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Carl E. Meacham

railroad fireman and union activist, was born Matt Meacham in the township of Springfield, Greene County, Alabama, the fifth of seven children of Anthony Meacham, an ex-slave and farmer, and Hazel Cooks, also a farmer. Almost five years old when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, Anthony became a sharecropper in Greene County, but relocated, following a racially motivated financial dispute with the landowner, to nearby Pickens County about 1915. A defining moment in Meacham's life, it influenced his decision to confront the pervasive racism in the railroad industry in the 1940s.

Meacham's odyssey began at seventeen in July 1922 Like thousands of poorly educated yet ambitious rural Alabama black youths in the 1920s he migrated to the thriving small city of Tuscaloosa seeking a better life and in the process assumed a new surname Mitchell Hired as a coal heaver on the ...