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William Lucy

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.

Accession Number

A2008.001

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/29/2008 |and| 5/1/2012

Last Name

Lucy

Maker Category
Schools

LaRose Elementary School

Roosevelt Junior High School

El Cerrito High School

University of California, Berkeley

First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

LUC05

Favorite Season

Thanksgiving

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

It Is Better To Be Effective Than Right.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

11/26/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Greens (Collard), Peas (Black-Eyed)

Short Description

Civil rights activist, labor activist, and union leader William Lucy (1933 - ) was the first African American president of Public Services International. He co-founded the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and served as the secretary-treasurer of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Employment

Mare Island Naval Shipyard

Contra Costa County Public Works Department

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

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

DASession

2$2

DATape

9$12

DAStory

3$3

DATitle
William Lucy remembers the founding of AFSCME Local 1675
William Lucy describes the creation of the labor movement slogan, 'I Am a Man'
Transcript
Was there any union activity involved in this job at all?$$Well, it wasn't what you'd call union activity at that time. We belonged to an association, the county employees association [Contra Costa County Employees Association], which was a mixture of all employees who worked for the county. We had, you know, public works, engineering, social workers, hospital workers; all of the various classifications that were employed by the county were a part of this in one--some numbers. But we began to find out later on that the system itself was not necessarily fair. And, and what struck me and I think others was the fact that--it's a civil service system, in some places, some types of merit system mixtures. But the, the unfairness of it was that civil service systems, which are responsible for supplying the names of people who have passed some examination and qualified for a position; that's advertised. And then in my estimation, and I think others too, you know, the system had become involved and decided on what kind of discipline you would get for assumed violation of some process, or decide what it--what level of salary you would get, which was not their, their original function, or would decide how many vacation days you got. You know, my view was that some of the people ought to sit down across a table and talk about it, but we didn't have collective bargaining in those days or any other thing that gave workers a voice in this process. And even if we had had it, the association was not necessarily committed to the idea that workers had the right to talk about these things. And when the civil service systems were designed, they were really designed to protect workers from, you know, political abuse. Well, they had gone far beyond that, and now they were judge and jury. And there are other folks felt the same way, that, that we were entitled to a voice in this process. And so a, a debate started in the association itself, you know, what do we want to be? And ultimately, it was put to a vote of all of the members to decide whether you want to continue to be an association or whether you want to really be a union. I mean we really--lived in a very heavily unionized county, and we thought that our lot would be better off if we were a union as opposed to an independent association. And we enjoyed, we enjoyed both because we came to Contra Costa County Employees Association, Local 1675 [American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1675]. So, at the end of a year's period, our membership decided we want to be a union, enjoy the privileges of pursuing collective bargaining, and at the same time, be able to present workers' issues and cases before the civil service employees commission. And we did, we, we, we did that, and I became involved in that, in that movement.$$Okay, okay. So you really just become involved from the inside out because of necessity, you know.$$Right.$$And--$$Right.$$All right. So, now--$$Well, even, even more, just that I mean I, I had, at a, at a point in this, in this process became responsible for the administrative affairs of our materials and testing laboratory [of the Contra Costa County Public Works Department], so I had staff employees who reported to me. And I was a part of this other process, determine what would happen to them. Well, this seemed a little, little odd to me because I considered myself a worker just like them. And to be told, here is what we're gonna do to them, (laughter) didn't quite strike me as, as right, so I, I really--I got heavily engaged in trying to form a strong union and to have a place where, you know, employees had a voice.$You are credited with coming up with one of the strategic slogans of the late '60s [1960s] and stuff the, the "I Am a Man." The, the garbage workers [of the Memphis Public Works Division] carried those signs, wore the placards, and it's, it has a historical--now I know you're credited with coming up with it, but I think you even agree it has a historical origin. And tell, tell us about how you, how you did that.$$Well, you know, the, that--somewhere during the early days of the strike [Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike], the mayor [Henry Loeb] had made some comment that, that, you know, about the workers and so and so forth. And Jim Lawson [James Lawson] at a community meeting you know, one night says--and there's a video out there says that when the mayor or some person tells you what you're gonna do, and you must do it, that's not treating you like a man; that's treating you like a child, or something like that. And the essence of racism is when you treat a man if he's not a ma- as if he's not a man. And we didn't--I didn't think a whole lot of it, but we knew that we had to have something to glue this thing together. So this white pastor I was telling you about, Malcolm Blackburn, he and I were tasked with trying to find a slogan that would do that. So we spent one evening at the Rivermont Hotel [Memphis, Tennessee] playing with words to see as few a number of words that we could find that would have glue that everybody could relate to as to why they are doing what they're doing. And finally we came up with four words. And the reason we, we didn't want a lot of words because we, we couldn't pay to get a lot of signs printed (laughter), and the church had committed a print and a sign for us if we get it worked out. So we came up with that, those four words, "I Am a Man." And while it means different things I'm sure to different people, to this whole effort, it, it meant that I'm--I want--I'm standing up for my rights; I will speak out; I am speaking back to someone who I have historically held fear of; and I'm, I'm confronting the system. And I'm, I'm not asking for a whole lot, just to be treated with respect and dignity. And we didn't have any idea that this thing would hit like it hit. And like you say, I mean the--everybody wanted a sign. I mean that was their statement. That was their challenge to the system to treat them right, to treat them with fairness. And to this day, it has, it has hung on. I mean I'd, I'd like to credit one of the strikers with coming up with it, I mean, you know, but after about two and a half, maybe three hours of fiddling around, that's what we came up with. And we took it over to the, the A.M.E. church [Clayborn Temple A.M.E. Church, Memphis, Tennessee], and they, they printed the first batch of signs for it (laughter). And it sent a statement to the broad community, you know. And, and it was, it was their sort of fight back statement, you know, to all of the problems they've ever had for the all the years they'd ever lived there, worked there, or grew up in the South. Then as someone was saying, and I think it's, there's a lot of truth, that in the South, you could go from boy to uncle to grandpa without ever passing the position of man. And man, you know, but these guys I mean, (makes sound) that was it. We didn't have to say nothing else. I mean their commitment to this thing was locked in.

