The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

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
0,0:2133,75:4582,109:4898,114:6162,139:8058,163:8769,173:9717,230:10428,242:11376,257:18960,340:19440,347:20000,356:20640,365:32441,501:34710,510:35630,528:36182,535:37286,550:43830,620:45000,638:45450,644:46080,652:51912,703:56684,748:59776,753:60586,759:68242,816:68866,825:89420,1085:91330,1090:92698,1109:97714,1220:98018,1225:101818,1308:102122,1313:120730,1528:121632,1550:129704,1625:130306,1633:133574,1693:140780,1800:151298,1928:163474,2104:207110,2680:207593,2688:208076,2697:208628,2708:208973,2714:209594,2725:209939,2731:210422,2739:212350,2749:225130,2913:233953,3020:237487,3076:268440,3480:271890,3545:276780,3610:277308,3617:283260,3682$0,0:5040,48:6384,58:8760,73:14675,219:19407,327:19953,347:21136,358:25224,377:29760,467:30300,473:37990,580:44650,671:47550,729:51750,795:54150,825:59108,893:62492,940:63338,951:66346,1006:67944,1040:73010,1079:73354,1084:76278,1152:84358,1252:87180,1273:98090,1413:99410,1429:102706,1439:103050,1444:104082,1460:110376,1544:128490,1828:128940,1834:131550,1873:136434,1957:138550,1988:139286,1997:140206,2005:142230,2042:146754,2080:149346,2154:153980,2190:154680,2199:162490,2322:167838,2387:177860,2517:184460,2569:186020,2597:186540,2603:187996,2621:196136,2785:209122,2934:210788,2969:213532,3011:216276,3074:217158,3090:219608,3152:230320,3238:233539,3279:238041,3376:240910,3415
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.

Aileen Clarke Hernandez

Civil rights, union and women’s rights activist Aileen Clarke Hernandez was born Aileen Clarke on May 23, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York. Her Jamaican-born parents, theatrical seamstress Ethel Louise Hall Clarke and Garveyite brushmaker Charles Henry Clarke, named their daughter for Aileen Pringle, a film actress. Hernandez, who grew up in the ethnically-mixed Bay Ridge neighborhood of New York City, attended elementary school at P.S. 176 and graduated in 1943 as school newspaper editor, vice president, and salutatorian of Bay Ridge High School. At Howard University, she was taught by E. Franklin Frazier, Ralph Bunche, Sterling Brown, Alain Locke, Howard Thurman, Emmit Dorsey, Charles Hamilton Houston, James Nabrit, and Thurgood Marshall. Hernandez was a member of the Howard Players, edited The Hilltop, and was active in the NAACP with her friend Pauli Murray. Hernandez graduated magna cum laude from Howard University with her B.A. degree in political science in 1947.

Returning briefly for graduate studies at New York University, Hernandez moved to Los Angeles to take an internship with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and later went on to earn her M.S. degree in government from California State University at Los Angeles in 1961.

Hernandez worked for the IGLWU from 1951 to 1960; eventually she backed the efforts of the Federation of Union Representatives to obtain benefits from the IGLWU. In 1960, Hernandez resigned from the IGLWU to join the successful re-election campaign of California State Comptroller and future United States Senator Allan Cranston. In 1962, Hernandez was appointed by California Governor Pat Brown to be assistant chief of the California Division of Fair Employment Practices and began enforcing the state’s 1959 anti-discrimination law. In 1965, Hernandez was appointed a commissioner of the newly-formed United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by President Lyndon B. Johnson. As the first female and second minority appointed to the EEOC Commission, Hernandez paid particular attention to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 1966, Hernandez co-founded the activist group, National Organization for Women (NOW), with her friend and Episcopal priest, Pauli Murray, author Betty Friedan, and others. From 1970 to 1971, Hernandez served as the second national president of NOW, following Friedan. In 1971, Hernandez helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus, and in 1972 helped create NOW’s Minority Women’s Task Force. That same year, Hernandez formed Sapphire Publishing Company with nine other black women. Leaving NOW in 1979, Hernandez served on the board of the Ms. Foundation from 1976 to 1985. Hernandez toured China in 1978, and after touring South Africa in 1981, released the book, South Africa: Time Running Out.

