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E.T "Al" Kehrer oral history interview, February 10, 1995

 Item — othertype: Oral History
Identifier: KehrerET_L1995-12_10

Scope and Contents

Interviewed by Marcia Fishman: Al Kehrer discusses his family background, including the Americanization of German Americans after World War I as well as growing up in Detroit, Michigan. He also speaks of his interest in the labor movement and the influence of teachers such as Florence Sweeney, first president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT), and Max Jaslow, who taught night classes to the United Auto Workers (UAW). Kehrer found many opportunities for childhood employment during the Great Depression. He bluntly discusses religion and churchmen (Henry Hitt Crane, Father Joseph Marx, Father Coughlin) and their influence on working class people. Kehrer also discusses radicalism in the 1930s and the Young Socialists League. He served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II and afterwards was sent by David Dubinsky to the Southern Department of ILGWU as a labor organizer. Kehrer also discusses the ILGWU Institute’s role in labor education. He talks frankly about Nick Bonnano and his role as an organizer while Kehrer was regional director of the ILGWU. He compares labor unions and workers in the Southern United States, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. When discussing attitudes toward unionization Kehrer says, “I don’t remember any situation in which the black workers were anti-union.” The important issues Kehrer discusses concerning race relations include the Civil Rights Act; the Ku Klux Klan; the Civil Rights Movement, sit-ins, and especially the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers.


  • Creation: February 10, 1995


Restrictions on Access

Oral history available for research.

Biographical Note

Al Kehrer was born January 1, 1921 in Brighton, Michigan. He received a B.A. from Olivet College in 1947 and an M.A. in Economics from Yale University in 1948. He became active in the labor movement with his membership in the United Auto Workers (UAW) union in 1936. Upon finishing his graduate degree, he joined the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) from 1948 to 1953 and the Workers’ Education Bureau of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) from 1948 to 1950. In 1955, he came to Atlanta, Georgia as the regional director of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Later, he opened the Southern Civil Rights Office of the AFL-CIO. He retired from that position in 1988, but continued to be involved in the labor movement and the Democratic Party. In the 1960s, Kehrer participated in many civil rights activities, including the 1963 March on Washington and the march from Selma to Montgomery. He died on June 12, 1996.


2 Item(s) (transcript (57 pages) audio (2:35:07 duration))

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

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