Clayola Brown

Union and civil rights leader Clayola Brown was born Clayola Beatrice Oliver on August 4, 1948, in Charleston, South Carolina. Of Gullah ancestry, Brown attended school in Key West, Florida and Oxnard, California before graduating from Philadelphia’s Simon Gratz High School in 1966, where she was an athlete and majorette. At age fifteen, Brown joined her mother, Ann Belle Jenkins Shands, in a successful campaign to bring the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA) to the Manhattan Shirt Factory in Charleston. Brown later attended Florida A&M University, graduating in 1970 with her B.S. degree in secondary education and physical education.

In 1970, Brown was hired by TWUA in their claims department in Opalaca, Alabama. Subsequently, Brown went on to play an organizing role in the seventeen-year struggle to unionize the textile giant, J.P. Stevens, culminating in 1980 with four thousand workers winning a contract through the newly formed Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU). Brown served as the ACTWU’s education director, civil rights director, and also, for thirteen years, as manager of the ACTWU’s Laundry Division. In 1991, Brown was elected international vice president of the ACTWU; a post which she was continually reelected to for over a decade. In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Brown to the National Commission on Employment Policy. In 1995, Brown helped merge the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) with ACTWU to form the Union of Needle Trades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE, now UNITEHERE!). That same year, Brown was elected international vice president of the AFL-CIO. In 2004, Brown became the first woman to serve as national president of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute.

Brown served on the board of Amalgamated Bank, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and SCLC. At the NAACP, Brown served on the Labor Ad Hoc, and NAACP Image Awards Committees. Brown also served on the Executive Committee of the Workers Defense League and as the first vice president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). Brown was honored with the NAACP Leadership and Keeper of the Flame Awards, the CBTU Woman of Valor Award, the SCLC Drum Major for Justice Award and many others.

Brown and her husband, Alfred Brown, have a son, Alfred, Jr.

