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Alexander, Kelvin E.
Birth Year : 1969
Kelvin Alexander was born in Clinton, KY, the son of Mildred Alexander. He now lives in Bowling Green, KY, where he is serving a second term as vice president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 453, the first African American to serve in that position. Alexander is a graduate of Hickman County High School and Western Kentucky University, where he earned a B.A. in mass communication and minored in public administration. He is a member of the Oakland Mount Zion Baptist Church in Oakland, KY, and will soon be a deacon. He is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Kelvin and his wife Diana are the parents of William Alexander. Information submitted by Mildred C. and Kelvin E. Alexander.
Subjects: Kentucky African American Churches, Postal Service, Ministers, Pastors, Preachers, Religion & Church Work, Fraternal Organizations, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Clinton, Hickman County, Kentucky / Oakland and Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky

Birch, Augustine Edward
Birth Year : 1908
Death Year : 2000
Birch, born in Winchester, KY, was the son of Eva Downey Birch and Edward Eginton Birch. He was a supervisor for the Apprentice Information Center of the Cincinnati Bureau Employment Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. Birch was director of the Cincinnati Apprenticeship Information Center in 1969 when it was one of three centers in Ohio, and one of 35 centers in the United States. Access to the apprentice training programs was suppose to be a step toward getting hired in the trade industries. June 1963, the Cincinnati NAACP had charged that racists practices barred Negroes from journeymen jobs and participation in the union-controlled apprenticeship training programs in the building trades industry. May of 1965, only 100 Negroes had been allowed entrance into the 11 apprenticeship centers in the U.S. The efforts to desegregate the centers had been a long and ongoing fight. Augustine Birch retired in 1977 as an intake supervisor for the Cincinnati Apprentice Information Center. His other employments included supervisor with the Cincinnati Recreation Department and employee counselor at Wright Aeronautical Corp. Birch was a 1931 graduate of Kentucky State University, he was class president, a featured tenor soloist, and had participated in the college choir. He was a member of the Cincinnati Chapter of the Kentucky State University Alumni Association, and served as chair of the scholarship committee beginning in 1975. The Augustine Birch Scholarship is named in his honor. Birch was also a Tuskegee Airman with the U.S. Air Force during WWII, he enlisted in Indiana on October 8, 1943, according to his military enlistment record. For more see "Here are addresses of the U.S.A.'s 35 Apprenticeship Information Centers," The Machinist, 04/17/1969, p.8; and see "Deaths - Augustine Birch, 92, was job counselor," The Cincinnati Post, 08/25/2000, News section, p.19A. For more of the segregated Apprenticeship Information Centers, see H. Hill, "The Negro wage earner and apprenticeship training," Crisis, June-July 1961, vol.68, issue 6, pp.335-341[online at Google Book Search]; H. Hill, "Job crisis in the urban north," Crisis, November 1965, p.565-572 [online at Google Book Search]; R. Marshall and V. M. Briggs, Jr., "Negro participation in Apprenticeship Programs," The Journal of Human Resources, 1967, vol.2, issue 1, pp.51-69.
Subjects: Aviators, Employment Services, Military & Veterans, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Winchester, Clark County, Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio

Bishop, James Lee
Birth Year : 1869
Death Year : 1942
In 1902 the Socialists Party nominated one of it's first African American candidates for the U.S. Congress, Rev. James L. Bishop from Kentucky. Members of the Socialists Party had demanded that the party take a stronger stand for the rights of Negroes. Bishop had moved to Indiana, prior to the year 1900. With his nomination in 1902, he was to represent the 5th District of Clinton, IN. Bishop was a coal miner, a clergyman, and a trade unionist, and he was president of the local Central Labor Union of Clinton, IN. He was the husband of Galveston Bishop (b.1879 in TN), they had married in 1897 according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. He was later married to Rosa L. Bishop (b.1886 in WV-d.1952 in IN), according to the 1930 U.S. Federal Census. James L. Bishop received 745 votes, but was not successful in his bid for the U.S. Congress in 1902. [The first African American member of the Indiana Legislature was James Sidney Hinton, 1881 House of Representatives.] Rev. James Lee Bishop died January 8, 1942 in Clinton, IN [see grave stone at Find A Grave]. He was the son of Charles and Angelina Bishop who lived in Madisonville, KY [source: 1880 U.S. Federal Census]. For more see "Nominated for Congress," Baltimore Afro-American, 10/18/1902, p.1; and Marxism in United States History Before the Russian Revolution (1876-1917) by O. C. Johnson.
Subjects: Migration North, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Madisonville, Hopkins County, Kentucky / Clinton, Indiana

