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Gateway to EqualityBlack Women and the Struggle for Economic Justice in St. Louis$
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Keona K. Ervin

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780813168838

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813168838.001.0001

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“Riveting the Sinews of Democracy”

“Riveting the Sinews of Democracy”

Defense Workers and Double V

(p.97) 4 “Riveting the Sinews of Democracy”
Gateway to Equality

Keona K. Ervin

University Press of Kentucky

Black women’s failed attempts to abandon domestic employment for jobs in the lucrative local defense industry became a central mobilizing agenda around which organizers of the March on Washington movement waged their wartime black freedom struggle. Women aired personal stories of employment discrimination before committees, filed affidavits against large industrial plants, joined picket lines, shared their grievances through letter writing, gave public addresses at large mass meetings, and formed their own civil rights organizations. The narrative that black working-class women activists astutely and persuasively articulated—namely, that of the beleaguered black woman worker excluded from participation in patriotic service—provided a most effective assault on discrimination, exposing the jagged lines of the wartime American democratic practice. Women’s labor activism proved indispensable to the formation of one of the largest and most active March on Washington movement chapters in the country.

Keywords:   Defense employment/workers, Fair Employment Practices Commission, March on Washington movement, World War II, Double V campaign, Black working-class women

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