National Urban League Publications Acquired

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The National Urban League is a non-partisan historic civil rights organization that advocates for economic and social justice of African Americans and has fought against discrimination since its founding in 1910. Hagley Library recently acquired two new publications issued by the National Urban League in the early 1940s. These pamphlets were printed to highlight the willingness of African Americans to assist in the urgent U.S. war effort of that time and to simultaneously draw attention to the chronic underemployment faced within this same community.

This plaintive title underscores the availability of a qualified labor force wanting employment.

Mr. Employer: I CAN RUN YOUR MACHINES! is a pamphlet that urges employers to overcome racial prejudice and hire African American men and women for skilled positions. The rationale in this pamphlet is laid out in a straightforward manner: African Americans are capable, intelligent, skilled, trained, experienced, and available. The facts presented make evident the solution: businesses should set prejudice aside and hire the workers they need. “You and other employers cry, ‘We need skilled men and women to run our machines.’ Here’s my answer: ‘Give me a chance! I’ll do the job—and do it well!’”

This red, white, and blue illustrated handbook was aimed directly at employers to help them overcome racial discrimination that was hindering production.

SPEED DEFENSE PRODUCTION: Open the Gates! also urges employers to overcome racial prejudice when hiring to aid in wartime industries. This handbook does so by answering the common objections and fears voiced by employers when approached regarding hiring African American workmen and women. It draws extensively on statistics and surveys that demonstrate the reliability of this neglected segment of the workforce and its compatibility with the existing white labor force.

The goal of these publications was to reach a commonsense agreement that would help speed defense, help the employer, and help the African American community.

Hagley Library holds additional publications issued by the National Urban League, and these materials are all available in our digital archive for interested readers to view in their entirety. Our latest acquisitions, highlighted above, have been scanned and added to this collection.

Max Moeller is the Curator of Published Collections at Hagley Museum and Library.​