National Association of Wage Earners
The National Association of Wage Earners worked to standardize and improve living conditions for women, particularly migrant workers, and to develop and encourage efficiency among African American workers. The organization operated a factory, where many members were employed making work dresses, aprons and caps for sale by mail order. A domestic service center resources for teaching employment-related skills was also started in Washington, D.C. The organization was founded in 1921, with Nannie H. Burroughs as president and Mary McLeod Bethune as vice president. Burroughs, who had founded a national training school for black girls in 1909, was active in the nation's capital as an advocate of vocational education. Bethune, who later headed the National Association of Colored Women, had also started a school for African American women in Daytona, Florida, which was to evolve into Bethune-Cookman College. Both Burroughs and Bethune took a special interest in improving economic opportunities for black women.
See also: Homemaker-Consumer Life in Washington, D.C., 1924 (Anna Kelton Wiley Papers).
National Consumers League
The National Consumers League was a consumer-education organization founded in 1899. The league's general secretary until 1932 was Florence Kelley, formerly chief factory inspector for the state of Illinois. The league's founders believed that consumers would not purchase goods if they knew that they were being produced under exploitative, unsafe, or unsanitary working conditions. Individual states organized their own consumers' leagues under the umbrella of the national organization.
The league developed labels to be affixed to garments manufactured under working conditions approved by league representatives. Throughout the 1920s the league sought broad acceptance for its own label and for the "Prosanis" label of the Joint Board of Sanitary Control of New York City's garment industries. The "Prosanis" (pro sanis) or sanitary label had begun as a project of the Label Division of the Joint Board, supported by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). The Joint Board was a cooperative venture jointly financed and managed by manufacturers and the union. The league urged consumers from coast to coast to buy only those garments that bore these labels. Although many women's and civic organizations joined the "Prosanis" crusade, it ultimately failed for lack of cooperation among merchants.
The National Consumers League also turned to legal and legislative action to achieve its goals. It focused on the exploitation of children working in textile and garment factories and sweatshops, and fought for more humane working conditions for saleswomen and girls working in department stores. In addition, the league lobbied for minimum-wage and eight-hour-workday laws. Its other concerns included consumer protection from dirty and adulterated foods, occupational health and safety, and improving the lot of migrant workers. The league's muckraking exposé Behind the Scenes in Candy Factories addressed many of these issues.
See also: "Consumer Labels and Labeling", "Prosanis Label", and "Honest Cloth" (all in the National Consumers League Papers); Truth in Fabric and Misbranding Bills; and Selections from the James Couzens Papers at the Library of Congress.
National Negro Business League
Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), founder and principal of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, organized the National Negro Business League in 1900. For many years, it was housed at Tuskegee. Washington established the league "to promote the commercial and financial development of the Negro" and to bring African Americans into the middle-class mainstream.
The National Negro Business League operated through a network of state and local "Negro business leagues," located mainly in the South, and through affiliated professional and trade organizations. Meetings provided a forum in which African American small businessmen made contacts and shared stories of their struggles and successes. During the 1920s the league's leaders included Robert Russa Moton, president, selections of whose papers are included in this collection; Albon L. Holsey, executive secretary; John L. Webb, treasurer; and C. C. Spaulding, chairman of the executive committee.
The African American journals included in this collection carry generally appreciative reviews of the league's annual meetings. Many of these were written by Albon Holsey. His favorable picture of the organization is balanced by the overview of the league's 1924 annual meeting in Chicago contained in "Something New Under the Sun," by Gustavus Adolphus Steward, in the January 1925 issue of Opportunity. This article includes rare criticism of the organization and suggests improvements.
Items in the National Negro Business League files show that local chapters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce occasionally interacted with the league. They offered their cities as possible sites for league conventions, welcomed league members to cities chosen to host the convention, provided the league with the names of African American businessmen in the area, and suggested ongoing cooperative efforts or occasional association.
The league had substantial connections with the world of white business and business philanthropy. Booker T. Washington enjoyed easy and cordial contacts with powerful members of the white business elite, including John Wanamaker and Andrew Carnegie. Julius Rosenwald, head of the Sears, Roebuck mail-order and chain-store company, was a friend of Washington and sat on the Tuskegee Institute Board of Trustees. A folder of "Moton Correspondence with the Dunbar National Bank of New York City, 1928-29", included in the Moton papers, shows that early in 1929 the president of the National Negro Business League was invited to serve on the board of directors of a Harlem bank that had been established with loans from the Rockefeller family.
Annual meetings of the National Negro Business League were attended by both black and white Americans. One year, during Booker T. Washington's tenure, the Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker was a speaker.
The league joined with other established promoters of business development, such as the Association of National Advertisers and the J. Walter Thompson & Company advertising agency in New York. The league also maintained an informal connection with the prestigious Associated Advertising Clubs of the World; its manager Carl Hunt served as a contact person. Supportive advertising organizations instructed African American businessmen in the new and effective advertising techniques that could be used to publicize black businesses to African Americans as well as to the larger American society.
