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Akron in Summit County, Ohio — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Contributions Of African Americans To Akron's Rubber Industry

 
 
Contributions Of African Americans To Akron's Rubber Industry Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Doda, July 2, 2022
1. Contributions Of African Americans To Akron's Rubber Industry Marker
Inscription.  
During the 20th century heyday of the rubber and tire industry in Akron, approximately 4,000 African-American men and women were employed at jobs in the big companies. World War I brought about a marked increase in opportunities and in the number of Black residents, which expanded eight-fold between 1910 and 1920.

Overt Racism was evident at every level of the rubber companies until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forced new hiring practices.


Black men and women had the worst jobs in the factories. Almost exclusively, they were hired as janitors or charwomen assigned to scrubbing floors, cleaning toilets or emptying spittoons. Some were laborers who dug ditches in freezing weather as part of yard gangs, or they worked in the hellish heat of "the pit” where tires underwent their final curing. Some spent 10-hour days in the Mill room where they would be drenched in soot and the lampblack used to color tires.

Until the 1960's, cafeterias at Goodyear and Firestone were segregated. Company-sponsored housing developments in Goodyear Heights and Firestone Park were for Whites only. Persons of "African or
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Ethiopian ancestry" were prohibited from purchasing property in either subdivision. Black families were consigned to the least desirable neighborhoods, little more than shantytowns, that sprouted in the shadow of Goodyear, Goodrich and Firestone.

By the time of World War II, labor shortages forced more diversity in hiring. Akron's Black population was nearly 24,000.

Just 2,000 men - the tire builders - were regarded as "the royalty of the rubber shops,” but only 12 of these coveted positions were held by Black men. Their hiring prompted a sit-down strike by White tire builders to protest integration of the department in 1955.

The first Black Chemistry graduate of the University of Akron, Ray Dove, could only find work as an elevator operator until Goodyear gave him an opportunity in the laboratory, where he would have a distinguished career as a researcher. His daughter Rita Dove would become the Poet Laureate of the United States.

[Captions:]
Black men were a small part of the rubber companies' work force until the 1950's, employed primarily as janitors and laborers.

An exception to the practice of placing Blacks in menial positions was Goodyear's decision to elevate Ray C. Dove, the first African American chemistry graduate of the University of Akron to the Goodyear Research laboratory, where he would develop
Contributions Of African Americans To Akron's Rubber Industry Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Doda, July 2, 2022
2. Contributions Of African Americans To Akron's Rubber Industry Marker
a series of innovations and a long career before retiring. His daughter Rita would become the Poet Laureate of the United States.

African American laborers were called on to build roads in Harvey Firestone's housing development, Firestone Park in 1916, even though deed restrictions prohibited sales to black employees.

 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansIndustry & Commerce. A significant historical year for this entry is 1910.
 
Location. 41° 4.957′ N, 81° 31.054′ W. Marker is in Akron, Ohio, in Summit County. Marker is at the intersection of East Mill Street and South Mill Street, on the right when traveling west on East Mill Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 22 E Mill St, Akron OH 44308, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Contributions Of Women To Akron's Rubber Industry (a few steps from this marker); GG9 (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); 1936 Akron Rubber Strike (about 400 feet away); Creating Crossroads of Commerce (approx. 0.2 miles away); United Rubber Workers International Union (approx. ¼ mile away); In Memory of Arthur Snell (approx. ¼ mile away); Summit County Vietnam Veterans Memorial (approx. ¼ mile away); Site of Sojourner Truth's Speech on Women's Rights (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Akron.
Contributions Of African Americans To Akron's Rubber Industry Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Doda, July 2, 2022
3. Contributions Of African Americans To Akron's Rubber Industry Marker
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 25, 2022. It was originally submitted on July 16, 2022, by Craig Doda of Napoleon, Ohio. This page has been viewed 288 times since then and 79 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on July 16, 2022, by Craig Doda of Napoleon, Ohio.   2, 3. submitted on July 17, 2022, by Craig Doda of Napoleon, Ohio. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 14, 2024