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William Lucy

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Information about William Lucy

Profile image of William Lucy

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Civil Rights Activist
Labor Activist
Union Leader

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Greens (Collard), Peas (Black-Eyed)
Favorite Time of Year:
Thanksgiving
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
It Is Better To Be Effective Than Right.

Birthplace

Born:
11/26/1933
Birth Location:
Memphis, Tennessee

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Civil Rights Activist
Labor Activist
Union Leader

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Greens (Collard), Peas (Black-Eyed)
Favorite Time of Year:
Thanksgiving
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
It Is Better To Be Effective Than Right.

Birthplace

Born:
11/26/1933
Birth Location:
Memphis
See how William Lucy is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

William Lucy is one of the most prominent labor leaders in recent U.S. history. He has been secretary-treasurer of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) for the past thirty-five years, and was reelected in July 2008 to another 4-year term. As secretary-treasurer, Lucy holds the second highest ranking position within AFSCME, making him the highest ranking African American in the labor movement.

William Lucy was born on November 26, 1933 in Memphis, Tennessee. Lucy grew up in Richmond, California where his parents, Susie and Joseph Lucy, moved when he was a young boy. He studied civil engineering at the University of California at Berkeley in the early 1950s. Lucy then took a position as an assistant materials and research engineer for Contra Costa County, California. It was in this position that he first got involved in labor organizing. Lucy held that position for thirteen years until 1966. He became a member of AFSCME Local 1675 in 1956 at the age of twenty-three and then was elected its president in 1965 at the age of thirty-two. In 1966, Lucy left his job in civil engineering at Contra Costa County to work full-time for AFSCME’s national office in Washington, D.C., as the associate director of the legislation and community affairs departments.

During the 1960s, AFSCME chapters around the country organized marches and strikes to secure better wages and working conditions for its members. These actions were often met with a violent police response. During this period, many AFSCME members and leaders were beaten, tear-gassed, and jailed. Lucy was jailed by police several times in his capacity as union leader and activist. In 1968, at the age of thirty-five, Lucy worked on the historic Memphis sanitation workers’ strike. He coined the famous slogan, “I Am A Man!” that became the rallying call for the Memphis strikers. In the tumultuous aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination during the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, Lucy helped maintain the labor-civil rights-community coalition that sealed the workers’ eventual victory and became the model used throughout the nation.

In 1972, Lucy co-founded the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) to ensure African Americans a voice in labor. In 1984, Lucy joined the Free South Africa Movement, a grassroots campaign that sparked widespread opposition to apartheid in South Africa. In 1994, Lucy became the president of Public Services International (PSI), the world’s largest union federation. Lucy was the first African American to hold this position, which coordinates the efforts of ten million members from over 100 nations. Ebony magazine frequently cites Lucy as one of “The 100 most Influential Black Americans.” Lucy has two children, Benita Marsh and Phyllis Manuel.

