Ernest Thompson

(1906 - 1971)

Ernest Thompson (1906-1971) grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, on a farm that had been given to his family at the end of the Civil War. The family was very poor and oppressed by racist practices. Thompson was determined to get away and to obtain power. He migrated to Jersey City, where he became part of the union organizing movement that built the Congress of Industrial Unions (CIO). He became the first African American to hold a fulltime organizing position with his union, the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE).  He eventually headed UE's innovative Fair Employment Practices program and fought for equal rights and pay for women and minority workers. Thompson also helped build the National Negro Labor Council, 1951-1956, and served as its director of organizing. In 1956, under the onslaught of the McCarthy era, UE was split in two, and Thompson lost his job. His wife, Margaret Thompson, brought the local school segregation to his attention. Ernie "Home" Thompson organized to desegregate the regional schools, building strong coalitions and political power for the black community that ultimately served all the people of Orange. 




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