Hernandez served as the president of Hernandez and Associates, which she founded in 1967; she has taught at San Francisco State University and the University of California at Berkeley. Hernandez was a Regents Scholar in Residence at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1996. Hernandez has been honored by the National Urban Coalition, the Northern California American Civil Liberties Foundation, Howard University and many other organizations. In 2005, Hernandez was one of 1,000 women from 150 nations who were collectively nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for their work in social justice and civil rights.

Hernandez passed away on February 13, 2017.

Accession Number

A2007.134

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/12/2007 |and| 11/8/2013

Last Name

Hernandez

Maker Category
Middle Name

Clark

Schools

New York University

P.S. 176 The Ovington School

Bay Ridge High School

First Name

Aileen

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

HER03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Ah, But A Person's Reach Should Exceed Its Grasp, But What Is Heaven For?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

5/23/1926

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/San Francisco

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

2/13/2017

Short Description

Labor activist and foundation executive Aileen Clarke Hernandez (1926 - 2017 ) was the co-founder of the National Organization for Women; the National Women’s Political Caucus; the Sapphire Publishing Company; and Hernandez and Associates.

Employment

Ladies Garment Workers Union

Alan Cranston State Comptroller Campaign

California Division of Fair Employment Practices

United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Hernandez & Associates

San Francisco State University

University of California, Berkeley

University of California, San Francisco

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:3619,102:4466,116:11722,208:15367,218:15850,226:16126,231:16402,236:18748,285:19576,300:20887,321:23534,345:24301,361:24891,373:25363,383:29021,464:29552,476:34534,529:35164,542:35857,554:38890,592:39225,599:39627,606:39895,611:40699,628:40967,633:41838,653:42240,661:42709,669:48290,739:49550,776:50090,786:53750,873:54290,883:55190,901:55430,906:59090,986:59630,998:60230,1009:60470,1014:60710,1019:61370,1033:61610,1038:65880,1049:66363,1054:66846,1064:67467,1074:67950,1083:68985,1100:69537,1109:72986,1141:73484,1148:75476,1181:75891,1187:77385,1215:81235,1248:81495,1257:81755,1262:86175,1352:86760,1363:87020,1368:91895,1473:92350,1482:97270,1503:97766,1512:98820,1523:100866,1582:101238,1590:102044,1605:103408,1631:103966,1642:104276,1648:104896,1659:112480,1691:114700,1746:115240,1757:115780,1788:116080,1795:116740,1809:117460,1826:117820,1833:118480,1868:125600,1953:126104,1966:126968,1980:127688,1991:131000,2068:131648,2080:138512,2176:138974,2185:143970,2261:146858,2312:149062,2348:149518,2355:150582,2372:158594,2524:158890,2532:161110,2581:161998,2597:175485,2759:175995,2766:176845,2778:179400,2786:180010,2798:182450,2860:182755,2866:184707,2910:185317,2925:186171,2944:186537,2952:186781,2957:187940,2979:192440,3009:193700,3033:194050,3039:194890,3054:195520,3066:195800,3071:196080,3076:196710,3087:198180,3121:198600,3128:203454,3163:208231,3235:208921,3247:211060,3297:214096,3367:215752,3409:216304,3418:217891,3451:219202,3473:225126,3526:226008,3545:226764,3560:227205,3569:227961,3584:228276,3590:229977,3625:233552,3667:233930,3674:234245,3680:238030,3730:238306,3735:238996,3747:240514,3773:243372,3786:244830,3795:245740,3812:247885,3850:248145,3855:249315,3880:251070,3918:251460,3926:252565,4006:254060,4033:254905,4048:256855,4100:257310,4109:260510,4119$0,0:1387,87:2628,100:9052,244:9563,252:12191,306:12556,312:12848,317:15987,380:18250,419:18542,424:19053,433:28885,497:29560,508:29935,514:32790,538:34745,561:35085,566:37773,582:38627,603:39908,642:40396,651:41372,671:42104,733:46020,760:46955,774:47465,781:48315,792:49570,798:51176,831:51614,870:54280,891:54560,896:55120,905:58255,952:58840,963:59165,969:60270,996:60920,1008:61375,1022:62610,1050:67060,1096:67775,1120:68360,1125:69790,1164:72650,1224:73430,1244:73950,1253:78332,1308:78580,1313:79820,1344:81928,1401:82176,1406:82796,1411:83416,1433:84656,1462:88532,1491:91681,1551:92217,1560:94439,1573:94754,1579:95825,1600:96707,1618:96959,1623:97463,1633:97715,1638:98345,1650:98660,1656:102125,1724:102377,1729:102629,1734:106082,1746:107119,1768:108217,1790:108766,1801:115534,1894:116374,1907:119230,1985:119650,1991:123418,2016:124228,2034:124660,2044:124930,2050:125362,2060:127144,2110:127468,2117:128062,2132:128548,2143:128764,2148:130384,2196:130708,2204:130924,2209:131518,2222:132652,2248:134812,2307:135568,2325:136324,2340:136648,2347:136864,2352:137242,2361:146337,2448:146775,2455:147140,2461:147432,2466:148819,2486:149622,2501:149914,2506:150936,2528:151885,2547:156180,2572:156780,2588:157020,2593:157860,2612:158640,2629:159540,2647:160020,2657:160440,2666:160680,2671:164954,2733:165298,2738:166502,2756:166846,2761:167964,2783:173822,2852:174270,2860:178686,2972:179838,2990:180798,3013:181118,3023:181758,3041:183422,3078:187450,3107:188410,3126:190330,3165:190778,3173:191226,3185:191482,3190:192698,3215:194042,3250:194298,3257:206836,3461:207724,3500:209500,3533:210240,3544:211128,3556:211424,3561:212534,3579:213274,3592:214902,3619:222914,3713:223178,3719:223442,3724:224630,3746:225818,3767:226280,3781:226742,3790:227336,3802:227864,3811:228656,3827:231230,3882:232022,3895:232682,3907:233012,3913:241165,4005:241449,4010:242830,4015:243058,4023:243514,4034:244141,4051:247108,4088:250078,4146:250540,4155:250804,4164:252784,4248:253048,4253:257008,4350:257470,4359:260836,4433:261100,4438:265441,4466:265806,4472:268507,4558:270770,4612:275650,4707
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Aileen Clarke Hernandez's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about discrimination in Jamaica

