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|Laborfest: Interracial Unionism in Philadelphia|
|Date||Thursday July 28|
|Time||7:00 PM - 9:00 PM|
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ILWU Local 10 Henry Schmidt Room- 400 North Point, San Francisco. F train to Beach St. Buses: 8, 30, 47, 39.
Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia
“Ben Fletcher: the WWI era’s most important, if forgotten, African American Labor Leader”
Author and historian Peter Cole’s talk will examine the history of Ben Fletcher and the union he helped lead, Local 8, which was the most successful interracial labor union in US history prior to the rise of the CIO in the 1930s. Led by Fletcher, the best known black Wobbly, thousands of black men, allied with thousands of whites, both native-born and immigrant, to make Local 8 a force to be reckoned with in the WWI era, an era when most unions, like almost all institutions, excluded blacks or, at best, segregated them. In contrast, Fletcher and the Industrial Workers of the World—to which Local 8 belonged—both preached and practiced racial equality. The rise and fall of this union reveals the extent of what was possible in regards to interracial unionism in the most racist era since the abolition of slavery. This union helped lay the foundation for subsequent unions committed to civil rights including San Francisco’s own International Longshore & Warehouse Union.
Peter Cole is an Associate Professor of History at Western Illinois University in Macomb.