Emery C. King and Jacqueline C. King Collection

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Emery C. King and Jacqueline C. King Collection

The materials in this online repository form part of a largerEmery C. King and Jacqueline C. King collection held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Documentaries relating to the National Negro Labor Council (NNLC) and to unions at the Ford Rouge River Plant in Dearborn, Mich.

National Negro Labor Council (NNLC) was established to end discrimination against African American workers in hiring, promotions, and within the labor unions. In 1950, 900 predominantly black labor delegates from various unions met in Chicago to discuss discrimination of African American workers not only on the job but within the labor unions as well. This discussion resulted in formation of NNLC the following year. In the early 1950s NNLC became highly visible force in the American labor movement by supporting African American workers in organizing industrial strikes and boycotts. During this period NNLC had 5,000 members with chapters in every major industrialized city and had especially close links to progressive unions, such as Detroit’s UAW Local 600. Through boycotts, the NNLC took on institutions and entire industries that discriminated in their hiring and promotion practices. The organization’s success drew the ire of the House Un-American Activities Committee. The NNLC’s activities were labeled "communistic" and the union and its leaders were investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee, which ordered the union's members to register with the committee or to disband. NNLC was disbanded in 1955.

The Freedom Train (1994) is the first documentary to chronicle the history of the NNLC. The NNLC fought discrimination in unions and in the workplace. The interviews were taken after the first NNLC reunion in Detroit that commemorated the organization’s 40th anniversary. Using archival footage, photographs, and interviews with surviving members of the NNLC and others, the film looks at the history of the NNLC and the battles it fought to end racism and discrimination in the workplace and in labor unions. In addition to the interviews with NNLC members, the documentary includes footage of speeches by Walter Reuther, Herbert Brownell, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and audio recordings from the proceedings of the House Un-American Activities Committee. The documentary was produced, written and edited by John Owens; narrated by Emery King; Emery and Jacqueline Casselberry King executive producers.

A later documentary The Rouge (1998) also explores the complexities of race and labor relations in the twentieth century. Using interviews as well as archival footage and photographs, the film presents the history of the Ford Rouge River plant in Dearborn, Michigan from the early 1920s to early 1940s. It focuses on the lives and backgrounds of those who worked there, including their struggles for labor rights, such as the ability to unionize. This documentary was similarly produced, written and edited by John Owens; narrated by Emery King; Emery and Jacqueline Casselberry King executive producers.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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