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her mother's education and occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls her father's occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about the Jamaican community in New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her extended family

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her early experiences of discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls her grade school education

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls Bay Ridge High School, Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls the entertainment of her youth

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers her activities at Bay Ridge High School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls her decision to attend Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers segregation in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her father's political involvement

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls her professors at Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls the activists at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers Pauli Murray

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers organizing protests in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about racial discrimination in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls her activities at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers the end of World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers her influences at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers graduating from Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls becoming a union organizer

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls the conditions in the garment factories

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers training with the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her parents' response to her career

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls organizing a strike for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes the history of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about her marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls the California Fair Employment Practices Act of 1959

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls leaving the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls her role at the Fair Employment Practices Commission

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers working for politician Alan M. Cranston

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls her support for President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls her support for President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers joining the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes the reaction to her appointment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers Lady Bird Johnson

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls the start of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about gender discrimination

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers Pauli Murray's role in the women's movement

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes the history of the women's movement

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about the stereotypes of the women's movement

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls the founding of the National Organization for Women, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls the founding of the National Organization for Women, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls resigning from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers Evenson v. Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls becoming an urban consultant

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls her decision to step down as president of the National Organization for Women

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes the divisions within the women's movement

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers the challenges to the Equal Rights Amendment

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls the divide over abortion in the National Organization for Women

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls the debate over labor equality in the National Organization for Women

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about equality in the U.S. military

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez reflects upon the political changes since 1970

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her work as an urban consultant

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls speaking at a conference in Germany

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers her international labor rights work

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez remembers the California Women's Agenda

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about the California Civil Rights Coalition

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez reflects upon her family

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Slating of Aileen Clarke Hernandez's interview, session 2, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about the women's rights movement

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about her career

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls her testimony to the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls the formation of National Organization for Women

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes the failings of the National Organization for Women

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls her decision to leave the National Organization for Women

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez reflects upon the National Organization for Women

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez reflects upon the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls discrimination within the National Organization for Women

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her role as an advocate for human rights

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about President Barack Obama, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about President Barack Obama, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez reflects upon the election of President Barack Obama

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez talks about Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential candidacy

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez reflects upon her career, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez reflects upon her career, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez reflects upon her life

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez reflects upon her family

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Aileen Clarke Hernandez narrates her photographs, pt. 3

