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AFL-CIO Southern Area Civil Rights Department records [L1989-17]

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AFL-CIO Southern Area Civil Rights Department records

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AFL-CIO Southern Area Civil Rights Department:

A Guide to Its Records at Georgia State University Library [accession L1989-17]

Georgia State University
Georgia State University
Special Collections and Archives
100 Decatur St., SE
Atlanta, GA 30303-3202
Fax: 404-413-2881

June 2001

Profile Description

Creation: Text converted and initial EAD tagging provided by Apex Data Services, June 2001.
Language: English

Collection Summary

Repository: Georgia State University, University Library, Special Collections and Archives Department
Creator: AFL-CIO. Civil Rights Dept.
Title: AFL-CIO Southern Area Civil Rights Department records
Dates: 1962-1988
Quantity: 31.3 linear feet
Abstract:The records of the AFL-CIO Southern Area Civil Rights Department, spanning 1962 to 1988, include correspondence, minutes, reports, writings, financial records, printed materials, clippings, membership cards, photographs, and artifacts that document the activities of the office's director, E.T. "Al" Kehrer, in facilitating the employment of minorities and women in the region.
Identification: L1989-17

Organization of the Records

Part Five includes eight series, each of which has a scope and content note.
Series I, AFL-CIO Materials, 1963 - 1986
Series II, Name Files, 1962 - 1988
Series III, Organizations, 1966 - 1988
Series IV, Affirmative Action Files, 1967 - 1987
Series V, Complaints and Grievances, 1965 - 1988
Series VI, Political Materials, 1964 - 1985
Series VII, Union Files, 1966 - 1987
Series VIII, Subject Files, 1965 - 1986
Addendum, Printed Material (arranged as additions to series I-VIII)

Scope and Content of the Records

The records of the AFL-CIO Southern Area Civil Rights Department, spanning 1964 to 1988, include correspondence, minutes, reports, writings, financial records, printed materials, clippings, membership cards, photographs, and artifacts that document the activities of the office's director, E.T. "Al" Kehrer, in facilitating the employment of minorities and women in the region. The records show that some of Kehrer's work related directly to job training, affirmative action, and equal opportunity complaints. Other materials document that many of his activities contributed to increasing cooperation among civil rights groups, unions, and government agencies. Kehrer also participated in a wide range of community, labor, and political organizations.

In addition to the manuscript materials contained in Series 1-8, a large amount of printed material is included in the collection. Six cubic feet of printed matter was reviewed and retained with the collection (listed in the addendum).

History of the AFL-CIO Department of Civil Rights, Southern Region

Shortly after the merger in 1955, the AFL-CIO set up a Department of Civil Rights under the direction of Boris Shishkin. From 1965 to 1969 Don Slaiman headed the department followed by William E. Pollard in 1970. The AFL-CIO also had a standing committee on civil rights. This committee was headed successively by Charles S. Zimmerman (1957-1961), William Schnitzler (1961-1967), and Fred O'Neal (1969-[1985]). The committee membership included representatives from AFL-CIO unions. Don Slaiman, E.T. Kehrer, William E. Pollard, Robert McGlotten, and Doris Gibson Hardesty provided staff services to the committee.

During the early years of the AFL-CIO, the Civil Rights Department and the Civil Rights Committee did relatively little toward eliminating practices of exclusion in union policies. The national organization's position changed after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. On January 1, 1965, the Southern Area Civil Rights Department was established in response to a need for a staff specialist in civil rights in the region. Later that year the southern office opened in Atlanta under the direction of E.T. "Al" Kehrer. The states served by this office included Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Elmer T. Kehrer was born on a farm near Brighton, Michigan, in 1921. He grew up in Detroit during an active period of union organization in the auto industry. During World War II he served in the Maritime Service as a Purser-Pharmacist on an oil tanker in the Pacific war zone. In 1947 he received his A.B. degree from Olivet College in Michigan and his M.A. in economics from Yale University in 1948. He started with the unions in 1936 when he became a student organizer for the United Auto Workers. In 1944 he did field work in Los Angeles for the Ship's Clerk Association, and in 1948 he became a field representative for the Workers Education Bureau of the AFL specializing in setting up human relations programs. In 1950 he was instrumental in founding and serving as director of the ILGWU's Officers Training Institute, the first year-round labor educational program to develop full-time union officials. In 1953 Kehrer accepted the position of ILGWU's Southeastern Regional Director in Atlanta. He remained in that position until he became the Southern Director for the AFL-CIO's Civil Rights Department in 1965.

