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Article

A. L. Dawn French

was born on 8 January 1951 at Riviere Doree, a community in the southeast section of the island. He was one of nine boys of David William Barnard and Andrazine Anthony, better known as (and officially known as) Lucy Rosemond, who hailed from Saltibus. They also had two girls, both of whom died in infancy.

Anthony grew up in the south of the island, in the villages of Degatierre and River Dorée. His education started at the River Dorée Anglican Combined School, but was interrupted when he moved to the nearby island of St. Vincent. From 1959 to 1963 he attended the Kingstown Preparatory School in the capital, Kingstown. In 1963 he returned to Saint Lucia and attended the Laborie Boys School for one year; in 1964 he moved to the Vieux Fort Secondary School. Upon graduation in 1968 he worked at the business house of Minvielle and Chastanet ...

Article

Christina Accomando

William Attaway was born 19 November 1911, in Greenville, Mississippi, to Florence Parry Attaway, a teacher, and William Alexander Attaway, a physician and founder of the National Negro Insurance Association. When he was five, his family moved to Chicago, taking part in the Great Migration that he later chronicled as a novelist. The family moved to protect the children from the corrosive racial attitudes of the South.

Attaway's early interest in literature was sparked by Langston Hughes's poetry and by his sister who encouraged him to write for her theater groups. He attended the University of Illinois until his father's death, when Attaway left school and traveled west. He lived as a vagabond for two years, working a variety of jobs and writing. In 1933 he returned to Chicago and resumed his schooling, graduating in 1936. Attaway's play Carnival (1935 was produced at the ...

Article

Iris Berger

South African labor organizer and women’s movement leader, was born in the diamond-mining town of Kimberley, the fourth of six children. Her father Herman Maswabi had come from Bechuanaland (now Botswana) to work on the mines and was a steward in the local Methodist church; her mother, Sara Voss, also Tswana, came from Kimberley. When her father’s brother and sister-in-law died, Baard’s family took in their children, and her parents sent her to stay with her father’s sister in Ramotswa, a village not far from Gaborone, where she was confirmed in the local Lutheran church. After Baard, then around eight years old, suffered serious burns in a cooking fire, her mother brought her back to the family home in Beaconsfield, just outside of Kimberley. She attended a Methodist school, learning in both English and Tswana. Shortly after she returned, her mother passed away during the 1918 flu epidemic.

When Baard ...

Article

Ingrid Y. Castañeda

born to Creole (English-speaking) parents in British Honduras in 1897. Betson attended primary school at a Methodist institution and in 1916 volunteered to fight in World War I as part of the British West Indies Regiment. Upon return to Belize from the Middle East in 1919, black former servicemen rioted over poor conditions at home and abroad. While he apparently did not participate in the riots, the radicalism of the period, combined with the appeal of Marcus Garvey’s ideas, had a lasting impact on Betson. After his military service, he returned to work as a master shipwright, repairing ships on the waterfront.

British Honduras was again gripped by social upheaval in 1934 as the Great Depression battered the colony s economy Sparked by the government s lack of response to a disastrous hurricane the colony saw strikes and street protests demanding jobs higher wages and better living ...

Article

Cleve McD. Scott

was born on 7 December 1910, to Theophilus Bird and Amanda Edgehill in St. John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda. He grew up in poverty and received only a primary level education, factors that would drive his future political activism. At age 15, Vere joined the Salvation Army, a religious organization. He was trained at its college in Trinidad and joined the college’s staff on completion of his stint. By age 21, the near 7-footer had attained the rank of captain and was assigned to Grenada, where he worked until the early 1930s before returning home.

The 1930s in the Anglophone Caribbean was like a boiling cauldron producing widespread social and political upheaval and this was the backdrop to Bird’s rise in the labor movement and politics. In 1939 on the heels of the visit by the British colonial Moyne Commission investigating the causes of the labor ...

