Today in labor history: Black labor union formed

On January 13 in 1869 over 200 black delegates met in Washington D.C. to form the National Labor Union.  The word “colored” was added by the establishment press of the time and the organization became known as the “Colored National Labor Union.”  The group was head by Isaac Meyers. Frederick Douglass became the union’s president in 1872 and his newspaper, the National New Era its official voice.

While William Sylvis, president of a national union of white workers of the same name called for no distinction of “race or nationality” in the labor movement, his attitude did not prevail and issues relevant to black workers were not addressed.

The Colored National Labor Union admitted all workers without regard to race.

Photo: February 6, 1869 Illustration from Harper’s Weekly of the Colored National Labor Union convention in Washington, D.C. Public Domain, Wikipedia.



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Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.