Black, John L., Sr.
Birth Year : 1931
Death Year : 2004
John L. Black, Sr., born in Burgin, KY, was the son of Robert and Bertha Black; Bertha died in 1934 after becoming ill with sickle cell anemia and tuberculosis. John Black was a retired stationary engineer for the Cincinnati Public Schools and a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), Local #20. In 1991, he became the first African American president of an IUOE Local #20. For more see "John Lincoln Black" in vol. 1 of African American National Biography, edited by H. L. Gates, Jr. and E. B. Higginbotham; and The Cincinnati Post, obituaries, 06/24/2004, News section, p. A14.

Access Interview Listen to Samuel Black remembering his father in A Father, a Son, and a Ten-cent Mistake, 09/29/2006, StoryCorps: Recording America at
Subjects: Engineers, Migration North, Union Organizations, Tuberculosis: Care and Deaths
Geographic Region: Burgin, Mercer County, Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio

Calloway, Ernest Abner
Birth Year : 1909
Death Year : 1989
Calloway was a writer, a union organizer and advocate, a civil rights activist, a politician, and an educator. He was born in Herberton, WV, and came to Letcher County, KY, with his family in 1913. They were one of the first African American families in the coal mining community in Letcher County. His father helped organize the first Local United Mine Workers Union. In 1925, Calloway ran away to Harlem [New York City]. Within a few years he returned to Kentucky and worked in the coal mines. Beginning In 1930, Calloway was a drifter for three years, traveling throughout the U.S. and Mexico before returning to Kentucky to work in the coal mines again. It would be Calloway's writing that would help him leave Kentucky for good. He had written an article on the use of marijuana and submitted it to Opportunity magazine. The article was rejected, but Calloway was asked to write an article on the working conditions of Negro coal miners in Kentucky. The article was published in March 1934, resulting in Calloway being offered a scholarship to Brookwood Labor College [info] in New York. He would go on to help establish and influence many union organizations. Early in his career, he developed the Virginia Workers' Alliance; organized the Chicago Redcaps [railroad station porters] and the United Transport Employee Union; and assisted in the writing of the resolution for the development of the Committee Against Discrimination in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Calloway was the first African American to refuse military service because of racial discrimination. In 1955, he was president of the St. Louis, MO, NAACP Branch. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1968 and was a part time lecturer at St. Louis University in 1969. For a more detailed account of Calloway's career, see the "Ernest Abner Calloway" entry in the Dictionary of Missouri Biography, by L. O. Christensen; and the Ernest Calloway Papers, 1937-1983 in the Western Historical Manuscript Collection at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Education and Educators, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Migration East, NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Union Organizations, 1st African American Families in Town
Geographic Region: Herberton, West Virginia / Letcher County, Kentucky / New York / Chicago, Illinois / Saint Louis, Missouri