Article

Dorothy Cowser Yancy

Drawing upon the knowledge acquired from years of doing domestic work and her experiences as a community activist, in 1968 Dorothy Lee Bolden organized the National Domestic Workers Union, which improved the wages and working conditions of domestic workers in Atlanta and served as an ongoing model for those in other cities.

Dorothy Lee Bolden was born in Atlanta, the daughter of Raymond Bolden, a chauffeur; and Georgia Mae Patterson, a cook who had moved to Atlanta from Madison, Georgia. She received her formal education through the ninth grade at E. P. Johnson Elementary School and David T. Howard High School in Atlanta.

At age three, Bolden was blinded after a fall that damaged her optical nerve. Her sight returned between the ages of seven and nine. It was during this period that she began her work life. She took her first job in 1930 washing ...

Article

was born on 16 September 1916 in St. Paul’s Village, St. Kitts, to domestic worker Mary Jane Francis, and blacksmith and laborer William Bradshaw. His interaction with trade unions began at an early age. His grandmother often sent him to pay her union dues to her union representative, one Gabriel Douglas, on his way to school. Like many boys in his community, Bradshaw worked on the neighboring sugar estate after completing his education. At the age of 16, he was apprenticed to the foreman in the machine shop at the St. Kitts-Bassetere Sugar Company. He joined the St. Kitts Workers League on the recommendation of his boss in the machine shop. In 1935 another boy pushed Bradshaw and his right hand went through a glass window during the altercation severing all the tendons After he recovered Bradshaw was promoted to the office of the machine shop This accident changed ...

Article

Sandria Green-Stewart

and the first “First Lady” of independent Jamaica, was born Gladys Maud Longbridge on 8 March 1912 in Parson Reid, Westmoreland, Jamaica, to working-class parents, Rebecca Blackwood and Frank Longbridge. Lady Bustamante, in her Memoirs, identified the role of her family (including her extended family), the church, school, and the local community in molding her early years and inculcating the values of responsibility and giving back to others. She attended the Ashton Primary School, which was run by the Moravian Church. As an ambitious 18-year-old, she moved to Kingston, the island’s capital, to pursue further education at Tutorial Commercial College, where she studied to be a secretary. It was in Kingston that she began her journey to become associated with Jamaica’s early trade union movement and a contributor to the project of nation-building.

Bustamante described her early life in rural western Jamaica as happy and carefree She was involved ...

Article

Born William Alexander Clarke, of an Irish immigrant father and a Jamaican mother of indigenous and African descent, Bustamante grew up in Blenheim, Jamaica, but ventured out into the world at the age of twenty-one. As a young man he served in the Spanish army, then worked in various capacities in Cuba, Panama, and New York City. He returned to Jamaica in 1932 as a wealthy entrepreneur. Although shrewd investments had made him rich, Bustamante's concern for Jamaican Sugar plantation workers led him to participate in protest marches, organize strikes, and become the treasurer of the Jamaican Workers and Tradesmen's Union (JWTU), which he helped found in 1937. His political activism continued alongside the social upheaval occurring in the 1930s throughout the West Indies. After he was jailed and released in May 1938 he became a symbolic leader of the workers movement ...

Article

Anton L. Allahar

also known as “Buzz,” was born in St. George’s, Grenada, on 21 January 1897 and emigrated to Trinidad at age 21. His father worked as a blacksmith and also served as the sexton of the St. George’s Anglican Chapel, which gained the young Uriah entry to the well-regarded St. George’s Anglican School. Beyond this there is little available information concerning his family and formal education, but it is generally believed that his education was minimal.

Like a number of British West Indian young men at the time while still in his teens Uriah enlisted in the British army during World War I and was stationed in Egypt but here too not much is known of his exploits in the army Butler s limited education in no way impaired the kind of contribution he would make to his adopted country in the turbulent decade of the 1930s when a still young ...

