Emmett Till's mangled face is seared into our collective memory, a tragic epitome of the brutal violence that upheld white supremacy in the Jim Crow South. But Till's murder was more than just a tragedy: it also inspired an outpouring of protest, in which labor unions played a prominent role. The United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) campaigned energetically, from the stockyards of Chicago to the sugar refineries of Louisiana. The UPWA organized the first mass meeting addressed by Till's mother, Mamie Bradley; packinghouse workers petitioned, marched, and rallied to demand justice; and an interracial group of union activists traveled to Mississippi to observe the trial of Till's killers firsthand, flouting segregation inside and outside the courtroom. Analysis of antiracist unions like the UPWA can help rectify a weakness in the “whiteness” literature by illuminating the contexts and strategies that have fostered durable interracial working-class solidarity. The UPWA, which managed to survive the Red Scare of the late 1940s and early 1950s relatively unscathed, represents an important link between the “civil rights unionism” of the 1930s and 1940s and the civil rights movement of the mid-1950s and 1960s.

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