Campbell, William Joseph
Birth Year : 1863
Death Year : 1912
William [W. J.] Campbell was a politician, a member and organizer of the Knights of Labor, a delegate and leader of the United Mine Workers of America, and a civil rights leader. The Knights of Labor, a labor organization, was founded as a secret society in Philadelphia, PA, in 1869. According to the organization's website, as of 1881, the Knights of Labor were no longer secret, and by 1886 the membership included 50,000 African American workers and 10,000 women workers. W. J. Campbell fought for improved race relations in coal towns and for interracial unions. He would become the representative of the Kentucky District of the United Mine Workers of America. W. J. Campbell was born in Morgan County, AL, the son of William Campbell and Bethiah Jones Campbell [source: W. J. Campbell's KY death certificate]. His family was poor; his father died when he was a boy. W. J. Campbell was hired out to a man who allowed him to attend and finish school in Huntsville, AL. Campbell became a teacher at the school he had attended. In 1880, he moved to Birmingham, AL, where he studied barbering and would become a barber. In 1881, he left barbering for the coal mines in Pratt City, AL. He became an advocate for the rights of African American miners, and in 1881 was secretary of the newly organized Knights of Labor in Pratt City. A year later, he was organizer-at-large, and established the first Knights of Labor in Birmingham and Montgomery. He established the beginnings of the United Mine Workers and the Federation of Mine Laborers, Division 10, in Chattanooga, TN. The division included Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. W. J. Campbell was also a politician; he was the elected secretary of the Republican Committee of Jefferson County, AL, in 1882 and was also an elected delegate to the Republican State Convention. In 1892, he was an elected delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention for Alabama. W. J. Campbell got married in 1889 and left Alabama in 1894 to settle in Central City, KY. Campbell was a miner and a barber, and his wife was a teacher at the Colored common school. Campbell organized Republican national league clubs for African Americans and whites. He was a delegate to the National Republican League Convention, and in 1901 was a member of the Republican State Campaign Committee. In 1898, Campbell drafted the Miners' Pay Bill of Kentucky that was passed by the Kentucky Legislature; it replaced the two weeks pay bill that had failed. In 1900, Campbell was a delegate to the National United Mine Workers of America [UMWA]. The UMWA was founded in Columbus, OH, in 1890, resulting from the merger of the Knights of Labor Trade Assembly No. 135 and the National Progressive Union of Miners and Mine Laborers. The constitution of the UMWA barred discrimination based on race, religion, and national origin. In 1901, Campbell became the secretary-treasurer of UMWA District 23 and is said to be the first African American at the post within the UMWA. He came to Lexington, KY in July of 1901 to settle a matter with W. D. Johnson, editor of The Standard newspaper. In 1904, Campbell was a member of the executive office of the UMWA, serving as a cabinet officer of John Mitchell. He was also president of Afro American National Protective Union, which sought to organize a National Labor Union. In 1912, Campbell would serve as president of the National Negroes' Industrial and Protective Union of America. William J. Campbell was the husband of Sallie L. Waddleton of South Carolina; the couple last lived in Drakesboro, KY. Campbell was a Mason, a member of the Odd Fellows, and a member of the A.M.E.Z. Church. He died November 28, 1912, and is buried in Smith Chapel Cemetery in Drakesboro, KY [source: Kentucky Death Certificate]. For more see the Knights of Labor website; the Brief History of the United Mine Workers of America website; The Challenge of Interracial Unionism, by D. Letwin; "W. J. Campbell...," Freeman, 01/24/1903, p. 4; "Birmingham: Victory won by the Warrior [AL] miners," Huntsville Gazette, 09/13/1884, p. 3; "Mr. W. J. Campbell," Huntsville Gazette, 02/13/1886, p. 2; "Mr. W. J. Campbell" in the Personals column of the Freeman, 01/20/1900, p. 8; "W. J. Campbell of Central City, Ky...," Freeman, 07/20/1901, p. 4; "W. J. Campbell," Freeman, 02/08/1902, p. 8; picture of W. J. Campbell on p. 1, biography on p. 4 of the Freeman, 03/01/1902; "Important Points great events in the suburban districts," Freeman, 03/01/1902, p. 4; "Mr. W. J. Campbell, miner," Freeman, 04/23/1904, p. 4; and "National Negroes' Industrial and Protective Union of America," Freeman, 01/27/1912, p. 6.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Barbers, Education and Educators, Migration North, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Fraternal Organizations, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Morgan County, Alabama / Central City and Drakesboro, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky

