Samuel Gompers Papers

To Frank Sudduth

                                                                                                                     June 8, 1917.

Mr. F. R. Sudduth,
Secretary, Federal Labor Union No. 7087,
404 Weber Avenue, Belleville, Illinois.

Dear Sir and Brother:

          Your communication of June 2nd has been received.

          You state that a large number of negroes are now in your district and that they have been shipped in as strike breakers and that many of them are trying to work their way into the different unions. You ask whether you can refuse negroes membership that are not residents of your district.

          The fundamental principles of the American Federation of Labor ignore questions of race, creed and color. It is true that in certain sections of the country where race feeling has been accentuated, especially referring to the South, colored men are permitted to have organizations exclusively confined to their race.

          Your letter states that at least some of these negroes are applying to your organization for membership.

          When men evince a desire to become members of unions and make common cause with those who are organized, the opportunity certainly should be afforded these men to become union men. The organizations of labor have no moral or economic right to deny to any man, even though he be of a different color, the right to join with his fellow workmen for the purpose of bettering his condition.

          While it may be true that those who are responsible for the migration of these negroes from the south to the north have ulterior purposes, yet if these negroes realize that they are being exploited by these employers, make an effort to join with organized labor to maintain the present standards, and increase them, an opportunity ought to be afforded them.

          It is a serious mistake for any organizations of labor to place any obstacle in the way of those who desire to organize, even though they may be black men.

          The negroes are an economic factor in industry and that fact must be recognized and if organized labor refuses to extend to them the same rights and privileges as it does to all other workers, then we must expect the antagonism of the black man instead of his cooperation. The negro has desires and ambitions as well as the white man and if organized labor refuses to assist the negro in securing economic justices, then he must remain a retarding factor to the organized labor movement of the Country.

          I trust that the members of your organization will take a broad view of this question and that the best interests of the men who toil may be conserved.

                                                                   With kind regards and best wishes, I am,

                                                                    Fraternally yours,

                                                                    Saml Gompers.                                                                                                                                 President    American Federation of Labor.

TLpS, reel 222, vol. 234, pp. 776-77, SG Letterbooks, DLC.