The Negro workers, men and women, in agriculture and industry, North and South, also took their part in the work of producing the food, the supplies, and the ships to win the war. They were among those who may be called the fourth line of defense.2 In many parts of the South the cotton crop from which fabrics and explosives were made depended upon the labor of Negro men, women, and children. They were engaged in the manufacture of ammunition and of iron and steel products, in meat packing, in the production of automobiles and trucks for army purposes, and in many other lines of labor required by the necessities of our task at the front in France. Negroes were called upon to supply about one fifth of the war laborers in the meat packing plants of Chicago and in several other places. There were 24,648 Negroes in forty-six of the fifty-five occupations incident to shipbuilding under the United States Shipping Board.
1 Quoted in Scott, E. J., work cited, p. 323.
2 A report of "The Negro at Work During the World War and During Reconstruction" was issued by the U. S. Department of Labor, Division of Negro Economics.
A Negro, Charles Knight, at the plant of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation at Sparrow's Point, Maryland, broke the world's record for driving rivets in building steel ships. He drove 4,875 three-quarter inch rivets during one nine-hour day. A Negro pile-driving crew in building ship-ways at Hog Island, near Philadelphia, Pa., broke the world's record for driving piles. Negro miners in Alabama, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, probably more than 75,000 strong, contributed in large measure toward supplying the fuel for factories and railroads and ships. Probably an additional 150,000 were actively assisting in the operation of the railroads, and still another 150,000 were serving to keep up other means of communication so vital to war production.
Negro women, besides their work in homes, in domestic service, and in providing for their men at their own homes, entered the lists of industrial war production workers. The Department of Labor, Women's Bureau (then the Women in Industry Service), with the cooperation of the Division of Negro Economics, sent special agents to visit 152 typical industrial plants employing Negro women during the War. The facts showed1 21,547 Negro women employed in these plants in approximately 75 specific processes.
The Secretary of War drafted men, trained them as army officers, planned and sent them wherever he deemed wise. They had to obey. The Secretary of Labor had to mobilize our agricultural and industrial army, but he had no authority to draft workmen or compel them to stay upon any task. He had to depend upon their confidence and their enthusiasm for the cause. Yet, American men and women by the millions responded heartily to the call of the Secretary of Labor for full labor cooperation.