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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Cary J. Allen Jr., April 3, 1980. Interview H-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A brotherhood of African American and white workers in the union

Allen describes how racial divisions were not apparent within the aluminum workers union in Badin, North Carolina. According to Allen, African American aluminum workers were welcome at union meetings and were encouraged to speak up openly. Allen describes the union as a true "brotherhood" of African American and white workers in this regard; although he acknolwedges that real equality in the workplace occured much more slowly.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Cary J. Allen Jr., April 3, 1980. Interview H-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ROSEMARIE HESTER:
What were the long-term objectives that you and Dean Culver had?
CARY J. ALLEN, JR.:
To have a strong enough union built up to have some bargaining power and to better the conditions around town. Also, we've never had any trouble with the colored race, because when they attended the hall I made it a special point to say that "In the matter under discussion, somebody back there must have a different view, and this is a brotherhood, and get up on the floor and express your views." You see, they were very reluctant to speak on the issues, so we'd ask them to exercise their freedom of the floor to speak anytime they wanted to. So gradually they'd get up and point out the things in the plant that had to do with the article under discussion. Got them to talking then after a while, but it was a brotherhood of blacks and whites so we settled our potential racial problems way back in the very beginning with the brotherhood in the union hall, and we never had one bit of trouble here. This anti-segregation was not necessary in Badin, because we had desegregated long before.
ROSEMARIE HESTER:
Was that a drawback to some of the people who were considering joining the union? Did they feel that perhaps they didn't want to enter into this brotherhood? Was that ever a factor for people?
CARY J. ALLEN, JR.:
No, I don't think so at all, because the whites and the blacks got along perfectly all right on the job. See, they worked together. They were good friends.
ROSEMARIE HESTER:
But in the early days the blacks were in just the non-skilled jobs, and then whites were foremen and they were in the more skilled jobs, machinists and whatnot. And so that had to change over time, because in the beginning it wasn't set up so that the jobs were open to both races.
CARY J. ALLEN, JR.:
That's right, and we knew that it would be a long-term proposition; it wouldn't be a sudden thing. They would have to be trained. They would have to hire people with college skills and if they were mechanics, machinist skills and all that. It was a long, drawn-out process. [Interruption]
ROSEMARIE HESTER:
We were talking about the working out of the problem of blacks being in certain jobs and whites being in other jobs.
CARY J. ALLEN, JR.:
They were restricted as to their line of advancement. Yes, it was back then. There were certain jobs for whites and certain jobs for blacks. It was the old South, and the old South had to be broken down, traditions changed, and a new line of progression drawn up that would include blacks, such as qualifications the job. All that came much later. There wasn't any real reluctance on the part of the company to adopt the new lines of progression or the union, for that matter, but it had been a well-established way of life, and the divisions and all that sort of stuff had to be changed gradually. You couldn't be too abrupt; you'd rock the boat. So it had to be done a little bit, one here and one there and one over yonder, and then one later.