MLK: 'The unions and the NAACP go hand-in-hand' Skip to content

MLK: 'The unions and the NAACP go hand-in-hand'

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As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, contributor Berry Craig reminds us that for Dr. King, the labor movement and the civil rights movement were intertwined. Read this excerpt from his article, or read the entire article at the KY AFL-CIO website.

My friend and union brother W.C. Young said his wallet always contained two cards–his union card and his NAACP card.

Mine does, too.

A national labor and civil rights leader from Paducah, Young saw the civil rights and labor movements as natural allies. So does Raoul Cunningham, immediate past president of the Kentucky NAACP.

“The unions and the NAACP go hand-in-hand,” Cunningham told me at the 2019 NAACP state convention in Paducah last September. “The NAACP fights for equality. So do the unions.”

Young, who died in 1996 at age 77, spent most of his life in the union movement, retiring in 1987 as Region 10 director of the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education. 

Twenty-three years before, Young was in the crowd for Dr. King’s historic March on Frankfort. He and Cunningham echoed Dr. King, whose birthday we again commemorate Monday.

“As I have said many times, and believe with all my heart, the coalition that can have the greatest impact in the struggle for human dignity here in America is that of the Negro and the forces of labor, because their fortunes are so closely intertwined,” Dr. King said.

Read more here.

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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY