The Chicago Urban League, "The Worker and the Job", excerpt from, Annual Report for the Fiscal Year ending October 31, 1919, Chicago, 1919, Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, Illinois


transcription/facsimile report

The Worker and the Job

Our responsibility does not end with the mere placement of a colored person in a job. We have kept up the usual interest in matters of wages and hours, disagreements, working conditions and the introduction of welfare facilities. We have tried to fit the workers to the jobs and the jobs to the workers.

Unemployment After the War

Following the signing of the armistice, Chicago had a large unemployed population. Responding to this necessity, the League quickly raised $2,000, employed an Industrial Secretary, and found a field for Negro labor in nearby mid-western towns. Three hundred men were sent to Camp Custer as civilian Laborers, accompanied by a welfare secretary supported by the League, whose duty it was to insure their adjustment to their new environment and their proper relation to white soldiers stationed at the camp. Our Industrial Secretary was sent to Battle Creek, to Flint, to Detroit, and to parts of Wisconsin and Illinois in an effort to distribute the over supply of labor and to relieve Chicago of what might have been a most menacing and disastrous situation.

The South and the Return of Negro Labor

This oversupply was scarcely adjusted when another situation arose. The South, struggling under an acute labor shortage, consequent upon the migration of great numbers of Negroes from that section of the country to the industrial centers of the North, sent emissaries to Chicago to induce a return of its colored labor. Promising radically improved conditions of life and work, and painting alluring pictures of comforts and security, these persons sought deliberately and confusedly to initiate a propaganda for the redemption of southern interests.

A National Policy

The Chicago Urban League saw in this emergency an opportunity for impressing upon the South the necessity of a fundamental reform of those conditions against which the departure of these thousands of Negroes was a protest. Inasmuch as this was a national matter, despite the fact that it centered largely around Chicago, the National Urban League was requested to call a conference to decide upon a national policy situation. Accordingly, a conference was held in Detroit from the resolution unanimously endorsed by the body:

Regarding the migration of Negro labor from the South to the North, we affirm it is the right and duty of every man to seek more promising opportunities and a fairer measure of justice wherever he believes they can be found.

We shall continue to discover and create industrial opportunities for Negroes and to serve as a Bureau of Information to the Negro who seeks wider opportunities in industry, and to employers seeking a new dependable supply of labor.

Regarding the efforts of southern planters and business men, on the plea of improved conditions, to secure the return of Negroes, we shall be glad to investigate such reported and promised conditions..