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

8$7

DATitle
Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls becoming a union organizer
Aileen Clarke Hernandez recalls the founding of the National Organization for Women, pt. 1
Transcript
So what did you do after you recovered from tuberculosis?$$I went back to New York [New York] and de, decided to go ahead and get my master's [degree] at NYU [New York University, New York, New York] and was about two courses away from getting my master's (laughter) at NYU when I was sitting in the library doing a term paper. And there was a magazine on the table and I decided I needed a rest from doing my term paper so I started reading the magazine. And I opened up a page and on the page it said not the exact words but this was the tenor of it said, "Are you an oddball? Would you like a career that doesn't pay very much money but gives you lots of psychic rewards?" And there was a telephone number at the bottom of it, so I called the telephone number, and the telephone number turned out to be the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union [ILGWU]. And they were just establishing what they called their training institute, David Dubinsky, who headed that union had come to the conclusion that they needed to get more leadership from outside. Primarily from the universities and colleges because the, the employers were hiring people who were technologists in those days, to do time and motion studies on how you could do more work for less money in the garment industry, so he figured he had to get some people who could at least compete in some ways with those guys. So, he decided to set up a training institute and he put out this information all over the place about a year's training that ILGWU would give you. And at the end of the training, you would have an opportunity to decide where in the ILGWU family you would like to go work. So I, I applied, I got a chance to, to get in for a couple of reasons. One was because my mother [Ethel Hall Clarke] had been a member of the union during the Second World War [World War II, WWII] and secondly, I had been very active in the Americans for Democratic Action. And at, at that, in the Americans for Democratic Action, one of the people who I'm, I met during that period was a guy by the name of Gus Tyler. Who was a, a pretty much up in the higher echelons of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. And so when I needed to get a reference, he helped on giving me the reference too, so I got accepted, and I was one of four women among, out of thirty-two people selected for the program.$$So even, even for working for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Working for the union--$$Mostly men were--$$Working for--$$--were-$$A union that had like 85 percent of it's members were women, they all of the of, all of the officers except for one on the executive board were men. All of them were also white in those days; they were mostly Italian and Jewish, because the industry was immigrant industry. And though, and so a lot of those people had just recently come to the United States and had found a way to get work in that area. Dubinsky was a genius in a lot of ways and a person who had a lot of ideas about what you could do to make life better for people who were in jobs that were pretty well limited jobs. You, you could work in the garment industry, in the sportswear industries, without any kind of, of skills, 'cause you did piecework, you did section work. You didn't do a whole garment; you just sewed one seam all day long on a dress, and then it passed on to somebody else. Who added the cuff and it passed on to somebody else who did the hem and all the rest of it. And so what he did was he started out by having a resort for the union members, we could go on a two-week vacation at the union's resort, which was called Unity House up in the Pocono Mountains [Pennsylvania]. They started the first of the, the medical benefits for workers; tuberculosis was pretty rampant in the industries. So that they had set-up a lot of programs, they were very big with the City of Hope [City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, California] in those days. Which focused a lot on new techniques for tuberculosis, which of course interested me at that point in time, too.$--Tell us about the development of NOW [National Organization for Women], 'cause this, this kind of that, you know this, this NOW is about Pauli Murray kind of sets the stage for that.$$Yeah Pauli was very signif- significant figure in it, not just in terms of what she said in the newspaper. But she was doing some work with the [U.S.] Department of Labor and a lot of the help that was given to the formation of NOW came from the department, of the Women's Bureau. Where, where Pauli had been working on these issues and so Pauli had good vibes in that, in that community. She worked with a lot of those women, she had done a lot of the research work on the, on the commission's [Presidential Commission on the Status of Women] report. So Pauli was very active in the entire discussion about what she had already said to The Times [The New York Times], how do you organize women to be more forceful about pushing for this law? 'Cause if there's nobody out there pushing, nobody's gonna do anything in terms of them enforcing the law, that was pretty clear. Especially with these big, big issues of how many, how many cases have been filed with us, and how much backlog we had. They were gonna do whatever was there first, there was no question about it, so what, part of it was to get more women to file complaints. Where there was a problem and Pauli did a lot of that, and secondly was to make sure that whatever was put together was not gonna be in competition. That we're not competing with each other, the women, women's rights versus minority rights, that these were two interlocked communities. And they needed to work together on these issues, and Pauli in what she said in the statement of purpose made that very clear. But because of the way in which NOW got formed, because it actually got formed at a meeting of the Commissions on the Status of Women. And it was just after we had gotten Title VII [Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII] passed, I spoke at the first meeting of the, with the Commission on the Status of Women about the change in the law. And by the time we got to the second meeting, I was saying the same thing that Pauli was saying you know. That you need to have somebody out there speaking on this, I worked with a lot of the women in the Women's Bureau. The issues around sex discrimination 'cause they were the place to go for information. And Pauli had put her two cents in there and things were moving along very well, and women got together. And they decided at one of the Commissions of the Status of, of Women that they were gonna come back and they were going to ask the Commission on the Status of Women to take action on a particular issue. The issue that they were gonna take action on was the fact that the way the, the Title VII was written, commissioners served a five-year term was the maximum term that you had. And then you had to be reappointed if you were gonna be appointed. But because we were the first commission, they had staggered the terms, so that you wouldn't lose all of the commissioners at one point in time. So I had the shortest term, the first term, I had a one-year term, but because they hadn't done anything for one year, I actually wound up with the largest term. Because I then was reappointed for a five-year term, and then somebody had a four-year term and somebody had a three and two and a one. And the person who had the one-year term at that point was Richard Graham [Richard A. Graham] who was the businessman from Wisconsin. The Republican businessman from Wisconsin who had taken on the responsibility for the sex discrimination part of the law. We had, we had no staff, so we had to divide up who would do what, they wanted to give me sex discrimination and I said, "No. I think we need to get somebody else to get the information on this." Besides I have to deal with the relationship between the state commissions on, on equal employment opportunity and our federal commission. 'Cause the law also said that if there is a state that has a commission that relates to, to equal opportunity and employment or housing, that state has the right to take the complaints. And the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] should work out some arrangement with them where they get paid for doing those kinds of things. So I was supposed to work out that agreement, it was kind of interesting 'cause I had never been one of them before. I had known all of these people for all these times, (laughter) I went to the first meeting as a member of the commission. And they were up there saying, "Well you guys do this," (laughter), and I said, you, "I'm one of you, don't you remember me (laughter)?"