Article

Lorraine Anastasia Lezama

Though born in Grenada, Tubal Uriah Butler would eventually develop his career as a labor organizer and politician in Trinidad. In Grenada, Butler was affiliated with the Grenada Representative Government Movement, and served as a volunteer in the first contingent of the West Indies during World War I. In 1921 he migrated to Trinidad, where he settled in Fyzabad, a southern industrial town populated by workers from the dominant petroleum industry. He held a variety of positions in the oilfields—pipe fitter, rig man, and pump man—until 1929, when he was seriously injured.

Butler was a charismatic speaker, and he quickly became influential in the Trinidad Labour Party (TLP), an organization committed to expanding the voting franchise and to lobbying for constitutional change. His ascent was matched by his growing disillusionment with the TLP and its leader, Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani Butler believed that the TLP was both ...

Article

Kenneth F. Thomas

labor activist, journalist, and educator, was born in Heberton, West Virginia, the son of Ernest Calloway Sr.; his mother's name is unknown. The family moved to the coalfields of Letcher County, Kentucky, in 1913, where Calloway's father, “Big Ernest,” helped organize the county's first local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America. The Calloways were one of the first black families in the coal-mining communities of eastern Kentucky, and Ernest was, by his own description, “one of those unique persons … a black hillbilly.” Calloway attended high school in Lynchburg, Virginia, but ran away to New York in 1925 and arrived in the middle of the Harlem Renaissance. He worked as a dishwasher in Harlem until his mother fell ill, when he returned to Kentucky at age seventeen and worked in the mines of the Consolidated Coal Company until 1930 During the early 1930s he traveled ...

Article

A. L. Dawn French

was born and raised in the island’s capital, Castries, on 7 June 1916. He was the son of James Charles, a political activist, and James’s wife, whose name is not recorded. George Charles attended the Methodist School and St. Mary’s College. Like many young West Indians of his time who migrated to the Dutch ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao), Charles went to Aruba, where he worked for a year with the Lago Oil and Transport Company, and where he was first exposed to trade union activities. On his return to Saint Lucia in 1945, he championed the cause of the workers at the Vigie Airport Renovation Project, where he was employed as a timekeeper. His solidarity with the workers on that occasion propelled him to the post of general secretary of the Saint Lucia Workers Cooperative Union.

A devastating fire in June 1948 razed 75 percent of ...

Article

Patricia Glinton-Meicholas

was born in 1922 to Charles Darling, an Acklins, Bahamas, fisherman and farmer, who took cyclical work in Panama. Termed “The Bahamas Nazareth” by Sir Arthur Foulkes (eighth Bahamian governor-general of The Bahamas), Acklins was one of the chronically depressed southern islands of the Bahamas archipelago, which forced its people to migrate to Nassau, the capital, or elsewhere in search of work. Charles married Aremilia Johnson, and Clifford, the seventh of their eleven children, was born on 6 February 1922 in Chester’s, Acklins.

Darling’s limited formal education began at Chester’s all-age school and continued at public schools in New Providence. Quietly ambitious, he seized opportunities for learning whenever they appeared. That he was intelligent was evidenced by his appointment as school monitor (pupil teacher) at age 14. His six shillings per month wage was a boon to his family following his father’s death in 1933.

In 1938 Darling ...

Article

Mohamed Adhikari

South African trade unionist and political activist, was the only son of David Gomas and Elizabeth Erasmus. John Stephen Gomas was raised in Abbotsdale near Cape Town. After his father abandoned the family, Elizabeth moved with her son to Kimberley in 1911. Here Gomas entered an apprenticeship at a tailor’s workshop in 1915, where his employer, Myer Gordon, a Russian immigrant, introduced him to socialist ideas. In 1919 Gomas joined the International Socialist League, the African National Congress (ANC), and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). Toward the end of that year his participation in a successful clothing workers’ strike transformed the quiet, bookish youth into a vociferous champion for workers’ rights.