Kehrer's work in the Civil Rights Department focused mainly on facilitating the addition of minority and women workers to work forces represented by unions. In addition to advocating the employment of minorities, this effort also involved encouraging unions, government agencies, and employers to provide job training and to develop and follow affirmative action guidelines. He paid particular attention to increasing black participation in the building trades. Evidence of this type of activity can be found in Kehrer's work with major federal construction projects such as the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and the Kings Bay Submarine Base.

Kehrer's responsibilities also called for forging coalitions among agencies, civil rights groups and labor organizations. He worked with the NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Committee (SCLC), the Southern Regional Council and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Non-Violent Social Change. Among other things, he assisted in the development and processing of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints. Kehrer served as the Labor Coordinator for the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and in 1985 repeated that role for the 20th anniversary march. In 1966 Kehrer helped to form and served as an officer of the Georgia Democratic Party Forum and the Ellis Arnall Write-In Campaign, efforts aimed at electing a slate of loyalist national Democrats as delegates to the 1968 Democratic National Convention and electing former Governor Ellis Arnall as governor of Georgia. In 1970 Kehrer served as the chairman of the first planning committee for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration.

In addition to very heavy official duties, Kehrer was also active in his community, in politics, and in the Presbyterian Church. He served in leadership capacities in the following organizations: Southern Regional Council, Workers Defense League, National Joint Council on Economic Education, Georgia Manpower Area Planning Council, Tennessee-Tombigbee Affirmative Action Coordinating Committee, Southern Coalition for Full Employment, Atlanta Area Justice for J.P. Stevens Workers, Georgia Citizens for the Arts, Organized Labor-Workmen's Circle Labor Awards Committee, Georgia Women's Diversion Committee, East Coast Farmworkers Support Network, Resurgens Atlanta, and the Georgia Democratic Party. He also worked with other organizations including: Presbyterian Consultation on World Hunger and Development, Presbyterian Task Force on U.S. System of Justice, Industrial Relations Research Association, Workmen's Circle, Coalition for a Democratic Majority, League for Industrial Democracy, NAACP, Atlanta Urban League, Georgia Coalition on Hunger, Southeastern Advisory Council on the American Red Cross, and the Georgia Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the Georgia State University Library online catalog (GIL). Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Kehrer, E. T., 1921-
Affirmative action programs -- Southern States.
Discrimination in employment -- United States.
Labor unions -- Southern States.


Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

To quote in print, or otherwise reproduce in whole or in part in any publication, including on the Worldwide Web, any material from this collection, the researcher must obtain permission from (1) the owner of the physical property and (2) the holder of the copyright. Persons wishing to quote from this collection should consult the reference archivist to determine copyright holders for information in this collection. Reproduction of any item must contain the complete citation to the original. All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Administrative Information


[item], [folder title], [series title], AFL-CIO Southern Area Civil Rights Department records, L1989-17, Southern Labor Archives. Special Collections Department, Georgia State University, Atlanta.

Processing Information

Addendum to the inventory dated February 6, 1992.

Related Material

Related material in this repository:

AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department: Southern Region, 1967-1971; AFL-CIO Civl Rights Department Southern Region, 1963-1972; AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department, Southern Office, 1964-1979; AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department Southeastern Region, 1966-1986; AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department, Southeastern Region, 1974-1984

E. T. Kehrer Papers, 1940-1989, L1989-22, Southern Labor Archives.

E. T. Kehrer interview, Voices of Labor (oral history project) 10 February 1995, L1995-12.10, Southern Labor Archives.

Separated Material

Separated material: A few union constitutions, and many union contracts were added to the Contracts and Constitutions Collections in the archives. Included were quite a number of contracts for the Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and associated locals. Approximately two cubic feet of printed documents were added to the Pamphlet Collection, and a large number of labor periodicals were placed in the Periodicals Collections. A few artifacts and eight audio tapes are available. One hundred fifty-one photographs belong to the collection including a number documenting the Labor Awards Bankquet. Other events covered include the twentieth anniversary Selma-Montgomery March, the 1969 Atlanta Daily World strike, and the Tenn-Tom Job Train.

See List of Separated Material following Detailed Description of the Collection.

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