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Moe FonerMoe Foner
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Session:         Page of 592

Date: July 25, 1985


We're going to pick up where we got cut off by our failing tape from last time. So why don't you start, Moe, by talking a little bit about how the Salute to Freedom and the Negro History Programs evolved in the early sixties.


The Negro History Program dates back from the time I came to the union in 1954. It was, obviously, in February and it was done at that time for the Drug Division membership, a portion of whom were black. The programs were organized by the union, often in cooperation with the North Harlem Pharmaceutical Association, which was a professional organization of black pharmacists. The union had played a very important role in the area of the right of black pharmacists to get jobs, going back to the Thirties.


Were they in the union?


They were in the union. Most of the people were in the union. Some were employers and were not in the union, so it was a mixture of employers and workers. These were Negro middle-class, black middle-class storeowners who had been members of the union, then had become storeowners.

At any rate, in the early days, the programs featured Ossie and Ruby. Ossie each year, would write a script for the event based upon the most significant event in the struggle of black people of that given year, whether it was a documentary about the Emmett Till murder case or Montgomery boycott.

I remember the Montgomery thing. We had Ralph Abernathy was the guest speaker. There was a guest speaker and there was a cultural program. Ossie would write the program after I got to know him, and that's the way it went up to the hospital organizing campaign.


At the time of the organizing of hospital workers, we began to make plans for a program that year coming on the heels of the Montefior victory in '58, so that the '59 program was based upon a dramatization written by Ossie while he was in the musical “Jamaica,” which was in the neighborhood, on Broadway. I would meet with him, give him the material about what was happening, and he then wrote a dramatization, and since he was in the musical “Jamaica,” it shouldn't be a total loss, he got to perform in that program as the narrator, Ricardo Montalban.

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