UE and Civil Rights: A Timeline

February 1, 2001

This timeline was originally published as a companion piece to the UE News Feature "People In Struggle Changed History: The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s"

1938

UE becomes the first American union to seek no-discrimination provisions in all contracts.

1939

UE launches national campaign for laws against poll taxes and lynching.

1941

June 25 — Responding to the threat of a massive march on Washington, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs an order establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission.

1942

August — UE abandons Indianapolis as convention site because of city hotels’ policy of racial discrimination; convention moved to Cleveland with only a month to go.

1943

September 17 — The Ninth UE Convention calls on Congress to eliminate the poll taxes which deprive "millions of white and Negro workers" in seven southern states their right to vote.

1944

September 25 — With the Second World War still underway, the Tenth UE Convention "Calls on President Roosevelt, as Comdr.-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, to effect by Executive Decree an end to the racist Army policy of Jim-Crow segregation of Negro troops and insure equal treatment of all Americans regardless of race or color."

1947

April 1 — Jackie Robinson becomes first African-American ball player to sign a major league contract.

September 23 — The Twelfth UE Convention declares for "immediate enactment of anti-lynching legislation, bill to abolish the poll tax, a fair employment practices bill with strong enforcement provisions, and legislation outlawing and penalizing racial and religious discrimination."

1947

October 23 — NAACP petitions United Nations for redress of U.S. racial discrimination.

1948

January 26 — President Truman signs Executive Order 9981, ending segregation in the U.S. military.

1949

February 15 — UE-sponsored radio reporter Arthur Gaeth brings nation’s attention to the case of "the Trenton Six," young African-American men convicted of murder and facing execution; convictions based on "confessions" following police beating.

1950

UE wins first anti-discrimination clause in General Electric contract.

September 20 — The Fifteenth UE Convention dedicates itself to the elimination of racial discrimination in the electrical manufacturing industry and UE communities, with a fair employment practice clause in every contract and by fighting for a federal Fair Employment Practices Commission.

1952

January 7, 1952 — UE Pres. Albert Fitzgerald calls for immediate government action to apprehend the perpetrators of the Christmas Day bombing murder of NAACP state coordinator Harry T. Moore, the latest in a series of terrorist attacks on African-Americans and Jews. Fitzgerald’s message to President Truman is followed by similar protests from UE locals and districts.

May 12 — In testimony before the U.S. Senate, Ernest Thompson, secretary of the UE Fair Practices Committee, reveals the growing disparity between white and black incomes. He says the federal government must address job discrimination, which hurts all workers.

1954

May 17 — "Bowing to the demands of the 15 million Negro people and major sections of the rest of the country," the UE NEWS reports, the Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas that segregated, so-called "separate but equal" education is unconstitutional.

1955

March — A 15-year-old girl arrested in Montgomery, Ala. for refusing to surrender her bus seat to a white rider.

August 28 — Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago African-American native, is lynched in Mississippi while visiting relatives.

September — The 20th UE Convention adopts a pledge "to fight the growing terror against the Negro people in the South." Delegates demanded federal action to bring the killers of Emmett Till to justice.

October 17 — UE Pres. Albert Fitzgerald urges President Eisenhower to direct the Justice Dept. to take "vigorous, concrete action" to halt the terror directed against African-Americans, especially in Mississippi.

December 1 — Rosa Parks, a 43-year-old black seamstress is arrested for refusing to move to the back of a Montgomery city bus to allow a white man to have her seat. The following night community leaders meet, organize a bus boycott.

1956

March 4 — Two thousand attend a three-day National Civil Rights Assembly in Washington, urge that the federal government act to protect southern blacks from racist violence.

March 12 — Southern Congressmen sign "Southern Manifesto" insisting that only states, not the federal government, can force a change in segregation.

March 28 — UE members join with millions of other Americans in a National Day of Prayer in support of the black struggle for freedom in the South.

July — Fourth UE Women’s Conference hails African-American women participating in the Montgomery bus boycott; Rosa Parks expresses appreciation. "Such recognition gives us new determination to continue the struggle for freedom and justice," she wrote.

1957

May 17 — Thousands gather in Washington for "Prayer Pilgrimage for Civil Rights," addressed by 28-year-old Rev. Martin Luther King.

September 3 — Nine black students arriving at Little Rock Central High kept from entering by National Guardsmen under orders by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus.

September 25 — President Eisenhower orders federal troops to Little Rock, allowing desegregation of Central High.