Coleman, Robert Alfonzo
Birth Year : 1932
Robert A. Coleman, a civil rights activist, was born in Hopkinsville, KY. He was a postal carrier in Paducah, KY, and the first African American president of the Paducah Local of the National Association of Letter Carriers. He was also the first to chair the executive board of the state association. Coleman was a city commissioner in Paducah beginning in 1973 and also served as mayor pro tem for six years. He is a 32-Degree Mason and past Master of Stone Square Lodge #5. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. In 2005, Coleman was inducted into the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights Hall of Fame. In 2009, the Blackburn Park in Paducah, KY, was renamed the Robert Coleman Park. For more see Who's Who Among African Americans, 1975-2006; and the Robert A. Coleman interview [text and audio] in the Kentucky Historical Society, Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky, Oral History Project.

See photo image and additional information on Robert A. Coleman at Hall of Fame 2005, a Kentucky Commission on Human Rights website.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Military & Veterans, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Postal Service, Fraternal Organizations, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky / Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky

Decker, Charles E.
Birth Year : 1913
Charles E. Decker, a Republican, was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1946 and finished his term in 1948. He was unsuccessful in his bid for re-election. Decker was the only African American from Evansville [Vanderburgh County] to be elected to the Indiana Legislature. Decker also served as president of the Vanderburgh County Congress of Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.). He was the first Negro arbitrator for an Indiana labor dispute [source: p.64 in The History of Evansville Blacks by D. W. Sprinkles]. Decker was a member of the International Harvester Local 1106 in Evansville in 1952, and was one of the leaders to head the Indiana Republican party campaign for votes. Beginning in 1953, Decker was appointed director of Fair Employment Practices Commission. He is mentioned on several occasions in the organization's newsletter and he is also listed in the Roster of State and Local Officials of the State of Indiana. Charles E. Decker was born in Kentucky, the son of Edward and Inez Decker, according to the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, the family of four lived on William Street in Evansville, IN. In 1930, Charles E. Decker was a waiter at a hotel in West Baden, IN, and in 1940, he was a waiter at a hotel in Evansville, IN [source: U.S. Federal Census]. He was the husband of Eloise Decker. For more see Charles E. Decker on p.13 in the online publication "Hoosier History: This Far By Faith: Black Hoosier Heritage: Early Rural Communities," a Indiana Humanities Council website [.pdf]; "Indiana County elects first state assemblyman," The Afro-American, 11/24/1946, p.27; and "GOP names labor leaders in drive for workers' vote," Indianapolis Recorder, 08/30/1952, p.1.
Subjects: Migration North, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Legislators (Outside Kentucky), Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Evansville, Indiana

Harris, Jesse
Birth Year : 1942
Death Year : 2012
Jesse Harris was from New Castle, KY, the son of Irvin and Mattie L. Scott Harris. Jesse was a civil rights activists and a community leader in both Henry County and in Louisville, KY. He belonged to a number of organizations.  In 1974, he was named secretary-treasurer of the African American men's group in Henry County called People for Progress. Three years later, he was appointed by the Henry County Judge-Executive to open the county's first Youth Service Bureau for African American teens. For more than 35 years, Jesse Harris was an employee of Fischer's Packing Company, and during which time he was an organizer of UFCW (United Food & Commercial Workers International Union) Local 227. He also served as the state labor chair for the NAACP. He was a broadcaster at WLOU 1350 radio station in Louisville. Jesse Harris is most noted as the founder and president of Faces of Our Children Sickle Cell Foundation, and as the founder of the first and only Sickle Cell Choir. The foundation raises awareness and provides support and funding for the fight against sickle cell disease worldwide. For more see Dr. Jesse Harris in the Louisville Courier-Journal, 09/26/2012, obituaries section.


