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(1947) Moranda Smith Addresses The Congress Of Industrial Organizations Annual Convention, Boston

After World War II organized labor began to penetrate into some industrialized areas of the South where it inevitably confronted the issue of race. Unions such as the Food and Tobacco Workers affiliated with The Congress of Industrial Organizations, promoted racial integration and helped develop a group of African American labor activists who either led or supported parallel efforts for civil rights. Moranda Smith (1915-1950) of Winston-Salem, North Carolina was one of these leaders. Her address at the CIO’s national convention in Boston in 1947, combines the issues of civil rights and labor organizing.

I work for the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston Salem, North Carolina. I want to say a few words on this resolution for the reason that I come from the South and I live in the South. I live where men are lynched, and the people that lynch them are still free.

The Taft Hartley Bill to Local 22 in Winston Salem is an old, old story. The Taft Hartley Bill was put before the workers in Winston Salem about four years ago when the CIO came to Winston Salem to organize the unorganized workers in the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco plant. We were faced at that time with a lot of court actions. They tried to put fear into the hearts of the workingmen in Winston Salem.

One of the things in the Constitution of the United States is a guarantee to a human being, regardless of his race, creed or color, of freedom from fear. I say the Taft Hartley Bill is nothing new to us. When men are lynched, and when men try to strike and walk the picket line, the only weapons that the workers in America, especially in the South, have to protect themselves is action. When they are put in jail, they must protect themselves. If that is the protection of democracy in the United States of America I say it is not enough.

I want to emphasize a few of the things that you have in this resolution. Too long have the Negro people of the South and other workers in America heard a lot of words read to them. It is time for action, and I am now wondering

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