No More Cousin Toms

No More Cousin Toms

“The sentiment of organized labor in the country is decidedly in favor of maintaining and encouraging the recognition of equality between colored and white workers….”

“…to the union of the trade belongs absolute jurisdiction on all matters connected with the trade.”

“…if the colored man continues to lend himself to the work of tearing down what the white man has built up, a race hatred far worse than any ever known will result. Caucasian civilization will serve notice that its uplifting process isĀ  not to be interfered with in any way.”

The same man, Samuel Gompers, wrote all three of those statements. Gompers, the AFL’s founder, maintained that he was opposed to racial discrimination by unions, but accepted segregation as a necessary condition for organizing workers. And though he disapproved of excluding Negroes from unions, he believed that the “absolute jurisdiction” of the autonomous unions affiliated to the Federation included the right to carry out such policies. Then, goaded by the actions of Negroes who became strikebreakers because only in that way could they get jobs normally controlled by the unions, Gompers would angrily lash out at them, failing to understand how deeply Negroes felt about organizations which in convention resolutions promised them the future while depriving them of jobs in the present.