderson Thompson, and legal assistance from Attorney Kermit Coleman, formed the Afro American Firefighters League (AAFL). The AAFL completed a study in 1973 that detailed the Chicago Fire Department’s record of racial discrimination in hiring and promotional practices. The United States Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago that same year. Mayor Daley signed the court ordered “consent decree” in 1977, which resulted in increasing the number of black firefighters from 125 to 400 by 1979. Now, the number is over 1,000. Forced to fight a relentless paper war with unhappy CFD brass, Outerbridge discovered that paperwork was their weakness. For thirty-seven years he performed his duties and retired in 1995. Outerbridge was also a founder of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters in 1969.

A talented photographer and part time model, Outerbridge has researched the history of African Americans, the CFD and the great Chicago fires – a history that goes back to 1873 when Willie Watkins was the first black firefighter. Outerbridge lives in Chicago’s West Chesterfield neighborhood with his wife, Annie.

Bibliography:

Outerbridge, Leslie. Memoirs of A Black Fire Fighter: Les Outerbridge, 1961-1995. Self-published, 2002.

See how Leslie Outerbridge is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Leslie Outerbridge's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Leslie Outerbridge lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about his maternal family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Leslie Outerbridge describes his interests as a child
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about his paternal family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Leslie Outerbridge describes his paternal grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about his childhood interest in sports
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Leslie Outerbridge describes growing up in the Cabrini-Green Homes in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Leslie Outerbridge describes the sights, sounds and smells of his neighborhood on Chicago, Illinois' Near North Side
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Leslie Outerbridge remembers being beaten up over a game of marbles
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Leslie Outerbridge explains how he learned from family discussions and his sisters' homework about history
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Leslie Outerbridge describes how his parents met
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Leslie Outerbridge describes what his father did for a living
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Leslie Outerbridge considers which parent he takes after the most
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about his experience at William H. Wells High School in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Leslie Outerbridge remembers an incident with a girl who had a crush on him
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Leslie Outerbridge remembers dropping out of William H. Wells High School in Chicago, Illinois at age fifteen
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about joining the U.S. Air Force
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about his experience on the U.S. Air Force Base in Youngstown, Ohio
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Leslie Outerbridge remembers singing in the U.S. Air Force and being bailed out of jail by his lieutenant colonel
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Leslie Outerbridge describes meeting his wife at a United Service Organizations dance
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Leslie Outerbridge explains why he left the U.S. Air Force
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Leslie Outerbridge recalls his experiences as a taxi driver in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Leslie Outerbridge recalls his experiences as a taxi driver in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about Chicago's first black firefighters and the 1871 Chicago Fire and the 1874 Black Chicago Fire, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about Chicago's first black firefighters and the 1871 Chicago Fire and the 1874 Black Chicago Fire, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about the first black fire company in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about integration within Chicago fire departments in the 1960s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Leslie Outerbridge describes his experience in the fire academy and being hired by the Chicago Fire Department in 1961
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about experiencing racial discrimination within the Chicago Fire Department
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about being transferred to integrate a white firehouse on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Leslie Outerbridge describes the incident that provoked the Chicago Fire Department to integrate
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Leslie Outerbridge describes the discrimination black firefighters experienced when the firehouses were integrated, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Leslie Outerbridge describes the discrimination black firefighters experienced when the firehouses were integrated, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about the formation of the African American Firefighters League in 1967
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Leslie Outerbridge remembers challenging Chief Harper of the Chicago Fire Department, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Leslie Outerbridge remembers challenging Chief Harper of the Chicago Fire Department, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Leslie Outerbridge remembers experiencing racial tension while playing on the Chicago Fire Department baseball team
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about the formation of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters (IABPFF) in 1969
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Leslie Outerbridge explains his boycott of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Leslie Outerbridge describes the Chicago firefighters pre-training program
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Leslie Outerbridge explains his boycott of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about his election to regional director of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Leslie Outerbridge petitions to have the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters appear at the national fire conference, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Leslie Outerbridge petitions to have the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters appear at the national fire conference, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about filing an employment discrimination lawsuit against the City of Chicago
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Leslie Outerbridge explains what provoked the 1980 Chicago firefighters strike, pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Leslie Outerbridge explains what provoked the 1980 Chicago firefighters strike, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Leslie Outerbridge describes his experience at the firehouse on 40th and Dearborn Streets during the Chicago firefighters strike of 1980
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Leslie Outerbridge describes resigning as president of the African American Firefighters League during the Chicago firefighters strike of 1980
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Leslie Outerbridge describes the outcome of the Chicago firefighters strike of 1980 and the introduction of Appendix G
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Leslie Outerbridge considers why he was able to effectively challenge the Chicago Fire Department
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Leslie Outerbridge describes his hopes and concerns for the African American demographic
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Leslie Outerbridge considers his legacy
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Leslie Outerbridge talks about the relationship between Chicago's black communities and firemen
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Leslie Outerbridge considers what he would have done differently
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Leslie Outerbridge describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Leslie Outerbridge narrates his photographs