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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Rocky Mount in Nash County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

Operation Dixie

 
 
Operation Dixie Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mike Stroud, October 14, 2011
1. Operation Dixie Marker
Inscription. Black leaf house workers in eastern N.C. unionized in 1946. First pro-union vote, at tobacco factory 1 block W., precursor to civil rights movement.
 
Erected 2011 by North Carolina Office of Archives and History. (Marker Number E-118.)
 
Location. 35° 56.855′ N, 77° 47.805′ W. Marker is in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in Nash County. Marker is at the intersection of Franklin Street (U.S. 301 S.) and McDonald Street, on the right when traveling south on Franklin Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Rocky Mount NC 27804, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Jim Thorpe (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Harold Bascom Durham, Jr. (about 600 feet away); Thelonious Monk (approx. ¼ mile away); Miss Anna Easter Brown (approx. 0.3 miles away); Douglas Franklin Davis (approx. half a mile away); Dr. Junius Daniel Douglas 1874-1973 (approx. 0.6 miles away); Martin Luther King Jr. (approx. 0.6 miles away); This Bell (approx. 0.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Rocky Mount.
 
Regarding Operation Dixie. In the summer of 1946, nearly 10,000 tobacco “leaf house” workers in eastern
Operation Dixie Marker seen along US 301, Franklin Street at McDonald Street image. Click for full size.
By Mike Stroud, October 14, 2011
2. Operation Dixie Marker seen along US 301, Franklin Street at McDonald Street
North Carolina, primarily African American women, joined unions in a mass organizing campaign (tagged “Operation Dixie”) headed by the Tobacco Workers International Union (TWIU-AFL) and the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural & Allied Workers of America (FTA-CIO). From South Boston, Virginia, to Lumberton, North Carolina, workers secured union contracts in nearly thirty tobacco leaf houses.

The labor protest and organization campaign followed the 1943 effort that took place at R. J. Reynolds factories in Winston-Salem. The 1946 campaign differed in that it not only focused on labor rights, but also resulted in important strides in civil rights for African Americans. Efforts were made by the union organizers to increase black voter registration and to instigate political action against segregation within the leaf houses. Nearly ten years before the Montgomery bus boycott, black workers in eastern North Carolina worked for civil rights through “unionism.” As one participant recorded, “We’re not just an organizing campaign, we’re a social revolution.” And another, “It wasn’t just wages we wanted, but freedom.”

While the movement began with the TWIU-AFL organizing locals and securing contracts in six leaf houses in Wilson and one in Rocky Mount in the summer of 1946, the first official union election, which was won by the
Operation Dixie Marker looking south along Franklin Street (US 301) image. Click for full size.
By Mike Stroud, October 14, 2011
3. Operation Dixie Marker looking south along Franklin Street (US 301)
FTA-CIO in September 1946, took place at China American Tobacco Company in Rocky Mount. After that election the FTA-CIO won 22 of 24 elections in North Carolina. The consequence was that the organizers established a significant union presence in eastern North Carolina leaf houses, benefitting the tobacco workers of the area. Today only two union locals remain.(North Carolina Office of Archives and History)
 
Categories. African AmericansCivil RightsLabor Unions
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 29, 2011, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 707 times since then and 32 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on November 8, 2011, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina.
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