In 1920 Gomas moved to Cape Town where he worked privately from home as a tailor He was active in the ICU the ANC and the Tailors Industrial Union Attracted by its militancy and ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

union leader and the first director of Harvard University's Afro-American Studies Department, was born in the Panama Canal Zone, the son of Jamaicans Howard Minoah Guinier and Marie Louise Beresford Guinier, both born in Jamaica. His father, a lawyer and real estate agent, died in 1916.

When he was four Guinier and two siblings were sent to Jamaica to attend school, since English language schools in the Canal Zone were reserved for United States citizens, and generally only for those deemed to be “white.” For nine years after his father died, he continued to live in Kingston, Jamaica with his grandfather, Thomas Henry Guinier, sometimes spelled Gaynier.

In 1919 Guinier's mother married Jamaican-born John D. French, and they settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where Guinier joined them in 1925 Traveling alone on a passenger ship he was briefly detained on arrival by customs authorities until his mother ...

Article

Jeffrey B. Perry

Hubert Henry Harrison was born in Concordia, St. Croix, Danish West Indies (now U.S. Virgin Islands), the son of William Adolphus Harrison and Cecilia Elizabeth Haines. Little is known of his father. His mother had at least three other children and, in 1889, married a laborer. Harrison received a primary education in St. Croix. In September 1900, after his mother died, he immigrated to New York City, where he worked low-paying jobs, attended evening high school, did some writing, editing, and lecturing, and read voraciously. In 1907 he obtained postal employment and moved to Harlem. The following year he taught at the White Rose Home, where he was deeply influenced by social worker Frances Reynolds Keyser, a future founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1909 he married Irene Louise Horton with whom he had ...

Article

As a youth, Hosea Hudson worked with his family on the Sharecropping land where they lived and was, therefore, unable to attend school. In 1917, he married and began sharecropping land separately from his family. After Boll Weevils destroyed his crops, Hudson moved with his new family to Atlanta in 1923. The next year he settled in Birmingham, Alabama where he began his career in iron molding.

Hudson soon engaged in informal attempts to better the treatment of African American workers. But it was not until 1931, when he joined the Communist Party of the U.S.A. (CPUSA), that Hudson became a public voice for worker's rights. Fired within a year from the Stockham Foundry, and forced to find work under pseudonyms, Hudson nonetheless continued to fight the Great Depression s devastating effects on African American workers During the 1930s Hudson strengthened his ties to the ...

Article

David Perfect

Gambian trade unionist, was born in Georgetown, the capital of MacCarthy Island Province (now Central River Region), on 15 January 1928. His father, Ebrima Momodou (“John”) Jallow, was a Fula, who is thought to have worked as an interpreter for the colonial government, while his mother, Amie Njie, was probably a Wolof. He was educated in Bathurst (Banjul), the Gambian capital, attending St. Augustine’s School.

After leaving school, Jallow worked as a clerk in the Education Department (1949–1954) before winning a short-term scholarship to the Cooperative College at Ibadan, Nigeria. In August 1954, he was appointed as a second-grade inspector in the Cooperative Department but was convicted of the theft of £30 from a cooperative society in August 1955 and dismissed. He formed the Gambia Construction Employees’ Society, which became the nucleus of the Gambia Workers’ Union (GWU) in December 1956 and became its general secretary a ...

Article

Timothy Scarnecchia

trade union leader in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), was born and raised in the Murewa area, where he attended school. Later, he moved to Salisbury, Rhodesia, and attended the Dombashawa School, a well-known training center for African teachers and artisans. Jamela started out as a furniture maker and then became a skilled builder in the late 1940s and early 1950s Working as an entrepreneur during a housing boom in the greater Salisbury area following World War II Jamela became acutely aware of the racial color bar that kept African skilled builders from working on their own Strict regulations prohibited the employment of African builders in the segregated European areas of Salisbury and wages were extremely discriminatory with a European journeyman making much more an hour or day than an African skilled worker In the early 1950s Jamela managed to negotiate with the Southern Rhodesian government for recognition of African ...