See how William Lucy is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William Lucy's interview, session 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William Lucy lists his favorites, session 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William Lucy describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William Lucy describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William Lucy describes his early school experiences in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William Lucy remembers LeMoyne Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William Lucy describes his community on Neptune Street in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William Lucy remembers segregation in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William Lucy talks about his father's career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - William Lucy describes his school experiences in Richmond, California
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - William Lucy remembers his community in Richmond, California
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - William Lucy recalls travelling by train to Richmond, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William Lucy remembers travelling on a segregated train to Richmond, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William Lucy describes Richmond, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William Lucy remembers his junior high school teachers
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William Lucy recalls his high school design project
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William Lucy remembers the industrial businesses in Richmond, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William Lucy describes El Cerrito High School in El Cerrito, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - William Lucy talks about his work at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - William Lucy recalls joining the Contra Costa County Public Works Department
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - William Lucy describes his engineering courses at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - William Lucy remembers the impact of the unions in Contra Costa County, California
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - William Lucy describes his work in the Contra Costa County Public Works Department, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - William Lucy recalls the unionization of the Contra Costa County Employees Association, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William Lucy recalls the unionization of the Contra Costa County Employees Association, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William Lucy describes the early years of AFSCME Local 1675
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William Lucy remembers civil rights leader James Farmer
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William Lucy talks about the labor movement in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William Lucy recalls issues addressed by AFSCME Local 1675
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - William Lucy talks about the role of communism in the labor movement
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - William Lucy recalls AFSCME Local 1675's opposition to the Vietnam War
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - William Lucy talks about his transition from local to national union leadership
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - William Lucy describes his family
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William Lucy describes his first impression of Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - William Lucy talks about the AFSCME's Department of Legislation and Community Affairs
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - William Lucy remembers representing Panama Canal Company employees, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - William Lucy remembers representing Panama Canal Zone employees, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - William Lucy recalls the restructuring of city government in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - William Lucy describes the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - William Lucy remembers meeting with Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - William Lucy recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Poor People's Campaign
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - William Lucy describes the labor movement slogan, "I Am a Man"
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - William Lucy recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - William Lucy describes the support for the labor movement in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - William Lucy remembers the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike march
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - William Lucy recalls the Memphis Police Department's involvement in the strike
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - William Lucy recalls the mobilization of Memphis' black community, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - William Lucy recalls the mobilization of Memphis' black community, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - William Lucy remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech, I've Been to the Mountaintop
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - William Lucy recalls the Memphis City Council's involvement in the strike
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - William Lucy remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - William Lucy remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - William Lucy recalls strategizing after Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - William Lucy remembers organizing the workers' rights march in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - William Lucy describes the public support for the labor movement
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - William Lucy remembers Coretta Scott King's response to her husband's death
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - William Lucy describes the conclusion of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - William Lucy recalls the impact of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - William Lucy reflects upon the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - William Lucy describes the founding of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - William Lucy describes the founding of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - William Lucy recalls becoming secretary-treasurer of the AFSCME
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of William Lucy's interview, session 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - William Lucy lists his favorites, session 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - William Lucy describes his mother's family history
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - William Lucy talks about his mother's education and employment
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - William Lucy describes his father's family history
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - William Lucy recalls his father's education and employment
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - William Lucy talks about his parents' marriage
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - William Lucy describes his mother's restaurant in Thomasville, Alabama