The league continues today as the National Business League, with headquarters in Washington, D.C.
See also: "National Negro Business League Correspondence, 1922 (A-B)"; "National Negro Business League Correspondence, 1922 (C-D)"; "National Negro Business League Correspondence, 1922 (E-H)"; " National Negro Business League Correspondence, 1922 (S)"; "National Negro Business League Correspondence, 1922 (T-Y)" (all from the Robert Moton Papers); and Opportunity (October 1926).
National Negro Industrial Commission
During the 1920s a federal "Negro Industrial Commission" was proposed to investigate the living conditions of African Americans and make recommendations for improving them while ameliorating relations between the races. Proposals to establish the commission arose in the context of the movement to pass a federal anti-lynching law. Giles B. Jackson, a lawyer from Richmond, Virginia, was chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Negro Industrial Commission Bill. He drafted two bills to create the commission in the U.S. House of Representatives. The first, H.R. 2895, was introduced on April 13, 1921. The second, H.R. 3228, which added the responsibility "to formulate a policy for mutual understanding and confidence between the races" to the commission's duties, was introduced on December 13, 1923. Committee hearings were held in the spring of 1924 and the bills were reported favorably to the House. The bills were introduced in the Senate in 1924, but no time was allotted on the calendar to take them up, and they were never passed.
See also: "National Negro Industrial Commission" (Coolidge Papers); "Negro Industrial Commission" (National Urban League Papers).
National Urban League
The National Urban League was formed in 1910 through the merger of three welfare organizations: the Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes, the National League for the Protection of Colored Women, and the Committee for Improving the Industrial Conditions of Negroes in New York. The purpose of the National Urban League was to "promote, encourage, assist and engage in any and all kinds of work for improving the industrial, economic, social and spiritual conditions among Negroes." Initially the new organization worked to facilitate the migration of African Americans from rural to urban areas, to train African American social workers to assist the migrants, and to promote interracial cooperation and goodwill.
In 1921 the league established a Department of Research, which sponsored several surveys of black populations in northern cities. This digital collection includes "The Negro Population in Minneapolis: A Study of Race Relations" (1926) and "A Survey of the Negro Population of Fort Wayne, Indiana" (1928), offering information about industrial employment, wages, trade unions, and recreation. In 1925 the league established a Department of Industrial Relations, expanding its program of providing job opportunities through cooperation with businesses.
Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life, which began publication in 1922, served as the league's official voice to its largely African American readership. It also offered an important outlet for African American literary creativity. Charles S. Johnson, who headed the league's Department of Research and Investigation, was the magazine's founding editor.
As the Negro Industrial Commission file from the National Urban League Papers shows, the league was involved in the unsuccessful struggle to obtain congressional passage of a law establishing a federal Negro Industrial Commission.
New Masses built on the reputation of an earlier socialist magazine, Masses, edited by the author Max Eastman from 1913 until 1917. Masses, along with other socialist journals, had been obliged to cease publication by federal measures taken in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. New Masses criticized what it regarded as the excessive consumption of the capitalist economy, publishing articles, reviews, and art criticism by cultural and political radicals who forged a strong anti-capitalist voice. John Dos Passos, Upton Sinclair, and Ezra Pound were among the contributors. Drawings and woodcut prints gave the journal strong visual interest. In the late 1920s, the journal's leadership took increasingly revolutionary positions and called for closer ties to the Soviet Union.
New Masses was published from May 1926 through January 12, 1948: monthly for 1926 through 1933, and weekly thereafter. The magazine is available at the Library of Congress on microfilm only; the issues for May through October 1926 are missing. Selections in this collection were made from the remaining numbers. These include Upton Sinclair's essay "Revolution--Not Sex" and V. F. Calverton's "Sex and Economics" from the issue of March 1927; and a portion of the April 1927 issue containing the article "The Desert and the City," whose "City" section focuses on the assembly line and the tyranny of the machine in Henry Ford's Kearney, New Jersey, plant.
See: National Urban League
The Playground Movement
The Playground Movement grew out of general concern in the 1920s about the wholesome use of leisure time. Led by the Playground and Recreation Association of America, the movement advocated community centers and recreational activities organized by labor unions and supported recreational programs in sports and the arts. The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Foundation helped fund the movement's efforts to organize community recreation; professionalize recreational work; and conduct surveys of parks, playgrounds, and recreational programs. City and state parks, small neighborhood greens, treeless school lots where youngsters could play ball, and community recreation centers were all viewed as appropriate spaces for leisure activity. The Playground and Recreation Association of America published Playground Magazine , a monthly periodical.
African Americans also championed the recreational concerns raised by the Playground Movement. American City Magazine carried the essay "Recreation for Colored America" in its August 1926 issue. "The Negro Church and Recreation" appeared in the February 1926 issue of The Southern Workman, and the August 1927 issue carried an article on early opportunities for African Americans to play tennis as well as a short piece on the recreational opportunities afforded by the black Boy Scout program at Hampton Institute.
