Watch: America’s Racist History of Labor

By  Felice León, originally published Sept. 4, 2017, but republished for Labor Day 2021, theroot.com

News flash: The history of labor in America is racist….

Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 after a railroad strike led by the American Railway Union known as the Pullman Strike.

This was a turning point in the labor movement, though it didn’t benefit all American workers. Black Pullman porters weren’t allowed to participate in the strike because they were not allowed in the white unions. But black people did unionize.

Some associate black unions with A. Philip Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which was established in 1925. But some scholars date black unions to as early as 1838. And in 1869, there was the Colored National Labor Union, which was established by a ship caulker named Isaac Myers. Though the CNLU was short-lived, it paved the way for black unions to come.

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