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Oral History Interview with Mary Robertson, August 13, 1979. Interview H-0288. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Mary Robertson entered the union movement as part of a colonization scheme: the Food and Tobacco Workers Union enlisted her to find work at a tobacco company in Asheville, North Carolina, and convince workers there to join the organization. A career in organization followed, with Robertson weathering blacklisting and a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee to secure a position of power within the Central Labor Union, a centralized network of unions in western North Carolina. In this interview, Robertson offers a history of unionization in the region, drawing connections between regional character and union membership; revealing union strategies for recruiting members; and discussing the role of women in organized labor and southern society. She concludes the interview by describing some of the strategies union leaders are using in the region to create conditions for increased organization. This interview will prove a rich resource for researchers interested in the role of unions in western North Carolina.
    Excerpts
  • Unions and race at a R.J. Reynolds tobacco plant
  • White tobacco workers resist unionization
  • White Appalachians learn racism over time
  • Working for civil rights in Asheville, North Carolina
  • Being labeled a Communist limits an activist's effectiveness
  • Tensions within the organized labor movement
  • The Central Labor Union's control over its membership
  • Lack of female leadership in unions and full female participation in the economy
  • Appalachian women embrace gender roles despite their strength
  • Optimism about the future of the labor movement in western North Carolina
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs
  • Women in trade-unions--Southern States
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.