September 30 — UE Pres. Albert Fitzgerald denounces as "disgraceful" the action of Arkansas Gov. Faubus in calling out the National Guard to prevent black children from attending high school.

November 25 — UE tells Westinghouse it will not take "no" for an answer on the union’s demand for inclusion of a no-discrimination clause in the UE-Westinghouse national contract.

November 25 — Rev. Martin Luther King writes to UE leader James Matles, expressing appreciation for union’s campaign for a non-discrimination clause in the Westinghouse contract.

1958

January 6 — UE General Executive Board calls on all locals to give their cooperation to the fight being waged by the union for inclusion of a no-discrimination clause in the UE-Westinghouse national agreement.

1959

March 16 — Asbury Howard, vice president of the Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers Union, sentenced in Bessemer, Alabama to chain gang and severely beaten for urging blacks to register to vote. He is also an officer of the outlawed Alabama NACCP.

1960

February 1 — Black college students stage sit-in at segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth’s store.

September 26 — Delegates to the 25th UE Convention cheer Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Birmingham, Alabama civil rights leader, as he describes black freedom struggle.

November 7 — UE leaders call on President Eisenhower to act to free jailed Rev. Martin Luther King.

1961

February 1 — The Supreme Court extends the ban on segregation in interstate travel.

May 4 — Freedom Riders attempt to integrate Alabama’s bus system. As the rides continue, the Freedom Riders are brutally attacked.

May 22 — NAACP criticizes President Kennedy for his refusal to back civil rights legislation introduced earlier in the year.

September 22 — The Interstate Commerce Commission ends segregation on interstate buses and facilities.

September 25 — NAACP member Herbert Lee is murdered in Amite County, Mississippi.

November — The Albany Movement begins the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s efforts to register African-American voters in southwest Georgia. Many jailed.

1962

January 1 — UE’s General Executive Board calls on union members to support the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s "Appeal for Human Dignity Now," in response to a request by Rev. Martin Luther King.

April — CORE, SNCC, NAACP, SCLC and Urban League join forces to begin the Voter Education Project in the Deep South.

July 16 — UE President Albert Fitzgerald sends telegrams to the governor of Georgia and to the police chief of Albany, Georgia, to protest the jailing of Rev. King and insist on his safety.

August 30 — Unable to attend the 27th UE Convention personally, Rev. Martin Luther King asks Rev. Morris Dawkins to deliver his remarks to union members.

August 30 — UE Convention delegates hail "the Negro freedom movement," back civil rights legislation, and call on the federal government to intervene to protect civil rights.

September 29 — President Kennedy authorizes federal troops to enable James Meredith to attend the University of Mississippi.

October 1 — James Meredith becomes the first African-American student at the University of Mississippi, after federal troops quell white riots.

October 8 — Full-page editorial in UE NEWS calls on the federal government to help extend full citizenship to African-Americans as the only way "to cure the disgrace of Mississippi."

1963

January — Kennedy Administration, FBI sued by civil rights workers in Mississippi seeking protection from both racist law enforcement officers and mob violence.

January 14 — Alabama Governor George Wallace, in his inaugural address, vows that he will uphold "segregation forever."

April 3 — SCLC stages demonstrations for integration in Birmingham.

April 12 — Martin Luther King goes to jail for leading Birmingham demonstrations.

April 23 — CORE member William L. Moore murdered near Gadsden, Alabama.

May 2-3 — Children’s Crusade in Birmingham; thousands of young people attacked by police dogs, hosed while demonstrated, jailed.

May 10 — Bomb destroys Birmingham home of Rev. A.D. King, brother of Martin Luther King.

May 20 — UE President Albert Fitzgerald calls on President Kennedy to bring "full executive power" to bear on officials in Alabama to stop them from continued denial rights of black citizens.

June 11 — Alabama Governor George Wallace physically blocks doorway to prevent African-Americans from registering at the University of Alabama.

June 12 — Medgar Evers, head of the Mississippi NAACP, assassinated in Jackson.

July 29 — For the first time in its history, Ohio Brass Co. in Barberton, Ohio hires blacks, in response to a request by UE Local 747.

August 28 — More than 200,000, including several busloads of UE members, participate in March on Washington.

September 10 — Rev. Ralph Abernathy of the SCLC warmly received at 28th UE Convention.

September 15 — Four African-American girls killed when a bomb explodes at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.