Randolph, A. Philip
See: The Messenger
Recent Economic Changes in the United States
During the 1920s, large-scale studies undertaken by the federal government, philanthropic foundations, and social science research agencies accumulated much economic and social data. These studies established the authority of the social science disciplines and their recognized practitioners.
This digital collection includes selections from Recent Economic Changes in the United States (1929). The survey was initiated by Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover and funded in large part by the Carnegie Corporation and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Foundation. The National Bureau of Economic Research conducted the research. The survey began in January 1928 and was completed in February 1929, just before the end of Coolidge's presidential term. Selections include the front matter, containing a "Foreword," the "Report of the Committee," "Addenda," "Acknowledgments;" and a section entitled "Investigation Made Under the Auspices of the National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc." The last is a statement from the bureau about its internal organization and the staff involved in the research. Four chapters are reproduced in their entirety: "Consumption and the Standard of Living", by Leo Wolman; "Labor", by Leo Wolman; "Changes in New and Old Industries", by Dexter S. Kimball; and "Management", by Henry S. Dennison.
Although Recent Economic Changes went through several printings, it received scant recognition because its publication at the onset of the Great Depression was overshadowed by more pressing concerns. A primary historical source in its own right, this monument to the evolving social sciences presents the Coolidge era through the eyes of the experts of the day.
Recent Social Trends in the United States
The survey report Recent Social Trends in the United States (1933), the sister study to Recent Economic Changes in the United States (1929), was conducted by the President's Research Committee on Social Trends, appointed by Herbert Hoover at the beginning of his presidential term in 1929. The Rockefeller Foundation funded the investigations, the Social Science Research Council contributed various services and personnel, and a number of federal departments and bureaus provided assistance.
Recent Social Trends was not published until 1933, but like Recent Economic Changes, it explores the relationships among the social and economic trends of the previous decade. Selections from Recent Social Trends in this digital collection begin with the introductory material, containing a "Foreword" by President Hoover, with a list of the members of the President's Research Committee and the executive staff for the study; "A Review of Findings by the President's Research Committee on Social Trends;" "Acknowledgments;" and a "Prefatory Note." In addition, the collection includes the four chapters with the greatest bearing on consumer behavior in the 1920s: "Shifting Occupational Patterns", by Ralph G. Hurlin and Meredith B. Givens; "Labor Groups in the Social Structure", by Leo Wolman; " The People as Consumers", by Robert S. Lynd; and "Recreation and Leisure Time Activities", by Jesse Frederick Steiner.
Many of the chapters in Recent Social Trends led, in turn, to full-length studies by its authors. Among these were Rural Social Trends (1933), by Edmund de Schweinitz Brunner and J. H. Kolb; Races and Ethnic Groups in American Life (1933), by T. J. Woofter Jr.; Communication Agencies and Social Life (1933), by Malcolm M. Willey and Stuart A. Rice; Americans at Play: Recent Trends in Recreation and Leisure Time Activities (1933), by Jesse Frederick Steiner; and Women in the Twentieth Century: A Study of their Political, Social and Economic Activities (1933), by Sophonisba P. Breckinridge (which is included in this collection).
Rosenwald, Julius (1862-1932)
Julius Rosenwald became president of Sears, Roebuck and Company in 1910 and directed the company's expansion in the 1920s from a mail-order to a chain-store empire. Capitalizing on the demand for goods in rural areas, Rosenwald expanded Sears, Roebuck's offerings to include a greater variety of consumer products. The Sears mail-order catalogue became a hugely successful mirror of consumer needs and retailing trends; the 1927 issue featured more than 450 pages of ready-to-wear clothing. A typical advertisement for the catalogue appears in the February 1926 issue of Household Magazine. In 1925, anticipating that automobiles would reduce mail-order sales and make it possible to operate department stores profitably in many more locations, Rosenwald branched out into direct retailing. By the time of the Great Depression in 1929 he oversaw a chain of 324 retail stores.
Rosenwald was a progressive employer committed to health, dental, and profit-sharing plans for his workers. His social conscience was apparent in other areas as well. In 1911, he met and developed a warm association with Booker T. Washington, and he served on the Tuskegee Institute's board of trustees from 1912 until his death. Acting on the belief that education was the best way to strengthen the precarious economic situation of most African Americans, he gave money over a period of many years for the erection of modern school buildings for black students in rural southern communities from Maryland to Texas. In 1917, to further his commitment to social reform and particularly the improvement of race relations in America, Rosenwald consolidated his several philanthropies into the Julius Rosenwald Fund.
The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress holds the papers of Rosenwald's son, Lessing Julius Rosenwald (1891-1979), a noted collector of rare books, prints, and drawings. These papers (which are not included in this digital collection) contain an eclectic assortment of Sears company records reflecting the senior Rosenwald's interest in specific corporate issues.
A portrait photograph shows Julius Rosenwald at the White House on November 21, 1929.
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