Accession Number

A2005.161

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/13/2005

Last Name

Brown

Maker Category
Schools

Simon Gratz High School

Hueneme High School

East Bay Elementary

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

First Name

Clayola

Birth City, State, Country

Charleston

HM ID

BRO28

Favorite Season

Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

South Carolina

Favorite Quote

Let The Work I Do Speak For Me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

8/4/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Greens (Collard)

Short Description

Civil rights leader, labor leader, and union leader Clayola Brown (1948 - ) was vice president of the AFL-CIO, and the first female national president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

Employment

Textile Workers Union of America

A. Philip Randolph Institute

Manhattan Shirt Factory

Favorite Color

Green

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Clayola Brown's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Clayola Brown lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Clayola Brown talks about her mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Clayola Brown describes her maternal family's move between Vance and Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Clayola Brown describes her maternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Clayola Brown talks about the Gullah and Geechee languages

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Clayola Brown talks about her mother's upbringing in South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Clayola Brown talks about her father's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Clayola Brown describes how her mother and biological father met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Clayola Brown talks about her stepfather's family

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Clayola Brown describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Clayola Brown shares early childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Clayola Brown describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Clayola Brown describes her early musical interests

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Clayola Brown remembers attending Vance Baptist Church with her family in Vance, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Clayola Brown describes how she takes after her mother

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Clayola Brown recalls her school experiences in Charleston, South Carolina and Key West, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Clayola Brown remembers her fourth grade teacher at East Bay Elementary in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Clayola Brown describes moving between Florida, California, Pennsylvania and South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Clayola Brown remembers Daisy Richardson, her mentor at Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Clayola Brown remembers union organizing at Manhattan Shirt Factory in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Clayola Brown describes Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Clayola Brown describes her female role models

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Clayola Brown describes her independent and questioning mind

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Clayola Brown recalls music and literature that inspired her

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Clayola Brown remembers conversations with white teenagers at the Gloria Theater in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Clayola Brown describes Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Clayola Brown recalls her introduction to Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Clayola Brown describes her experiences at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Clayola Brown describes her experiences at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Clayola Brown describes National Pan-Hellenic Council groups at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Clayola Brown remembers her activism at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Clayola Brown describes being hired by the Textile Workers Union of America in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Clayola Brown remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Clayola Brown describes her employment with the Textile Workers Union of America

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Clayola Brown describes balancing her early career and her marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Clayola Brown describes organizing workers at J.P. Stevens & Company in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Clayola Brown describes the decline of U.S. unions and job opportunities

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Clayola Brown describes J.P. Stevens & Company's organizing campaign

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Clayola Brown remembers her tenure at Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Clayola Brown describes the qualities for effective labor organizing

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Clayola Brown describes the role of religion and party politics in unionization

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Clayola Brown describes her experience as an African American woman organizer

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Clayola Brown describes her mentors and board service

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Clayola Brown shares her perspective on the NAACP Image Award

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Clayola Brown shares her concerns for the labor movement, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Clayola Brown shares her concerns for the labor movement, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Clayola Brown describes the trade union movement and Walmartization

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Clayola Brown shares her perspective on the effects of Walmartization

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Clayola Brown her leadership vision for the A. Philip Randolph Institute in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Clayola Brown describes her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Clayola Brown reflects upon her life and legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Clayola Brown talks about her mother's support

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Clayola Brown describes how she would like to be remembered

Charles Johnson

Former Negro League baseball player Charles Johnson has fought against discrimination for most of his long life. Born on August 7, 1909, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Johnson never knew his father. He lived with his mother, uncle and grandmother, bouncing back and forth between Arkansas; Kansas City, Missouri; and St. Louis. Johnson moved to Chicago in 1925 to be with his dying mother, and from age fifteen lived on his own. He worked at a grocery store on the South Side and became acquainted with Negro League great Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe.

In 1930, Johnson went on his first barnstorming tour of Canada with the Texas Giants, and went with the team again in 1931. When he returned home to Chicago, the Great Depression had set in, forcing Johnson to rely on bread lines and flop houses to subsist. He later joined the famed Chicago American Giants of the Negro League, pitching and playing outfield. When not playing baseball, Johnson worked in stockyards, and in 1940 took a job in electroplating. Johnson was married in 1942, and his wife, Julia, forced him to give up traveling with the Giants. He finally quit playing in the Negro Leagues in 1944.

Johnson went to work for the Illinois Central Railroad Company in 1951 as a porter, lured by its pension plan. He became an active member of his union and helped file a lawsuit against the railroad in 1965 for discrimination. After five years of litigation, the railroad relented and he became the first African American special agent for the IC. Johnson retired from the railroad in 1974. Since retiring, Johnson has worked to get himself and 140 other former Negro League players accepted into a pension fund established by the Major League Baseball Players Association. Though the fund was created to provide assistance to elderly Negro Leaguers, Johnson and others have not been able to receive support checks from it.

Johnson's wife died in 1999. They had no children. Johnson lived on Chicago's South Side until he passed away on June 19, 2006 at the age of 96.

Accession Number

A2003.003

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/13/2003

Last Name

Johnson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Organizations
Schools

Wendell Phillips Academy High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

Pine Bluff

HM ID

JOH08

Favorite Season

None

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/7/1909

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soul Food

Death Date

6/19/2006

Short Description

Union leader and baseball player Charles Johnson (1909 - 2006 ) played for the Negro Leagues, barnstorming with the Chicago American Giants until 1944. He then went to work for the Illinois Central Railroad Company, winning an anti-discrimination lawsuit against them and became the first African American special agent in 1970. Johnson was an active advocate for the creation of a pension fund for the Negro League players.

Employment

Chicago American Giants

Illinois Central Railroad Company

Favorite Color

Blue, Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles Johnson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles Johnson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles Johnson describes his grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Charles Johnson describes his childhood in Arkansas and Kansas City

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles Johnson describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles Johnson describes his childhood in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles Johnson describes his childhood in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles Johnson describes the environment in Chicago, Illinois during his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charles Johnson describes the beginning of his career playing baseball

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charles Johnson describes his experience as a pitcher

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles Johnson talks about the lack of contracts in Negro League Baseball

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles Johnson describes his experience paying for the All Nation Clowns

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles Johnson describes a memorable baseball game he played in Baraboo, Wisconsin, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles Johnson describes a memorable baseball game he played in Baraboo, Wisconsin, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles Johnson talks about the most memorable games he played

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles Johnson describes being harassed by a baseball fan in Canada

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles Johnson talks about the other great athletes he played with

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles Johnson describes what years he played baseball

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles Johnson describes his experience as an electroplater

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles Johnson describes his experience working for the Illinois Central Railroad Company

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles Johnson describes the discrimination he faced from the Illinois Central Railroad Company

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles Johnson describes the discrimination lawsuit he filed against the Illinois Central Railroad Company

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Charles Johnson describes his experience as a policeman for the Illinois Central Railroad Company

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Charles Johnson talks about the lack of record keeping for Negro League Baseball

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Charles Johnson talks about the difference between contemporary baseball and baseball of his era

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Charles Johnson describes the struggle to get pensions for former Negro League Baseball players

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles Johnson describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles Johnson describes his experience offering advice to young black athletes

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles Johnson talks about burying his stepfather

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles Johnson reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles Johnson describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles Johnson talks about the break in of his house

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles Johnson talks about his plans for the future

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles Johnson narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

