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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

University of Michigan-Flint labor history project

Repository: University of Michigan--Flint. Genesee Historical Collections Center

Collection Description (CRHP): See especially interviews with:
Clark, Henry (black Buick foundry worker), 1979
Combs, Prince (black union organizer), 1979
Crompton, Earl (black worker at Chevrolet 4), 1978
Dotson, J. D. (black Communist union organizer, in flying squadron), 1981
Townsend, Roger (black Buick worker), 1979
Baker, Oscar W. (black lawyer of Bay City), 1982
Bannister, Annalea Raymond (black Flint native, born in 1924), 1983
Blair, Hattie Stewart (black nurse, born in 1923)
Buckner, Boyce (black resident of Flint since 1934), 1980
Crear, George, III (black Flint schoolteacher), 1984
Curry, J. C. (black Baptist pastor), 1980
Dover, James T., Jr. (black native of South Bend, Indiana, born 1927, came to Flint in 1947)
Edwards, John (black resident of Flint since 1918), 1980
Gillespie, Fred L. (black Mississippi native, resident of Flint since 1925), 1982
Holt, Lois (black teacher in Flint), 1984, 1985
Loving, Alvin (first black UM-Flint professor), 1982
Nettles, Bernice (black Flint resident since 1955), 1984
Robb, Rev. Alfred L. C. (black Baptist pastor), 1981
Smith, Elder Calvin (black AC employee, 1930s), 1982
Van Zandt, Ruth, 1983, 1985 (black teacher)
Wiggins, Otis (unemployed 26-year-old black Flint resident), 1984

Collection Description (Extant): The General Motors Corporation Sit-Down Strike of 1936-1937 remains probably the most significant historical event which has taken place in Flint. Its success, in making the United Auto Workers the bargaining agent for the employees of General Motors Corporation, has been discussed in numerous studies of the labor wars of the 1930s and inspired several books on the strike itself. Sidney Fine's Sit-Down (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1969) resulted from a detailed analysis of archival sources and interviews, and Henry Kraus's The Many and the Few (1947) was an insider's account of one of the chief labor activists involved in the strike.

[...] The Labor History Project collection consists primarily of tapes and transcripts of interviews with people who experienced the Sit-Down Strike. In addition, there are tapes and some transcripts of people on many different topics, primarily on their work, which were made by students in the "Exploring Community History" class in the early 1980s. The collection also documents the process by which interviewees were selected. It contains photocopies of articles and archival materials concerning not only the Sit-Down Strike and General Motors, but other labor issues and topics relating to Flint during the 1930s.

The Subject Files consist of folders on individual persons, and the information in each folder generally consists of the person's name, source of information, and activity during the strike.

The First Series of interviews consists of transcripts (with a corresponding series of cassette tapes) of people involved in one way or other with the Sit-Down Strike. These include some of the leaders, such as Robert Travis, Bud Simons, Genora Johnson, Henry Kraus, which tend to be extensive. Most of the other interviews are of rank-and-file workers who participated in the strike. Other interviews were conducted with individuals such as plant supervisors and foremen like Ed Balius and Ingvald Bjaland, Communist activists like William Weinstone and Stanley Nowak, policemen like Wilburn Legree and Victor Basinski, and realtor Gerald Healy, who had been a member of the anti-strike Flint Alliance. There are also some interviews with individuals who sat in at Standard Cotton Products, an automotive supplier in Flint, soon after the big strike.

The typical questions ask about the 1930 and 1934 Fisher Body strikes, conditions in the plants before the strike, knowledge of union organizing activity, participation in the sit-down strike itself, knowledge of Communist or radical participation, the AFL/CIO split in the UAW ranks, the committeeman system, and UAW politics until World War II. Interviewees usually discuss their personal origins and how they were first hired by General Motors Corporation. Some interviews touch on local attitudes to unionism and the strike, such as in schools and in churches, relations among workers, ethnic topics, migration of workers from Missouri and elsewhere, and more.

The Second Series consists of interviews made by students for the class "Exploring Community History." Interviewees range from the age of about twenty to very elderly individuals. Some of the topics are historical in nature, but many or most deal with current attitudes toward work. For specific topics, see the list of tapes.

Access Copy Note: There are no restrictions on access. The online exhibit "Remembering the Flint Sit-Down Strike, 1936-1937" at includes images and audio clips from these interviews.

Date(s): 1974-1997

Digital Status: Partial

Extent: 14 linear feet

Finding Aid URL: External Link

Language: English

Related Archival Items: 96 prints and 51 transparencies were removed and cataloged separately.

Interviewees: Henry Clark, Prince Combs, Earl Crompton, J. D. Dotson, Roger Townsend, Oscar W. Baker, Annalea Raymond Bannister, Hattie Stewart Blair, Boyce Buckner, George Crear, III, J. C. Curry, James T. Dover, Jr., John Edwards, Fred L. Gillespie, Lois Holt, Alvin Loving, Bernice Nettles, Rev. Alfred L. C. Robb, Elder Calvin Smith, Ruth Van Zandt, Otis Wiggins

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African Americans--Civil rights--Michigan
African Americans--Social conditions
Automobile industry and trade
Labor movement--Michigan
Strikes and lockouts


Sound recordings


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   May 15, 2015
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