October — On "Freedom Day," 300 African-Americans attempt voter registration in Selma, Alabama amidst the intimidating presence of armed police.

1964

January — UE members in Philadelphia area raised funds in memory of the children murdered in the Birmingham church bombing.

March 9 — Inspired by the civil rights movement, UE Local 1114 in Chicago forms Rank-and-File Committee for Equal Opportunity.

April 26 — Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party established.

June 15 — "Freedom Summer" launched.

July 2 — The 1964 Civil Rights Act outlaws discrimination in voter registration, and makes it a crime to hire and fire people based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin.

August 4 — The bodies of civil right workers James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman are found buried near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

September — The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenges the seating of the all-white state delegation at the Democratic National Convention.

September 15 — Ella Baker of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party addresses 29th UE Convention, tells delegates that they "understand [civil rights] as being something not only for Negro Americans but the fact that it is basic to the future of America."

November 2 — Eighteen Congressmen call on President Johnson for federal intervention to prevent bloodshed in Mississippi, say civil rights workers receive no protection.

November 16 — The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party announces intention to challenge the seating of the state’s Congressional delegation.

1965

January — One third of the U.S. House of Representatives votes to hold up the seating of the Mississippi delegation pending an investigation. More than 90 percent of black citizens were systematically excluded from voting.

March 7 — Protesters assembling in Selma, Alabama for march to Montgomery beaten by police with whips and clubs.

March 9 — Rev. Martin Luther King attempts to lead Selma to Montgomery march, which is thwarted by police. James Reeb, a Boston minister, is severely beaten by segregationists; he dies two days later.

March 15 — UE District One members demonstrate outside Philadelphia City Hall in solidarity with civil rights protesters in Alabama.

March 21 — Protestors leave Selma on third attempted march to Montgomery; President Johnson federalizes National Guard, orders protection for marches.

March 25 — Twenty-five thousand march into Montgomery. That night, Viola Liuzzo, a white housewife from Detroit, is murdered while driving protesters back to Selma.

April 5 — UE District One locals contribute to the families of Jimmy Lee Jackson, a black youth shot and killed in Marion, Alabama, and Rev. James Reeb, who was bludgeoned to death in the streets of Selma.

April 24 — Some 600 delegates from across the country meet to build campaign to unseat the five Dixiecrat Congressmen from Mississippi.

June 28 — All UE locals are urged by UE Secretary-Treasurer James Matles to take advantage of the expressed policy of the Civil Rights Act to strengthen the anti-discrimination clauses in their contracts.

August 6 — Voting Rights Act eliminates discriminatory barriers to voting, allows the federal government to register voters in counties with low registration numbers.

August 23 — UE President Albert Fitzgerald calls on UE locals to back the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in its challenge to the seating of the state’s Congressional delegation.

September — The 30th UE Convention is addressed by John Lewis of SNCC and Andrew Hawkins of the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union.

September 17 — The challenge to the Mississippi Congressional delegation fails 143-228.

1966

March — The U.S. Court of Appeal voids municipal elections in Sunflower County, Mississippi because blacks were denied the right to vote.

June 6 — James Meredith, the student responsible for integrating the University of Mississippi, begins the March Against Fear to encourage African-Americans to exercise their freedom of movement throughout the South. He is injured by a sniper.

June — Immediately after participating in Mississippi voter registration march, Dick Gregory speaks to 31st UE Convention; referring to the shooting of James Meredith, declares, "A man is safer walking around the world in outer space than walking around in America."

1967

Martin Luther King launches the Poor People’s Campaign to call attention to the need for better housing, schooling and health care.

March 6 — UE President Albert Fitzgerald expresses his outrage at the bombing murder of Wharlest Jackson in Natchez, Mississippi. An employee of Armstrong Rubber, Jackson was murdered on the same day he was upgraded to a position never before held by a black worker.

August — 32nd UE Convention takes strong stand for "Negro liberation."

November 13 — UE President Albert Fitzgerald hails the election of African-American candidates in Gary, Indiana and Cleveland, Ohio, and the election of Robert Clark, the first black elected to the Mississippi legislature since Reconstruction.

1968

March — Rev. Martin Luther King supports Memphis sanitation workers’ strike.

April 4 — Rev. King assassinated while in Memphis supporting sanitation workers. UE members stop work to express sorrow and shock.

June 3 — Poor People’s March arrives in Washington.

June 19 — UE members among the many thousands taking part in the Solidarity Demonstration of the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington.

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