Charles Stewart, III

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.

Accession Number

A2004.256

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/13/2004

Last Name

Stewart

Maker Category
Middle Name

Vernon

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Greer College

Wendell Phillips Academy High School

Dore Elementary School

Howard Kennedy Elementary School

First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

Tuscaloosa

HM ID

STE06

Favorite Season

Fall, Hunting Season

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Omaha, Nebraska, Yankton, South Dakota

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/7/1910

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Frosted Flakes

Death Date

2/13/2006

Short Description

Labor activist Charles Stewart, III (1910 - 2006 ) and associates formed the first African American electrical workers' union in the United States, with a charter that permitted African Americans to legally practice as electricians and legally stopped white electricians from destroying African American electricians’ work. Later, Stewart was instrumental in the desegregation of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 134.

Employment

Berry Electric Contract Company

Taylor Electric Company

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:186,45:21486,275:22539,291:22863,300:29096,341:32393,366:36020,404:72458,716:73406,729:80174,824:144439,1505:155845,1626:159570,1654:171244,1770:173222,1796:210590,2167$0,0:979,15:1513,21:4361,50:6230,80:6586,85:7387,95:9879,141:10591,151:18610,211:49284,487:49942,495:98336,984:99074,995:99484,1001:108832,1213:118073,1303:138218,1521:175762,1870:176866,1885:181510,1941:182000,1949:182280,1954:182840,1964:183120,1969:189520,2067:189988,2072:194406,2112:208242,2255:244935,2665:247315,2731:267147,3029:287770,3238
DAStories

