National Negro Labor Council

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The National Negro Labor Council (1950–1955) was an advocacy group dedicated to serving the needs and civil rights of black workers. Many union leaders of the CIO and AFL considered it a Communist front.[1] In 1951 it was officially branded a communist front organization by U.S. attorney general Herbert Brownwell.[2]


This organization was there to do certain tasks that the National Negro Congress could not do since its failed return after the war. Also the NAACP failed to stay on the labor leaders who were not in accordance with the unions of certain radial elements. For years, African Americans have faced hardships, which are considered to be strong setbacks. In the early 1950s when the civil rights movement was taking place and making a statement of power, Africans Americans began to take a militant role in order to proceed in prosperity and thus the NNLC was built.

On June 1950, a meeting named the National Labor conference was held in Chicago, Illinois. African leaders such as William R. Hood (of the UAW's Local 600 in Detroit), Cleveland Robinson, and Coleman A. Young were selected as the leaders of Negro Labor Council (NLC) chapters that formed out of the conference. And by 1951, twenty three NLC chapters were established across the nation. In October of that same year, representatives from all 23 chapters met again in Cincinnati, Ohio and founded the National Negro Labor Council.

Some of the founders of NNLC were Coleman Young (future mayor of Detroit, MI), William Hood (recording secretary of UAW Local 600), Paul Robeson, Ernest Thompson, and William Marshall. One of the leaders, Paul Robeson supported Soviet Union because he believed that it did not have racial discrimination.

When the National Negro Labor Council began cooperating with the union leaders, things did not work as planned. Appeals were made to elect black officers, but they were urgently met with racism charges. It was a reversal to continue to hold down the deeply oppressed minority. The National Negro Labor Council was involved in various important battles which aided in the advancement of a group of people. It aided in militant strikes to obtain jobs for blacks, it also attempted to stop brutal slayings of blacks by law enforcement, and to attempt to gain access and full use of public transportation. with all of its prosperity and good causes, there comes negative publicity as well.

The NNLC carried out many things such as militant strikes, campaigns to acquire more jobs for Afro-Americans, gain the right to vote or to use public facilities. The organization led job campaigns against companies such as Sears-Roebuck, Ford Motor Company, General Electric and others. But instead of focusing on the issues raised by NNLC, some union leaders of the AFL and CIO decided to attack the NNLC. As a result, it caused investigations by the McCarthyite House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). HUAC charged NNLC of having communist sympathies.

Charges before the House Un-American Activities Committee[edit]

Although this organization had accomplished many tasks relating to civil rights and race discrimination, it came to an end in 1956. It was called before the Subversive Activities Control Board. The organization was accused of being a Communist front organization. Defense lawyers ran up an enormous legal defense bill which the organization was not able to pay.

When the charges began to amount to an uncontrollable portion, the NNCL decided to vote. When the vote was counted, it was decided that it would dissolve itself. The legal charges were too much for the organization to handle and remain prosperous, so this decision had to be made.


  1. ^ Nina Mjagkij (2003). Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations. Taylor & Francis. p. 438. 
  2. ^ Wilbur C. Rich (1999). Coleman Young and Detroit Politics: From Social Activist to Power Broker. Wayne State University Press. p. 71. 

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