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AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department, Southeastern Region records

Identifier: L1988-22

Scope and Content of the Records

Series I of this collection contains newsletters and some correspondence of state and local AFL-CIO bodies from 1984-1986. The materials concern legislative interests, local union news, voter registration, and "get-out-the-vote" campaigns. Series II contains materials of the Advanced Southern Labor School from 1981 to 1986. Training guides, manuals, and other supporting documents for labor education in Nashville, New Orleans, and Jacksonville are included. Series III contains a summary of the activities of the AFL-CIO School for Union Women of 1981. Series IV contains correspondence, news articles, newsletters, registration information, and schedules of events for the AFL-CIO Regional Conferences from 1981 to 1985. Series V contains correspondence, schedule of events, brochures, and news articles of the AFL-CIO Civil Rights Conferences. Series VI contains official AFL-CIO Executive Council statements on economic issues, social policies, and foreign policy matters of the United States from 1984 to 1985. Series VII contains correspondence concerning conferences held throughout the country by the A. Philip Randolph Institute from 1984 to 1986. National Urban League Conferences of 1983 compose Series VIII. Materials include conference agenda, speech transcripts, reports on civil rights activities, and proposals for working with minority youth. Newsletters and employment statistics for the state from the Georgia Department of Labor are in Series IX. Series X consists of Fair Employment Practices Reports from the Bureau of National Affairs, 1978-1984. Subject files from 1974 to 1986 constitute Series XI.


  • Creation: 1966-1986


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research use.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Georgia State University is the owner of the physical collection and makes reproductions available for research, subject to the copyright law of the United States and item condition. Georgia State University may or may not own the rights to materials in the collection. It is the researcher's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and obtain permission from the copyright holder before publication, reproduction, or display of the materials beyond what is reasonable under copyright law. Researchers may quote selections from the collection under the fair use provision of copyright law.

Historical Note on the AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department and E.T. Kehrer

Shortly after the merger in 1955, the AFL-CIO set up a Department of Civil Rights under the direction of Boris Shishkin. From 1965 to 1969 Don Slaiman headed the department followed by William E. Pollard in 1970. The AFL-CIO also had a standing committee on civil rights. This committee was headed successively by Charles S. Zimmerman (1957-1961), William Schnitzler (1961-1967), and Fred O'Neal (1969-[1985]). The committee membership included representatives from AFL-CIO unions. Don Slaiman, E.T. Kehrer, William E. Pollard, Robert McGlotten, and Doris Gibson Hardesty provided staff services to the committee.

During the early years of the AFL-CIO, the Civil Rights Department and the Civil Rights Committee did relatively little toward eliminating practices of exclusion in union policies. The national organization's position changed after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. On January 1, 1965, the Southern Area Civil Rights Department was established in response to a need for a staff specialist in civil rights in the region. Later that year the southern office opened in Atlanta under the direction of E.T. "Al" Kehrer. The states served by this office included Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Elmer T. Kehrer was born on a farm near Brighton, Michigan, in 1921. He grew up in Detroit during an active period of union organization in the auto industry. During World War II he served in the Maritime Service as a Purser-Pharmacist on an oil tanker in the Pacific war zone. In 1947 he received his A.B. degree from Olivet College in Michigan and his M.A. in economics from Yale University in 1948. He started with the unions in 1936 when he became a student organizer for the United Auto Workers. In 1944 he did field work in Los Angeles for the Ship's Clerk Association, and in 1948 he became a field representative for the Workers Education Bureau of the AFL specializing in setting up human relations programs. In 1950 he was instrumental in founding and serving as director of the ILGWU's Officers Training Institute, the first year-round labor educational program to develop full-time union officials. In 1953 Kehrer accepted the position of ILGWU's Southeastern Regional Director in Atlanta. He remained in that position until he became the Southern Director for the AFL-CIO's Civil Rights Department in 1965.

Kehrer's work in the Civil Rights Department focused mainly on facilitating the addition of minority and women workers to work forces represented by unions. In addition to advocating the employment of minorities, this effort also involved encouraging unions, government agencies, and employers to provide job training and to develop and follow affirmative action guidelines. He paid particular attention to increasing black participation in the building trades. Evidence of this type of activity can be found in Kehrer's work with major federal construction projects such as the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and the Kings Bay Submarine Base.

Kehrer's responsibilities also called for forging coalitions among agencies, civil rights groups and labor organizations. He worked with the NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Committee (SCLC), the Southern Regional Council and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Non-Violent Social Change. Among other things, he assisted in the development and processing of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints. Kehrer served as the Labor Coordinator for the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and in 1985 repeated that role for the 20th anniversary march. In 1966 Kehrer helped to form and served as an officer of the Georgia Democratic Party Forum and the Ellis Arnall Write-In Campaign, efforts aimed at electing a slate of loyalist national Democrats as delegates to the 1968 Democratic National Convention and electing former Governor Ellis Arnall as governor of Georgia. In 1970 Kehrer served as the chairman of the first planning committee for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration.

