Each February we recognize Black History Month as a time to honor Black culture, community, and contributions throughout American history. This year’s national theme is “Black Resistance,” which explores how “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms and police killings,” since the nation’s earliest days.
Throughout history, Black people have sought ways to defend and nurture Black lives, bodies, and spirits through resistance in many forms, including education, art, music, worship, literature, boycotts, nonviolence, legislation, organizing, protest, fashion, cooking, humor, joy, and more.
Black labor has always been a key site of Black resistance. There is a long history of organized and everyday Black resistance to oppression through labor. Enslaved people resisted by breaking tools, pretending to be sick, slowing down production, committing arson and sabotage, running away, and organizing armed uprisings and rebellions.
In the early 20th Century, Black men and women formed labor unions like the American League of Colored Laborers, Colored National Labor Union, the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters, Colored Musicians Club, and others, to not only resist ongoing inequality and capitalist exploitation, but to resist exclusion from the growing labor movement.
Black labor played an integral role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, providing organizing expertise, funding, and transportation to actions like the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
These are just some of the many stories of Black resistance through labor U.S. history. As we continue to grapple with systemic racism and white supremacy culture, we know labor still has an integral role to play in resistance. During the Summer of 2020, as protests against the extrajudicial killing of George Floyd by police grew, public buses were dispatched to transport police to the protests and to transport arrested protestors to jail. Many bus drivers, represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1005, refused to participate in transporting police and arrested protestors that night, calling instead for justice for George Floyd.
This year we celebrate Black resistance in many forms, but especially Black resistance through labor. As efforts across the country unfold to eliminate education around Black history, racism and white supremacy, WFP and AFGE B.L.A.C.K. look to the past to help us understand and prepare for our future. In that spirit of resistance, WFP and AFGE B.L.A.C.K. are hosting a series of virtual programs in February.
Don’t miss out on these important programs! Register below:
A History of Black Labor in the U.S. (Virtual Workshop)
Examine the integral role Black labor has played throughout American history, including the Labor Movement, Civil Rights Movement, and the fight for justice today
Date: Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Time: 7:30-9pm ET
Watch recording via Facebook Live: www.facebook.com/AFGE
Reclaiming MLK Jr. (Virtual Panel)
Join WFP and AFGE B.L.A.C.K. as we look at Martin Luther King Jr. through his own words to better understand his teachings on labor, democracy, resistance, and more.
Date: February 8, 2023
Time: 7:30-9pm ET
Register here: https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_algQLq4STOW-DqWBR782bg
AFGE Black Law Enforcement (Virtual Panel)
Join us to continue our discussion on race, policing, police brutality, protest, and unionism.
Date: February 27, 2023
Time: 8-9pm ET
Register here: https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_fdi55SogSJG_KUsrx9u-Cw
All programs will also be streaming on Facebook Live at facebook.com/afgeunion.