  See photo image and additional information on Jesse Harris at the website, "Homegoing of a Saint: Dr. Jesse Harris, Louisville, Kentucky," 09/23/2012. 
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Union Organizations, Sickle Cell Anemia
Geographic Region: New Castle, Henry County, Kentucky / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Irons, Sandra Jean
Birth Year : 1940
Irons was born in Middlesboro, KY, to Roy and Rosa Green Carr. She is a graduate of Kentucky State University, and Purdue University. Prior to becoming an educator, she was a social worker with the Ohio Department of Social Welfare. In 1971, she became president of the Gary, IN, Teachers Union and continues as president today. Since 1974, she has been a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO (AFT). She was the first vice president of the NW Indiana Federation of Labor in 1987, and became president in 1995. For more see Who's Who Among African Americans, 1980-2006.
Subjects: Education and Educators, Welfare (Social Services) Organizations, Migration North, Social Workers, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Middlesboro, Bell County, Kentucky / Gary, Indiana

Jackson, Lee Arthur
Birth Year : 1950
Jackson was the first African American to head the Kentucky Association of State Employees (KASE/AFT - Local 4590), an employee union; Jackson has been its president since 1990. He was program supervisor at the Department for Employment Services in Lexington, KY. He has since retired from state employment. Jackson was born in Lynch, KY, the son of Sylmon J. and Marie Stokes Jackson. He is a 1973 graduate of the University of Kentucky. For more see Black Firsts, by J. C. Smith; and Who's Who Among African Americans, 1994-2006.
Subjects: Employment Services, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Lynch, Harlan County, Kentucky / Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Kimbley, George P.
Birth Year : 1896
Death Year : 1996
Born in Frankfort, KY, Kimbley was the son of Ella and Luther Kimbley. He grew up across the street from the white family that had owned his parents during slavery. Kimbley was a World War I veteran, returning home from the war to become the oldest of a group of miners who helped form a union in District 31, the Calumet Region in Gary, Indiana. He was first to sign a Steelworkers Organizing Committee card in 1936. Kimbley was also the first African American to serve as chair of the grievance committee in basic steel. For more see Black Freedom Fighters in Steel, by R. Needleman; and George Kimbley in "Obituaries" in the Lexington Herald-Leader, 07/04/1996, p.C2.
Subjects: Migration North, Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky / Gary, Indiana

Malone, Beverley L.
Birth Year : 1948
Beverley L. Malone was born in Hardin County, KY. She is a past chief executive officer of the National League of Nursing. Her prior employment includes the position of General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing in Great Britain (2001-2006), the world's largest nursing union, with over 300,000 members. The organization was founded in 1916 and the headquarters is located in London. Malone was the first "foreign" person to head the organization. In her prior post, she had been appointed deputy assistant secretary for Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration. She was president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), 1996-2000, the second African American to head the organization. She was a dean, vice chancellor, and professor at North Carolina A&T State University. Malone is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati (BS and Ph.D.) and Rutgers University (MS), For more see "New CEO of National League for Nursing has a real passion for nursing education..." in AORN Connections, vol. 5, issue 5 (2007 May), pp. 12-13; C. Parish, "Beverly Malone leaves with a rallying cry: Keep on fighting," Nursing Standard, vol. 21, issue 14-16 (12/13/2006), pp. 14-16; and Beverly Malone at

Subjects: Education and Educators, Medical Field, Health Care, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Appointments by U.S. Presidents/Services for U.S. Presidents, Union Organizations, Nurses
Geographic Region: Hardin County, Kentucky / England, Europe

