Why Was One Of The Most Famous Black Leaders Of Our Time Against Labor Unions?

booker t washington bust
Tremain Prioleau II
February 23, 2023

According to Washington, the nature of work before and after enslavement was completely different for Black people. What in the world did Washington mean by this?

During enslavement, the work was forced upon us. But after enslavement, things changed. Many Black workers in the South heard stories of higher wages in the North and naturally moved there for the opportunity. However, the city wasn’t a utopia.

Because of this new experience for Black workers, Washington felt that “the Negro is naturally not inclined toward labor unions.” Black workers were at a crossroads. Not only did we have to get accustomed to a new style of work, but there was something he argued that made unions even worse.

Many unions actively worked to stop growing Black employment. Washington criticized those who recruited Black workers from the South to move North. He felt that they were leading Black people into a labor trap where no one would be able to advocate for us.

Washington believed that the key to surviving was self determination. His advocacy reminds us of one thing: we hold the keys to our own destiny.

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