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - William Lucy recalls his family's move from Tennessee to California
  • Tape: 7 Story: 10 - William Lucy describes his likeness to his father
  • Tape: 7 Story: 11 - William Lucy describes his earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 7 Story: 12 - William Lucy remembers the World War II manufacturing industry in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Tape: 7 Story: 13 - William Lucy lists his elementary schools
  • Tape: 7 Story: 14 - William Lucy describes his childhood activities
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - William Lucy describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - William Lucy remembers the World War II effort in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - William Lucy talks about post-World War II work opportunities for laborers
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - William Lucy describes the Richmond Unified School District
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - William Lucy remembers his parents' employment in California
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - William Lucy describes his early employment prospects
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - William Lucy remembers his junior high school teachers
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - William Lucy talks about black athletes from the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Tape: 8 Story: 9 - William Lucy recalls the music scene of the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Tape: 8 Story: 10 - William Lucy describes his post high school activities
  • Tape: 8 Story: 11 - William Lucy remembers Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Richmond, California
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - William Lucy recalls his role at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - William Lucy describes his position in the Contra Costa County Public Works Department
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - William Lucy remembers the founding of AFSCME Local 1675
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - William Lucy talks about the California civil service system
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - William Lucy recalls the early agendas of AFSCME Local 1675
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - William Lucy describes the argument for collective union bargaining
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - William Lucy talks about the role of a union's negotiation committee
  • Tape: 9 Story: 8 - William Lucy describes his experience as spokesman of the negotiation committee
  • Tape: 9 Story: 9 - William Lucy recalls AFSCME's civil rights concerns
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - William Lucy remembers the March on Washington
  • Tape: 10 Story: 2 - William Lucy talks about collective bargaining in the public sector
  • Tape: 10 Story: 3 - William Lucy describes his transition from local to national union work
  • Tape: 10 Story: 4 - William Lucy talks about the discrepancies between public and private sectors
  • Tape: 10 Story: 5 - William Lucy recalls the catalyst to the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike
  • Tape: 10 Story: 6 - William Lucy talks about the preconditions for a labor strike
  • Tape: 10 Story: 7 - William Lucy recalls organizing the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike
  • Tape: 10 Story: 8 - William Lucy remembers Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb
  • Tape: 11 Story: 1 - William Lucy recalls the concerns of the Memphis sanitation workers
  • Tape: 11 Story: 2 - William Lucy describes the churches involved in the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike
  • Tape: 11 Story: 3 - William Lucy remembers the Memphis City Council's African American members
  • Tape: 11 Story: 4 - William Lucy remembers role of the Memphis Police Department during the strike
  • Tape: 11 Story: 5 - William Lucy remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s involvement in the strike, pt. 1
  • Tape: 11 Story: 6 - William Lucy describes the civil rights group, the Invaders
  • Tape: 11 Story: 7 - William Lucy recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s involvement in the strike, pt. 2
  • Tape: 11 Story: 8 - William Lucy recalls the introduction of violence to the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike
  • Tape: 11 Story: 9 - William Lucy talks about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination
  • Tape: 12 Story: 1 - William Lucy recalls the settlement of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike, pt. 1
  • Tape: 12 Story: 2 - William Lucy recalls the settlement of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike, pt. 2
  • Tape: 12 Story: 3 - William Lucy describes the creation of the labor movement slogan, 'I Am a Man'
  • Tape: 12 Story: 4 - William Lucy recalls the impact of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death, pt. 1
  • Tape: 12 Story: 5 - William Lucy talks about Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb's opposition to strikers
  • Tape: 12 Story: 6 - William Lucy recalls his election as secretary-treasurer of the AFSCME
  • Tape: 12 Story: 7 - William Lucy describes the first meeting of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
  • Tape: 13 Story: 1 - William Lucy talks about the founding members of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
  • Tape: 13 Story: 2 - William Lucy describes the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
  • Tape: 13 Story: 3 - William Lucy remembers the economic boycott of South Africa
  • Tape: 13 Story: 4 - William Lucy describes the Free South Africa Movement, pt. 1
  • Tape: 13 Story: 5 - William Lucy describes the Free South Africa Movement, pt. 2
  • Tape: 13 Story: 6 - William Lucy remembers the end of apartheid in South Africa
  • Tape: 13 Story: 7 - William Lucy describes Nelson Mandela
  • Tape: 14 Story: 1 - William Lucy describes Public Services International
  • Tape: 14 Story: 2 - William Lucy recalls becoming president of Public Services International
  • Tape: 14 Story: 3 - William Lucy remembers joining the AFL-CIO Executive Council
  • Tape: 14 Story: 4 - William Lucy describes the role of the AFL-CIO Executive Council
  • Tape: 14 Story: 5 - William Lucy talks about his criticism of the Iraq War
  • Tape: 14 Story: 6 - William Lucy describes the circumstances of his retirement
  • Tape: 14 Story: 7 - William Lucy talks about the opposition to public sector unions, pt. 1
  • Tape: 14 Story: 8 - William Lucy talks about the opposition to public sector unions, pt. 2
  • Tape: 15 Story: 1 - William Lucy recalls the opposition to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's proposed budget reform
  • Tape: 15 Story: 2 - William Lucy talks about nationwide budget concerns
  • Tape: 15 Story: 3 - William Lucy describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1
  • Tape: 15 Story: 4 - William Lucy describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2
  • Tape: 15 Story: 5 - William Lucy reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 15 Story: 6 - William Lucy talks about his children's careers
  • Tape: 15 Story: 7 - William Lucy describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 15 Story: 8 - William Lucy talks about the legacy of racism in formerly colonized countries
  • Tape: 16 Story: 1 - William Lucy narrates his photographs