Neal, Sterling Orlando, Sr.
Birth Year : 1918
Death Year : 1977
Sterling Neal Sr. was born in Cleveland, OH, and made his home in Louisville, KY. He was the son of Robert and Anna Harper Neal. In 2003, Sterling O. Neal Sr. was selected for the Hall of Fame at the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. He had been employed at the International Harvester Co. and in 1952 was elected the international vice-president and district president, and a member of the general executive board of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). Neal represented more than 300,000 workers in the United States and Canada. He had previously been the president of the UE District 7, representing Kentucky and Ohio. He was the first African American elected district president. Neal was also a civil rights activist in Louisville, KY, he was a mentor and associate of Anne Braden. He served as Grand Knight of the St. Augustine Council 58, Knights of Peter Claver. As president of District 7, he spoke before a U.S. House agriculture committee about the farm crisis that was causing high unemployment in the farm equipment industry. He asked for action from the U.S. Government to reverse the crisis. In 1957, Neal was called to testify before a U.S Senate committee about Soviet activity in the U.S., and Neal was accompanied by James T. Wright, his attorney. Exhibit No.475, a periodical article written by Neal, was presented as evidence during the hearing: S. O. Neal, "Unity pays off - everyone benefited when Negro and White workers stuck together at Louisville Harvester Plant," March of Labor, September 1953, p.9. Sterling Neal, Sr. was the father of Kentucky Senator Gerald Neal. For more see SR 42 in Memory and Honor of Sterling Orlando Neal, Sr., 05/30/1997 [online];  "Union Leader" in Plaindealer, 02/29/1952, p.2; "Long range farm program," Hearing before the Committee on Agriculture, House of Representatives, 83rd Congress, 1st Session, held at Columbus, OH, October 20, 1953, Serial R, pt.10, p. 1525; and "Scope of Soviet activity in the United States," Hearing before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Acts of the Committee of the Judiciary United States Senate, 85th Congress, 1st Session, June 6, 1957, pt.68, p.4206. The government publications research for this entry was completed by UK Librarian Carla Cantagallo.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Migration South, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Cleveland, Ohio / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Negro Village Site (Marshall County, KY)
Start Year : 1938
The Negro Village Site was part of the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) Kentucky Dam Project. The following information comes from the Forrest C. Pogue Public History Institute (website removed), by Bill Mulligan at Murray State University (KY). Kentucky Dam Village is located in Gilbertsville, KY, and the Kentucky Dam Village District is part of the Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park. During the late 1930s, the workers' villages were constructed for the TVA's Kentucky Dam Project. The Negro Village was established in 1938 and removed after the dam was completed in 1945. The temporary homes had been built by Negro builders at Pickwick Landing Dam and barged downstream to the Kentucky Dam. The local people did not want the community to become a long term addition to the county. There were 19 homes, a recreation building, two dormitories and a school, which was a converted farm house. The dormitories were under-utilized, and there were not enough homes because the workers brought their families with them. Some of the families found housing in nearby towns. The village was placed away from the white village, which was in accordance with TVA policy to help keep peace between the races. Nonetheless, there were racial and social tensions between the Black and white workers, so much so that complaints were filed by the local Black Chapter of the Hod Carriers Union. Louisville had one of the largest chapters of the union, which was dominated by African Americans. The Black chapters of the Hod Carrier Unions supported the employment rights of the African American workers on TVA dam projects. In 1940 there were two fights that led to the Thanksgiving Strike that shut down the project for three days. Three workers were fired, but after reconciliations, the men were rehired. For more information, visit the Forrest C. Pogue Public History Institute site or contact the Murray State University Libraries or the Tennessee Valley Authority. See E. L. Rousey, "The Worker's life at Kentucky Dam, 1938-1945," Filson Club History Quarterly, vol. 71, issue 3 (1997), pp. 347-366.
Subjects: Communities, Parks & Resorts, Union Organizations, Grade Schools & High Schools in Kentucky, Housing, Fair Housing, Open Housing, Housing Agencies
Geographic Region: Gilbertsville and Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park, Marshall County, Kentucky

