1920s: Relief for Railway Mail Clerks

Preceding 1923 the Railway Mail Service was the most preferential of all parts of the administration. . . The Railway Mail Service is today a model in just dealings and advancements. Roy O. Wilhoit, President, National Alliance of Postal Employees, 1931[32]

In 1921, after two terms in office, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson was supplanted by Republican Warren Harding. Under Harding and progressive Republican Presidents, general postal strategy started to change. The working conditions and chances of African-American postal representatives – especially in the Railway Mail Service – made strides. Some portion of the change may be ascribed to the philosophical contrasts between the two gatherings – during the 1920s Republicans were still normally more socially liberal than Democrats, and all the more frequently supported social equality. Some portion of the change can likewise be ascribed to Chicago governmental issues.

During the 1920s African-American government official Edward H. Wright headed a solid Republican association in Chicago, with impact over a casting a ballot alliance that was solid enough to choose decisions. Wright persuaded Illinois Congressman Martin B. Rankle to intercede in the battle to raise dark postal specialists. Rankle, who had recently served on the Post Office and Post Roads Committee, was at the time executive of the persuasive House Appropriations Committee. In 1922 and 1923 Madden’s child in-law, Paul Henderson, filled in as Second Assistant Postmaster General.[33]

In 1921 the Post Office Department and the Railway Mail Association concurred that the advancements of railroad mail assistants would be founded on rank, instead of the old point framework, which implied that senior agents were advanced paying little mind to race. An outcome of the new approach – maybe unexpected by the association – was that veteran dark representatives who for quite a long time had been disregarded started to get advancements. At the point when the association protested the advancement of an African American to representative in-control in December 1922, Second Assistant Postmaster General Paul Henderson shielded the advancement, saying the worker was both qualified and qualified for it and that if important he would “call upon the U.S. Armed force to ensure him in it.”[34] In 1922 Henderson likewise coordinated administrators of the Railway Mail Service to select dark assistants on certain railroad lines where they had been prohibited amid the Wilson time – for instance, on the bustling lines between New York and Philadelphia.

In 1923 African-American John D. Gainey was delegated Assistant Chief Clerk-everywhere of the Railway Mail Service, particularly to deal with complaints of dark representatives. The National Alliance of Postal Employees saw Gainey’s arrangement as a “defining moment in the ‘wiping out’ of foul practices.”[35] Gainey visited the nation, researching objections and issuing proposals. He finished the evacuations of representatives on sketchy charges – as indicated by Historian A. L. Glenn, freeing “several Negro railroad postal representatives EVERYWHERE . . . indeed, even in the profound south.” [36] (In 1923 around 13 percent of railroad mail agents were African-American, serving for the most part in the South.[37])


Glenn noted models of some white directors “makng history” for dark collaborators:

Amid the Burleson organization . . . extraordinary endeavors were made to isolate the work force of mail teams on some RPO runs. . . . In a couple of occasions the white assistants included completely declined to surrender their Negro representative. Remarkably, Clerk-in Charge Gene Beckham of the Atlanta, Macon and Montgomery RPO declined to allow them to remove Fielder Reddick from his group. It was dependably announced that the issue was dealt with through a Congressman and Senator. Reddick remained. Assistant in-Charge Spies of the Jack. and Montgomery RPO did not wish to surrender Lonnie Miller, his pro Negro assistant. Spies battled for his man and won.[31]

Isolation in the Railway Mail Service and dark assistants’ prohibition from the railroad mail representatives’ association prompted the arrangement of the National Alliance of Postal Employees in 1913 (see “The National Alliance of Postal Employees” underneath). Isolation when all is said in done and the photo prerequisite for government work candidates additionally catalyzed the social equality development. Participation in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) ascended from under 400 out of 1912 to more than 4,000 out of 1914; by 1920 the NAACP’s enrollment outperformed 88,000.

Photo indicating white government laborers in a lounge area at the U.S. General Health Service dispensary in Washington, D.C., around 1918. A sign overhead peruses “White Men’s Waiting Room.” A contiguous sign overhead peruses “Shaded Men’s Waiting Room.”

Isolated sitting areas in U.S. General Health Service dispensary for government laborers, Washington D.C., ca. 1918. (civility Library of Congress)

The National Alliance of Postal Employees

In 1911 the Railway Mail Association, the association of railroad mail benefit representatives, revised its sanction to prohibit new participation to African Americans. Other worker associations, for example, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Federation of Post Office Clerks, endured isolated nearby offices – underestimating and adequately barring dark individuals in a few urban communities.

In October 1913 a gathering of African-American railroad mail representatives met in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to frame their very own association – the National Alliance of Postal Employees. The National Alliance worked for equivalent rights for dark postal specialists working together with social equality associations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The Alliance energetically challenged the photo necessity for Civil Service candidates. It dissented racial separation in the work environment – in arrangements, assignments, advancements, disciplinary activities, and evacuations. What’s more, it vivaciously pushed for the arrangement of dark directors and postal auditors.

In 1923 the National Alliance opened its ways to every single postal representative. In 1965 it opened its participation to every single government representative and changed its name to the National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees.

On January 17, 1962, President John F. Kennedy marked Executive Order 10988, forbidding separate work associations dependent on race.

For more data on the historical backdrop of the National Alliance of Postal Employees, see There’s Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice, and Equality, by Philip F. Rubio (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2010).