Strikes in the Civil Rights Era How SkippiNg work hElped pave a future for black people in america

Strike: A concerted stopping of work or withdrawl from workers' services, as to compel as to compel a worker to acede to workers' demands or in protest against terms and coniditions imposed by an employer ( 2016).

People will go on strike for a multitude of reasons, mainly because they are upset with their employer, the conditions of their workplace are not suitable, and perhaps because their wages are not as high as they desire. The intent of these strikes is to send this company broke and out of business, and to gain awareness for the cause that the workers are fighting for.

Market Basket employees crowd the streets of this town, demading that their original CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, be granted full ownership of the company (Credit: WBZ News, July 25, 2014).

Black people would organize strikes primarily to protest against racial inequality in America, particulary in Southern states such as Alabama and Arkansas. They felt that if blacks worked equally as well as whites in their respective occupations, they should receive the same amount of pay, respect, and rights. However, one trend that has been observed by historians is that strikes were mainly conducted by black people of the working class. Because these people often did not have the publicity that middle class African-Americans had and did not have the power to initiate more formal and organized movements, strikes were often their best option.

One example of this principle is the 1943 strike at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, that occured in Winston-Salem, NC

Black employees celebrate the outcome of their successful strike against their tobacco plant (Credit: The Winston-Salem Journal, 1947).

Attached below are some other examples of strikes organized during this time period

"And they stood up and said 'We not gonna take it no more. We're gonna stand and fight.' And that song meant just what it said; 'Don't let anybody turn me around.' That was the song we always sang marching up and down Main Street."

-Rev. Leslie R. Moore, a participant in the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike

Nonviolent Civil Rights Acivist Martin Luther King Jr. and fellow marchers protest against the city of Memphis, the city in which King was assasinated in.
Black people used a variety of different protests to advocate for civil rights in Albany, Georgia, including this hunger strike in 1963 (Credit: Stephen Tuck, 1963).

When black people in this era ignited and participated in these strikes, they generally were granted what they wanted and resumed normal work soon thereafter. However, in some cases, the strikes were not met with success, and even the siccessful ones took a lot of perseverance and resilience from the participators. For example, in the case of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike, some black people did not follow orders and proceeding to loot nearby stores, disobeying the general notion of nonviolence that these strikes were centered around. These workers even had to bring in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself to lead the protest, and Memphis city officials did not cave in until after King was assasinated in 1969. The members of the Albany, GA hunger strike also encountered a lot of adversity in their journey. On two occassions, the leaders of the strike were rejected, and the Jim Crow Laws remained intact despite the valiant protests of the black people. In fact, the hunger strike was just one stand among many taken by the Albany citizens. However, eventually, the blacks wishes were granted by the Albany city council, and the protestors emerged victourious in their quest. These two examples of strikes in the Civil Rights Era prove that going on strike is a courageous, complex but nonviolent form of protest that was crucial in the fight for racial inequality in America.

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