Redd, Thomas
Birth Year : 1866
Death Year : 1944
Thomas Redd was a civil rights leader in the the railroad industry. A brakeman on the Illinois Central Railroad, he was based in Louisville, KY. Redd had been with the company since 1895. Due to his persistent appeals for fairness to Negro railroad employers, Redd was known as a troublemaker among the company officials. He was a member of the Louisville Chapter Lodge #10 of the Association of Colored Railway Trainmen and Locomotive Firemen (ACRTLF), founded in 1912. Redd was elected chair of the organization's grievance committee in 1920 and later became president. The Illinois Central did not recognize the organization. Redd fought for more than a decade to secure equal pay, job security, and employment advancement for Colored railroad employees, but with little success, so he launched an even larger campaign that led to the development of the International Association of Railway Employees (IARE). The IARE held a conference in Chicago in 1934, and all Black railroad organizations were invited to send delegates. A second meeting was held in Washington, D.C., and Redd was named president of IARE, an umbrella organization with 28 member organizations from 16 states, including Kentucky. With legal representation by attorneys Charles Hamilton Houston and Joseph Waddy, and after years of fighting, the IARE would begin to see changes made to the labor laws. Thomas Redd was born in Hart County, KY, the son of William James Redd and Mary Ophelia Redd, according to his death certificate. He was the husband of Annie Redd. In 1900, the family of three lived on Gallagher Street in Louisville. Redd was a widower when he died in Louisville on July 22, 1944. For more see Brotherhoods of Color, by E. Arnesen.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Union Organizations, Railroad, Railway, Trains
Geographic Region: Hart County, Kentucky / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Stepp, Marcellus "Marc"
Birth Year : 1923
Marcellus Stepp was born in Versailles, KY, then his family moved to Evansville, IN, when he was a child. He is an Army veteran and holds an accounting degree from the University of Detroit. He was employed at the Chrysler Highland Park plant for 19 years and served as vice president of Local 490 to the Chrysler-UAW National Negotiating Committee. He was appointed International Representative with Region 1B in 1967 and was elected International Vice President in 1974. He also served as executive director of the Institute for Urban & Community Affairs at the University of Detroit. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Detroit Common Council in 1965. For more see African American Biographies: profiles of 558 current men and women, by W. L. Hawkins; Marc Stepp Collection Papers, 1940-2000, at Wayne State University Reuther Library; and Who's Who Among African Americans, 1977-2006.

  See photo image of Marcellus Stepp, about mid-page, at the 2011 Hall of Honor Inductees, a University of Detroit Mercy website.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Civic Leaders, Migration North, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Versailles, Woodford County, Kentucky / Evansville, Indiana / Detroit, Michigan

Strider, Benjamin F. [Colored Shoe Makers Union]
Birth Year : 1870
Death Year : 1942
In 1911, the Colored Shoe Makers Union was held in Hamilton, OH. Benjamin Franklin Strider (1870-1942), from Lexington, KY, was the speaker at the barbecue held during the meeting. The Boot and Shoe Makers Union had very few Colored members in 1911. It is not known when the Colored Shoe Makers Union was formed or how long it existed. Strider was the son of Mary Triggs Strider and Rev. Benjamin J. Strider [source: B. F. Strider's death certificate]. Strider is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Lexington. For more see Benjamin Strider, Jr. in "Colored Notes," Lexington Leader, 06/25/1911, p.5.
Subjects: Union Organizations, Shoes: Finishers, Makers, Repairers, Shiners, Stores
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Hamilton, Ohio

