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Saturday, November 10, 2007

The ultimate irony ... .

I'm not at all sure that Ethel Dotson's determination to save her precious historic landmark won't have been in vain. How sad! We discovered midweek that she died as one of the millions of the uninsured, and that there was a desperate need to quickly raise the funds to take care of her funeral expenses. And, yes, her friends and admirers came through, and her services are being held next week, as planned. A cemetery plot was donated anonymously, and her church congregation, her Neighborhood Council, and many friends, gave as generously as they could. You must remember that this is a very low income community -- but it takes care of its own.

This is not to say that the little landmark hotel won't need to be sold at some point to satisfy her creditors or to take care of her only son who surely can't be expected to hold it for posterity when his needs are immediate.

In the times (at home) that I give to blogging I need now to spend researching the connections between the Northern California chapter of the NAACP during the war years when it was headed by C.L. Dellums (yes, that would be the uncle of Oakland mayor, Ron Dellums) and his connections with A.Philip Randolph, creator of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. I've made an appointment to visit with the mayor next week to explore this. There must be some way to establish the historic value of Ethel's building so that its worth to black history will bring the help we'll need to get it purchased toward the goal of restoration. The Pullman Company figured powerfully in that era and (surely) in the life of the International Hotel. That history will be important now to the justification for national landmarking and eventual restoration. The International Hotel must first be saved.

In searching the web I found this from California Newsreel:

"...In response to the race riots of 1919, Randolph and Chandler Owen formed the National Association for the Promotion of Labor Unionism Among Negroes. Soon a group of Pullman car workers asked Randolph to help them organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. The film revisits the group's bitter 12-year battle with the notorious Pullman Company, which tried repeatedly to destroy the union using spies and firings. The 1934 Wagner Act finally created a level-playing field, enabling the Brotherhood to win an organized contract in 1937, the first ever between a company and a Black union."

and:

"...When WWII began, the federal government was still segregated and African Americans
excluded from all but menial defense industry jobs. Randolph leapt onto the national stage when he called for a march on Washington in protest. (According to CORE founder, James Farmer, "Roosevelt could not take the chance that 25,000 people would be protesting in Washington when he was calling the U.S. the arsenal of democracy." Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8002 banning such discrimination and the march was called off."

plus:

"...Later, as the Cold War heated up, President Truman announced the first peace-time draft. But he left the armed forces segregated. Randolph called on Black men to resist the draft until Truman relented, presaging the protests against the Vietnam War. Truman was furious, but in 1948 he issued an executive order integrating the military."

The piece ends with:

"...In 1963, Randolph called again for a march on Washington. He was the only civil rights leader who could unite other leaders in the movement. 250,000 came in response. When he introduced Dr. King, "symbolically, the torch was passed from one generation of fighters to another."
Would it not be incredible if this tiny (seemingly) insignificant International Hotel can be proven to have played a prominent role in the telling of the story of railroading as a change agent in African American life; could elevate this important labor history; and could become a critical factor in the telling of the story of this remarkable leader, Asa Philip Randolph?

Anybody out there want to help me make these connections? I believe much of what we'll need can be found online. We'll need to tie him to the War years and to a period spent in Northern California. His association with C.L. Dellums might prove fruitful in our search. The possibilities are tantalizing ... .

For Ethel Dotson ... .

For us all.


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