In addition to very heavy official duties, Kehrer was also active in his community, in politics, and in the Presbyterian Church. He served in leadership capacities in the following organizations: Southern Regional Council, Workers Defense League, National Joint Council on Economic Education, Georgia Manpower Area Planning Council, Tennessee-Tombigbee Affirmative Action Coordinating Committee, Southern Coalition for Full Employment, Atlanta Area Justice for J.P. Stevens Workers, Georgia Citizens for the Arts, Organized Labor-Workmen's Circle Labor Awards Committee, Georgia Women's Diversion Committee, East Coast Farmworkers Support Network, Resurgens Atlanta, and the Georgia Democratic Party. He also worked with other organizations including: Presbyterian Consultation on World Hunger and Development, Presbyterian Task Force on U.S. System of Justice, Industrial Relations Research Association, Workmen's Circle, Coalition for a Democratic Majority, League for Industrial Democracy, NAACP, Atlanta Urban League, Georgia Coalition on Hunger, Southeastern Advisory Council on the American Red Cross, and the Georgia Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.


9.5 Linear Feet (in 24 boxes)

Language of Materials



AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department, Southeastern Region records consist of newsletters, correspondence, training manuals, news articles, newsletters and summaries of events, 1966-1986.

Organization of the Records

Organized into 11 series.

  • Series I: State and Local AFL-CIO Bodies, 1984-1986
  • Series II: Advanced Southern Labor School, 1981-1986
  • Series III: AFL-CIO School for Union Women, 1981
  • Series IV: AFL-CIO Regional Conferences, 1981-1985
  • Series V: AFL-CIO Civil Rights Conferences, 1977
  • Series VI: AFL-CIO Executive Council Statements, 1984-1985
  • Series VII: A. Philip Randolph Institute, 1984-1986
  • Series VIII: National Urban League Conferences, 1983-1986
  • Series IX: Georgia Department of Labor, 1980-1986
  • Series X: Bureau of National Affairs, 1978-1984
  • Series XI: Subject Files, 1974-1986

Acquisition Information

Donated by AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department, courtesy of Southeastern Region Director E.T. Kehrer, May 1988.

Related Archival Materials

Related Materials in This Repository

  1. E. T. Kehrer Papers, 1940-1989 (L1989-22)
  2. AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department, Southern Region records, 1963-1972 (L1973-05)
  3. AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department, Southern Office records, 1964-1979 (L1983-26)
  4. AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department, Southeastern Office records, 1974-1984 (L1985-16)
  5. AFL-CIO Southern Area Civil Rights Department records, 1962-1988 (L1989-17)

The Southern Labor Archives holds numerous AFL-CIO collections. These collections include State level organizations (Virginia State AFL-CIO, Mississippi AFL-CIO, Florida State AFL-CIO, Georgia State AFL-CIO, South Carolina State AFL-CIO, and North Carolina State AFL-CIO). In addition, the SLA has a number of regional office collections (the designations and locations have changed over time) including: AFL-CIO. Region 5, AFL-CIO. Region 6, AFL-CIO. Region 8 (Knoxville, Tenn.), and AFL-CIO. Region 10 (Nashville, Tenn.) as well as the AFL-CIO. Civil Rights Department. Contact Special Collections for more information.

Separated Materials

During processing, materials were separated to other Southern Labor Archives Collections. For pamphlets, see the Southern Labor Archives Pamphlet Collection finding aid (note that this collection has been weeded over time). For periodicals, see the Southern Labor Archives Periodicals Collection finding aid or catalog. Consult Special Collections for access.

Separated to Southern Labor Archives Pamphlet Collection

  1. George Meany Labor Studies Center

Separated to Southern Labor Archives Periodicals Collection

  1. The Appalachian Voice, AFL-CIO Appalachian Council [L1988-22]
  2. The Builders, AFL-CIO Building Construction Trades Department [L1988-22]
  3. The Bulletin, AFL-CIO Department of International Affairs [L1988-22]
  4. CLUW News, Coalition of Labor Union Women [L1988-22]
  5. Free Trade Union News, AFL-CIO Department of International Affairs [L1988-22]
  6. HRDI Advisory, AFL-CIO Human Resources Development Institute [L1988-22]
  7. IUD Digest, AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department [L1988-22]
  8. Maritime Newsletter, AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department [L1988-22]
  9. Viewpoint, AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department [L1988-22]

Processing Information

Inventoried by Deanne Hicks at the file level, April 1991. Portions of this collection were digitized as part of the "Advancing Workers Rights in the American South: Digitizing the Records of the AFL-CIO's Civil Rights Division" project, supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from the Mellon Foundation.

AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department, Southeastern Region [L1988-22]:
A Guide to Its Records at Georgia State University Library
Georgia State University Library
April 1991
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • June 2001: EAD finding aid created by Apex Data Services.
  • 2005, 2007: EAD revised by William Hardesty.
  • 2024-01-12: Links to digitized materials added.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

100 Decatur St., S.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
404-413-2881 (Fax)