In one display case sits a pair of tattered work boots. In another, a hard hat covered with evidence of many hard days of work. Along the walls of the Pittsburgh City-County Building hang black-and-white photos and essays detailing the stories of legends like Raymond Henderson and Oliver Montgomery, a third-generation Steelworker who's been a labor leader for more than 30 years.
The men are featured in a free, three-week exhibition called "The Strength of Steel: A Tribute to African-American Steelworkers in Pittsburgh" that opened Monday night. The exhibit is co-sponsored by the USW.
"Today, many of us stand on the shoulders of Raymond Henderson, Oliver Montgomery, Ola Kennedy, Jonathan Comer and many others who had not only the courage, but the audacity to stand up and speak out," said USW International Vice President Fred Redmond at the exhibit opening.
"It started with the hope, and it ended with the fulfillment of a long held ideal that they too, like their Italian brothers and sisters, their Polish brothers and sisters, their Eastern European and Jewish co-workers, they too, can achieve the promise of the American Dream," Redmond said. Click here to read Redmond's entire speech.
Henderson was among the steelworkers who, through lawsuits, bought to the table in 1974 the Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC), the U.S. Department of Justice, nine steel companies and the United Steelworkers union. A consent decree was established with goals and timetables for the hiring and promotion of minorities, specifically African-Americans, women and Latinos, especially in supervision, technical and clerical jobs and management training programs.
Montgomery rose through the ranks of the union - he joined USW Local 1462 at Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. in 1950, serving nearly every local position there before becoming part of the International staff in 1969. He was an organizer for the 1963 March on Washington, working alongside A. Philip Randolph and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1994, Montgomery was named president of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees by then International President George Becker.
The exhibit of 30 photographs will hang in the lobby of the Pittsburgh City-County Building through Feb. 25. It includes steelworkers' clothing and tools loaned by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.