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

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

14$1

DATitle
Charles Stewart, III talks about organizing black electricians in Chicago, Illinois
Charles Stewart, III recalls his experiences as a foreman for Berry Electric Contract Company
Transcript
Were there were very many black electricians when you started out?$$No, there was about fifty that I knew of. And when I say I knew of it was all of these electricians on the South Side [Chicago, Illinois] and some on the West Side [Chicago, Illinois] we were trying to get together to get into the local and to do so, they had, had to get together. So we all got together and met at different places, first we met at the musicians' hall on State Street. Then we went to Samuels [ph.] shop at 46th [Street] and State Street. Then we went to the church building on 51st [Street] and [Martin Luther] King Drive which was South Parkway at that time. And we'd meet at different places and whatnot. And, of course, electricians were about fifty, something like that. And all of 'em didn't have steady jobs, they just had, whenever they could come across a job like that or like would give them some revenue, then they needed that for house rent and whatnot, and, you know, house rent wasn't near what it is today. So they kept the money but we met just the same, would then take up a collection and whatnot. In the collection we had the one leader, Ed Lauter [ph.]. Fellows that said they could lead but we had one leader who was Herman Washington. And he went to bat with Local 134 [of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers]. And he went directly through Mike Boyle [Michael "Umbrella Mike" Boyle] who assigned Bobby Brooks [Robert P. Brooks, Jr.] as the go-between, between him and Washington.$$Okay. So--$$At that time the war [World War II, WWII] was starting and whatnot and, and the government was demanding 3 point something percent of blacks on these jobs. And so Mike Boyle and whatnot would figure out where to send them and, of course, Washington had built up a crew and I was a foreman. And there were four to five of us and we went to the Buick [Motor Division] plant, the Ford [Motor Company, Torrence Avenue Assembly] Plant, Chrysler [Motor Corporation] plant. We went downtown to two or three big buildings and whatnot. And this man takes me in this building that I'm calling at 15th [Street] and Wabash [Avenue], down there.$Let me ask you about supervising white people and others, you know, was it, was that difficult when you were made a foreman on the job?$$No, because I always used the term we, we're going to do this, not I want this done or I want that done, it was always we're going to do it. And so that's what we did, we did the job and most of the fellows, now there would be fellows like when we were doing, I can't think of the name of the company now but we were doing this big job and it was a welding company and they welded these water tanks and things like the bottoms and whatnot and then then they'd run 'em through the machine and folded 'em, when I say folded to make 'em round and all that kind of business. So we had a fellow there and he was a steward on the job but I had put him and another journeyman together on the job and what they did in the course of the day it just wasn't, this is the only man I ever fired from any job, so I had fired him and, of course, it was twelve o'clock at night when [Robert] Berry finally got me and he says you can't fire him. I says don't tell me I can't fire anybody I says no, 'cause either he's got to go or I got to, one of us has got to go. So the next morning we were there and whatnot and I showed him what he had done, I says he dropped the wire down from the ceiling, he already had the measurements so he dropped the wire down from the ceiling over this machine and over that machine, he'd taken one two inch elbow and ten feet of pipe and one two inch elbow and ten feet of pipe. I said this is two journeyman, electricians, I says and that's all he tried do, I said I could have did that with my eyes closed without the extra man. So they let him go, then rather they sent him to another job, you know. He didn't stay there. It was either, I told him, either me or him so I stayed instead of him.$$Okay.$$So I figure that my work was showing for itself, you know.$$Okay. Did, did anybody ever refuse to work with you or walk off the job or anything when you were--$$(Laughter).$$--a foreman?$$Oh, yes. We were working in Leighton Township [ph.] on a streetcar turned around, and everybody showed up at this job but this one fellow and he finally showed up. And so when he showed up he yelled said, who's the pusher on the job, (unclear) that's foreman. So I said, I am. You are? So he gave a big jump and so he said I'm going to my car and get my tools I'll be right back. So he went on off and so I told Fred [ph.] I says he's, he's not coming back. And he says a nickel says, I says no. So anyway it went on like that so about nine o'clock I called the office and I says there was another man, this was during the, as I say the war [World War II, WWII] hadn't started but everybody was getting prepared for the war, so I says I had five men here but this guy left and so Bud Miller [ph.] says you wanna know what we told him? I says what did you tell him? We told him that if you work for Berry [Electric Contracting Company] one of these days you have to work with Charlie Stewart [HistoryMaker Charles Stewart, III] so you might as well start it now. So we'd give him his pay and let him go. So that was the kind of feeling that I had with my company, you know.

Leslie Outerbridge

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.

Accession Number

A2003.291

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/9/2003

Last Name

Outerbridge

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Wells Community Academy High School

Edward Jenner Elementary Academy of the Arts

Chicago State University

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Leslie

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

OUT01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - 0 - $500

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Los Angeles, California

Favorite Quote

In Order To Get The Proper Answer You Have To Ask The Right Question.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

12/29/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Cabbage, Ham, Potatoes

Short Description

Fire fighter and labor activist Leslie Outerbridge (1936 - ) formed the Afro American Firefighters League (AAFL), which helped the United States Justice Department win an anti-discrimination lawsuit against the City of Chicago. Outerbridge was also a founder of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters.