Waits, Ernest J., Sr. "Ernie"
Birth Year : 1920
Death Year : 2004
Ernie Waits, Sr. is often referred to as the first African American DJ [disc jockey] in both Kentucky and Ohio [source: E. S. Murrain, "Payola and the Pied Pipers," Tone, 09/01/1960, p. 11]. In Kentucky, he was a DJ at WNOP in Newport, KY [source: see "Gab Bag" in the column "Vox Jox," Billboard, 04/21/1951, pp. 28 & 33]. In Cincinnati, he was a DJ at WZIP [source: "Chicago Chatter," Billboard, 05/28/1949, p. 40]. Waits was also among the first African American broadcasters in both radio and television in Cincinnati, Ohio, his home town. He was a singer and musician, as well as a civil rights leader who helped start organized labor. He was an international representative for the United Auto Workers, integrated the Democrat Party of Hamilton County, Ohio, and was the first African American in Cincinnati to become a New York Stock Exchange registered representative. He owned a bowling alley and other businesses and helped establish the Black Expo in Cincinnati. Ernie Waits was born in Georgia and grew up in Cincinnati. He was the son of Jesse and Mozell Harper Waits. He was a veteran of World War II. For more see Ernie Waits, Sr. in the video Road to Equality at; Ernie Waits in the H. Wilkinson article, "Berry showed them the way," Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/19/2000 [online at]; Ernie Waits in the Encyclopedia of American Radio, 1920-1960, by L. F. Sies; Who's Who in Black Cincinnati 2003-2004 Edition, M. C. Sunny and R. Love; and R. Goodman, "Civil Rights fighter Ernest Waits dies," Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/22/2004 [online at].

  See photo image of Ernie Waits Sr. within article about Theodore M. Berry at the Cincinnati Enquirer website.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Businesses, Military & Veterans, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Radio, Television, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Georgia / Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio / Kentucky

Work, Beulah White
Birth Year : 1912
Death Year : 2008
Beulah Work was a leader and board member of the Detroit NAACP and a union organizer and labor activist for the United Auto Workers (UAW). For 40 years she was employed as a quality control specialist at Ford Motor Company, according to "Beulah Work joins the ancestors," The Michigan Citizen, April 20, 2008, p. 3. The article also mentions that Beulah Work founded and chaired the Women in the NAACP (WIN) Committee and was honored for being the most successful NAACP voter registration recruiter in Detroit. Beulah Work was one of the women interviewed for the documentary, The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter; her interview is part of the collection of outtakes held at Harvard University Library: "Records of the Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter Project, 1974-1980." Beulah Work, born and raised in Madison County, KY, was the daughter of John Andrew White, Sr. and Bertha Ballew White. In 1920, the family of six lived in the community of White Hall, where John White was a farmer. In 1930, the seven member family lived in the community of Foxtown. Beulah White graduated from Richmond High School in 1931 and soon after moved to Detroit, MI. She was the widow of Merrill Work (1905-1981) from Tennessee. See "Beulah White Work, 95," in the Obituary section of the Richmond Register, 04/15/2008.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Migration North, NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Women's Groups and Organizations, Union Organizations
Geographic Region: Madison County, Kentucky / Detroit, Michigan

Wright, James L. "Jimmy"
Birth Year : 1919
Death Year : 1999
Wright was originally from Kentucky. His union work began at a Kentucky equipment factory when he returned from the service at the end of World War II. His initial duties were sweeping and cleaning, typical jobs assigned to African American employees, and he advanced to forklift operator. The factory had a union that was just being initiated, and Wright became a union leader to help other African Americans advance in the company. He was a member of the National Negro Labor Council (NNLC) in Louisville, KY. His work was perceived as subversive and Wright was accused of being a Communist. Wright eventually left Kentucky for Chicago to become a full-time union organizer. In 1980, he was the first African American elected to head region 4 of the United Auto Workers (UAW), which included Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. Wright was also the president of the UAW's political arm in Illinois; he also headed the regional civil rights department. He had received threatening phone calls during his campaign for office, but Wright persevered. He was even re-elected, but had to step down in 1984 due to health problems. For more see L. Forte, "James Wright, former UAW leader," Chicago Sun-Times, 07/28/1999, p. 74; and see Jimmy Wright in the film The Freedom Train, by Kingberry Productions & WDIV-TV.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Migration North, Union Organizations, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois


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