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Duke Human Rights Archive: Labor Rights and Labor Activism

Key Words

  • Labor Archives
  • Labor Unions

Secondary Sources

Guide to Labor-related Collections

The Rubenstein Library has a strong collection of labor and labor rights related material.  The scope of material ranges from early 20th century mill workers, to mid-century labor organizers, to immigrant farmworkers.  Below is a selection of manuscript collections relating to labor and labor organizing.   In addition to archival collections, the Rubenstein Library holds numerous labor-related print items, including pamphlets, books, and some newspapers and broadsides. The Perkins Library of Duke University is a Federal depository and so has many resources about government and labor. 

Alliance for Guidance of Rural Youth. A pioneering organization in the area of vocational guidance, AGRY focused on occupations for southern women and rural youth.

Arthur, Chester A. Arthur was an outdoor sign painter and a union activist.

Boyte Family. Chiefly papers of father and son activists from the 1950s-1970s.

Congress of Industrial Organizations ("Operation Dixie") and the Lucy Randolph Mason Papers. These two collections document the attempts of the CIO to organize workers in the South in the 1940s.

Cowper, Mary Octavine. Cowper was a Durham activist interested in women's issues and rights of labor.

DeVyver, Frank Traver. DeVyver's papers span 1914-1975 and reflect his roles as Duke University professor of economics, vice president of Erwin Mills, Inc., labor arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association, and a number of other positions related to labor history.

Durham Central Labor Union. Records, 1921-1971. Minutes, financial records, correspondence, memorabilia, and other materials from various Durham labor unions and their local umbrella organization, the Durham Central Labor Union.

Goldberg, Louis P. Goldberg was a New York attorney and Socialist Party leader whose papers document his stands on a number of issues, among them a case in 1935 when a group of Italian youths painted Yankee Stadium with Fascist slogans.

Guthrie, Milo. Graphic artist and political activist Guthrie donated his collection of printed materials from the American political left from the 1960s-1980s.

Henderson, David Martin. Papers, 1963-1985. Miscellaneous pamphlets, leaflets and broadsides concerning student organizations at Duke, UNC-CH, and Harvard. Much of the material was circulated by the Students for a Democratic Society and its affiliates at Duke, the Student Liberation Front and its sucessor, Praxis. The papers concern such topics as race relations, the Reserve Officers Training Corps, labor unions, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam.

Kress, Melville L. Papers, 1947-1981. AFL-CIO union organizer in eastern Tenn. and other southeastern states from 1946 until his retirement in 1971.

Matthews, J.B. Matthews was a communist sympathizer in the 1930s who did an about-face and became an opponent of many leftist causes and organizations in the 1940s-1960s. He was affiliated with the House Un-American Activites Committee and Joseph McCarthy.

Mitchell, George Sinclair. This collection contains significant newspaper clipping files on union activities in the South, especially in the 1930s in Alabama and North Carolina.

Nathans, Sydney. Material collected by Duke professor Nathans concerning the 1979 clash between the Communist Workers Party and the Ku Klux Klan in Greensboro.

Payton, Boyd Ellsworth. Payton was a union organizer whose papers span from the 1920s to the 1960s. He was a local union president and Southern Director of the Textile Workers of America.

Rosenbluth , Marty Papers. An Amnesty area specialist for Israel/Occupied Territories during the 1980’s, as well as independent documentary film-maker, Marty collected a variety of material including materials from Palestinian trade unions and United States-based solidarity groups.

Sheldon, Bob. Material related to Sheldon's political activities as a draft resister, supporter of the Communist Workers Party in the 1970s and the Green Party in the 1980s, and advocate of union organizing in the South. He was proprietor of the Internationalist Book Store in Chapel Hill.

Socialist Party of America. Special Collections holds the vast archives of the Party, which are particularly numerous from about 1918 to the 1960s.

Southeast Women's Employment Coalition. The files in this collection document the organization's attempts to challenge institutional discrimination, open up jobs for women and people of color, support women organizing to improve working conditions, and help women develop the skills necessary to control their own economic circumstances.

Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) Records . Established in the 1970’s, Student Action with Farmworkers is a non-profit whose programs are designed to bring students and farmworkers together to learn about each other’s lives, share resources and skills, improve conditions for farmworkers, and build diverse coalitions working for social change.

Warburton, Amber (Arthun). An economist and sociologist long associated with labor issues, Warburton studied labor conditions in many areas. Among the organizations documented in this collection are the Southern Summer School for Women Workers in Industry (1927-1935), the Institute of Social and Religious Research (focusing on coal mining villages in 1929), several New Deal organizations studying living conditions during the Depression, and the Alliance for Guidance of Rural Youth, for which Warburton was Director of Research from 1947-1963.

Subject Guide

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Patrick Stawski
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Duke University, Box 90185
Durham, NC 27708
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