Employment

Afro American Firefighters League

Favorite Color

Rust Orange

Timing Pairs
0,0:408,164:22824,280:35230,406:36754,413:92960,968:98210,998:99536,1012:101168,1038:104381,1062:123127,1325:129243,1392:138520,1461:139040,1470:149074,1571:166430,1915:176450,1998$0,0:1308,25:2842,39:4376,54:4966,60:6382,73:17945,366:69803,781:95500,942:107220,1068:143084,1390:143707,1399:144419,1408:162232,1537:162664,1543:163204,1549:172998,1676:194713,1874:195490,1883:198760,1920:217374,2052:228760,2134:239590,2341:269823,2542:281812,2629:284780,2652:296890,2746:298120,2772:309360,2881
DAStories

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

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$6

DAStory

4$1

DATitle
Leslie Outerbridge considers which parent he takes after the most
Leslie Outerbridge talks about the formation of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters (IABPFF) in 1969
Transcript
Yeah.$$Who do you take after, you think, the most? Is it your mother [Lillie Taylor Outerbridge] or your father [Alexander Outerbridge]?$$Both. My father thought that I took after my mother because I had her attitude. She was, I guess what you could call a prude. I mean, you know, if she were, if she were in Bermuda, she would be the epitome of the social class. She was fashion conscious. She was social graces conscious. She dressed to a T. And, you know, we didn't have a lot of money. So we used to go down to the resale shops with her. And we'd be just as well dressed on Sunday morning as the rich kids. As far as my father is concerned, my activities with the fire department have to be attributed to him because he was involved very deeply with the A.M.E. Laymen Organization [sic, Lay Organization of the African Methodist Episcopal Church], and he was president of the laymen league here. He was the district president. And eventually, he, he published a, a newsletter, an international newsletter for the A.M.E. Church. So, what I've, what I did in the fire department came directly from him. He used to drag me along with him to all of his meetings. They used to meet out at the Bethel [A.M.E. Church] parish house at 45th [Street] and Michigan [Avenue, Chicago, Illinois]. And, oh, I couldn't have been no more than five years old when we started. So I got a sense of how a meeting is run, you know, how debate takes place, the rules of organization and it, it helped me to do what I did in the fire department, both locally and with the national black firemen's organization [International Association of Black Professional Firefighters]. So I became tuned. And all, always blamed, you know, the fact that I made the commitment on him because that's where I got it from.$$Well, it's good to have--(simultaneous)--$$The social commitment.$$--yeah, that exposure to organizational life.$$Right.$$A lot of people don't have any access to that at all.$$Right, right.$Let me ask you about the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters. That, that started in 1969? Were you a part of the development of that?$$Yes.$$Okay.$$Two, two gentlemen, one from New York [City] and one from Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], [David] Dave Floyd from New York City and [Charles] Hendricks from Philadelphia, they undertook a jaunt from one coast--starting on the West Coast, all the way back to the East Coast, stopping in every major city, trying to locate black firefighters, the idea being that black firefighters should be united nationally. They came to Chicago [Illinois], and they found, they found me, and they also found Jim [James] Winbush. We were co-chairmen at the time, but I ended up taking them around the city, kind of showing them, you know, different parts of the city. And we both got invitations to, invitations were given to come to New York for an initial kind of meeting. It was October, 1969, and we met at the Commodore Hotel [later, Grand Hyatt New York, New York City] which is no longer there, about three hundred black firemen from all over the country. You know, man, what a sight? What a venue? And everybody was telling the same story. So the outgrowth of that is, you know, we all have a common problem that needs to be addressed. And the only way--not the only way, but one of the best ways to address it is to become a national organization whereby we can share information and, you know, provide direct assistance where needed. And in the early days, you know, there were time--and I've even, I've even been a part of it myself, where an incident would happen in a particular setting, and, you know, black firefighters would get a convoy going. And they would go up there and address it head up, straight up. Now, that's kind of a primitive way of, you know, addressing the situation. But that was more, that developed more out of the camaraderie and common bond that we held for each other. The one problem that I had early on--oh, let me go back. It started on a Thursday, and it was, the main meeting was on Friday--no, we started on a Friday, which was mostly a social, a day of social interaction. And, oh, that was a glorious experience. I mean it's like--and I talk about it in my memoirs. It gave me the idea of what the slaves felt like when they were finally reunited with their, their loved ones, you know. They had been separated and now they're back together. That's what it felt like to me. That's what I equated it with. So it was a beautiful experience, you know, an entire day, big hospitality suite and as it is with firefighters, they are brothers, okay, because they, they are committed to dying together if need by or of dying for your brother. If, if the situation presents itself, that's what you do. So it was kind of an automatic camaraderie there, connection.