5$11

DATitle
Charles Johnson describes a memorable baseball game he played in Baraboo, Wisconsin, pt. 1
Charles Johnson describes the struggle to get pensions for former Negro League Baseball players
Transcript
We had a game in Portage [Wisconsin], about thirty or something miles from Baraboo [Wisconsin] on a Saturday. I pitched that Saturday, and I was lucky enough to win. We had hotel accommodations in Baraboo that Saturday night according to the wire that we got. So after the ball game, we jumped in the bus and headed for Baraboo, uniforms and all on, hoping when we get there we'd get us a good bath and everything and get cleaned up. So we arrived in Baraboo and found this little hotel, I never will forget that either. It was kind of--little office downstairs like a storefront and the rooms is upstairs. Got out of the bus and went in, a little clerk said, "I don't know nothing about no reservation for ya'll." Said "What do you mean you don't, I got it right here, this is the manager," come out, "I don't know nothin about it, ain't nobody said nothin to me about no reservations and first of all you got them two niggers on here." Okay. Now we standing outside on a little sidewalk there, bus parked there, some sittin in the bus, some standing around waiting for the manager of the team. He hadn't showed up. So finally he showed up and the first thing he said was "I been trying to find a place for ya'll to stay, but I can't find no place cause you got these two niggers on it." When he said that the manager said, "All right fellows, let's load up, let's go. We'll stop along the road somewhere and get something to eat, whatever town we was going to the next day." "You can't leave here you gotta a contract so and so and so and so." So they started a argument between them. It was a man standing there with a little boy about five or six year's old. So he said to our manager, he said, "Can I speak to you a minute," he said, "Yeah." So he start to walk off, said, "You don't need to walk off, whatever you got to say, say it, we don't have no secrets." He said, "Well I heard what that so and so said to you," he said "now I'm an engineer on the railroad, and I'm gon be home tomorrow and I want to see a ball game." He said "If ya'll agree, I'll take the whole damn team home with me." He said, "Now I don't have beds for everybody, but we'll make pallets on the floor and so forth and so." He had a single-family home just like this one here, I think, three bedrooms in it, garage in the back. So the manager said "Ya'll here what this man said?" "Yeah, we heard him." "What you think about it, Al?" Morehead, Morehead said "all right," Morehead said "What about it Charlie?" I said "It's okay with me." Man run to the phone and called his wife and told her, call Jane so--it was her friend, "I'm bringing the whole team home for dinner, fifteen of us."$Now I got a article in the paper there, clipping in that drawer there now wherein that this guy is writing about the little pension that some of the players are getting.$$That's a pension through Major League Baseball?$$Yeah, okay. Now [HM] Carol Moseley Braun during her term as senator, she goes to [Jerry] Reinsdorf, the owner of the White Sox, and Bud Selig, which is now commissioner, was the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers at that time, to talk about giving us a little type of pension. So when they put it before the team owners nobody want to touch it. Put it before the baseball union, nobody want to touch it. So Bud Selig said well hell, we'll do it ourselves. Now as Johnny says and I agree with him, when it come down to who's entitled and who's not, I think according to the count down in Kansas City [Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri], round two hundred and, not quite two hundred and fifty of us living now. Now they got a so-called union. The president's up there in Manassas, Virginia, right out of Washington, and I asked him "Who submitted the list of names for the eligibility of the players to Reinsdorf and whoever's handling it," he said "I don't know." "Well, somebody did. You president of the so-called union and you don't know? When you keep a count of every member that's eligible, you wrote me and wanted to know some questions before you recognized my eligibility." I don't know. Now Joe Black, Monte Irvin, Monte Irvin works for the commissioner out of the commissioner's office, they set up a ruling that you had to have four, I believe it's four years, consecutive employment in the league to be eligible. Consecutive now, which means you might have been there five years on and off, like myself. Therefore the majority of the players don't receive it. Now I got an article in that paper now wherein that this senator down in Florida says this session of congress he's gonna take it up because there's a hundred and fifty players that are not getting this pension, and at $10,000 a year, that's just a drop in the bucket to Major League Baseball, and they claim they can't find some extra money to give to these other hundred and fifty players. Well like Johnny said they could have pro-rate, said well if you been there two years, we'll give you $5000 a year you know. Whatever the majority of us out here is still struggling. I'm not struggling to--I'm existing, I'm not rich you know, but I'm living. But it's a lot of em is not well off as I am because they didn't work. Take like [HM Ted] Radcliffe down there, he ain't never had a job in his life, "Double Duty," never worked. So he's struggling, yeah. So now what's gonna happen now, I don't know, but Jim--the commissioner before Selig.$$[A. Bartlett] Bart Giamatti, yeah?$$He is writing a book and two months ago, I'll bet it's two months about now, he sent everybody a check from the royal(ph) of this book. And he says he contribute the whole amount to the old Negro players.