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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