Description of Book Project

I am working on a book project entitled A Tower of Strength in the Labor World. My project traces Nannie Helen Burroughs’ historic and national project of organizing Black women laborers. Burroughs, a Black clubwoman, educator, and civil rights activist, co-founded the first national domestic workers’ labor organization, established one of the largest trade schools for Black women in the early 20th century, and created one of the first national Black women’s labor periodicals in US history.

However, unlike her male contemporaries, A. Philip Randolph and Booker T. Washington, Nannie Helen Burroughs has not become etched in popular historical memory as an influential labor leader. 

My project documents Burroughs’ labor philosophies and organizing by tracing her expansive and multi-scale labor project developed in women’s spaces (i.e. schools and clubwomen’s organizations) to better the working and living conditions of Black women and their families in the twentieth century.

The primary aim of my book project is to trace the influence of Burroughs' labor organizing on the Great Migration. I am also interested in initiating discussion about early 20th century labor organizing that emanated from Black women’s schools. I believe that Black women's institutional histories offer an important guide for social justice work today. 

Group of students at the National Trade School. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Nannie Helen Burroughs papers
Source: Nannie Helen Burroughs Papers, Library of Congress
Nannie Helen Burroughs
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