Here we are at Black History Month again, and some people once again ask is this really still necessary? After all, advancements have been made and people know there is much more out there to explore about the black experience.
But for the Teamsters Union, black history isn’t just an add on to our story or a recognition of advancements. It is part of the core of our history.
Black and white Teamsters rallied together after the Civil War to improve conditions, starting the first independent team driver locals. Black teamsters (and women teamsters for that matter) were part of the original conventions forming the Team Drivers International Union in 1898 and its spin-off The National Teamsters Union in 1902.
T.A. Stowers, a black delegate from Chicago was a leading voice at the 1903 convention to create the Teamsters Union as we know it today. He helped write our Constitution, yet few have heard of him.
Stowers was the force behind adopting a creed vastly different from other unions, allowing members of any race, creed, gender or religion into the Teamsters. That’s a mainstay of our history and should be remembered.
Black and white Teamsters worked together in hard times and in war times. Black and white Teamsters marched together for jobs, justice and equality. Black and white Teamsters rode buses together to Washington DC to lobby for labor and to fight anti-union forces. That is our collective history and members need to know it.
Honoring the accomplishments of black brothers and sisters is important and will continue to be important because their struggles and triumphs have often been lost in the dust of time.
Names like T.A. Stowers, Ernest Calloway, Clara Day and Gid Parham should be as familiar as Dan Tobin, Harold Gibbons and Jimmy Hoffa.
This month take the time to learn about the rich history of our black members and black members in the labor movement as a whole. Gain some new heroes and role models. You and the union will be the better for it.