"You know when they block your trucks boys, by layin' on the road
All that they are doin' is all that you have showed
That you gotta strike, you gotta fight to get what you are owed"
--Phil Ochs, "Links on the Chain" (1964)
Conflict of Interests: Organized Labor and the Civil Rights Movement in the South, 1954-1968
Alan Draper illuminates the role organized labor played in the southern civil rights movement. He documents the substantial support the AFL-CIO and its southern state councils gave to the struggle for black equality, suggesting that labor's political leadership recognized an opportunity in the civil rights movement. Frustrated in their efforts to organize the South, labor leaders understood the potential of newly enfranchised blacks to challenge conservative southern Democrats.
At the same time, white union members in the South were more interested in defending their racial privileges than in allying themselves with blacks. An explosive tension developed between labor's political leadership, desperate to create a party system in the South that included blacks, and a rank and file determined to preserve southern Democracy by excluding blacks. This book looks at the ways that tension was expressed and ultimately resolved within the southern labor movement.