Earl George

BY:Washington District| October 13, 2001

It all

began for Earl George on February 9, 1894. He was born into a working

class family in Denver, Colorado. His father was a laborer and bartender.

Earl’s participation in politics started at an early age – he joined his

first organization in 1906 at the age of twelve. The United Brotherhood

of Friendship was active in Denver’s Black community, presenting programs

which dramatized the oppression of Black people.

High school presented new challenges. Earl’s first victory was won when

he gained acceptance into a previously all-white group of cadets. But

he learned a lesson in economics when he couldn’t participate because

he didn’t have the $22.50 uniform fee.

Earl remembered the spirit of those days in Colorado. The United Mine

Workers was one of the few unions with both Black and white members, and

they looked to the community for support in many bitter strikes. Earl

had a vivid recollection of the Ludlow massacre, when the Governor called

out the National Guard to "protect" company gunmen who opened

fire, killing striking miners and their families.

In college, Earl majored in chemistry. He studied German so he could

read scientific texts. But World War I cut his education short and he

was drafted during his junior year. He was sent to Fort Lewis, where he

spent two years in the segregated army. Discharged in 1919, he moved to

nearby Seattle.

The 1919 Seattle General Strike found Earl on the picketlines. For five

days, "nothing moved but the tide," according to Earl. He joined

the Wobblies, marched with the Worker’s Alliance and the Unemployed Citizen’s

Council. He was active in the Washington Commonwealth Federation and the

Washington Pension Union. In 1937, Earl joined the Communist Party after

reading the Communist Manifesto.

In 1938, he found work as a warehousman and joined the International

Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU). He held many positions

in Local #9, including many terms as President. He is thought to be the

first Black president of a union local in Washington State. He was also

a candidate for state legislature. He led the fight in 1948 to force Tradewell

and Safeway to hire Black workers. He was a delegate to the Labor Peace

Congress in 1949. He helped found the National Negro Labor Council in


When Paul Robeson came to Seattle to sing at the Blaine Peace Arch Concert

in the early 50s, he stayed with Earl, who by that time had met and married


Earl retired in 1961, joining the ILWU Pensioner’s Club; as Executive

Secretary, he managed the pensioner’s social hall into his late eighties.

Earl became a photographer, and official one for the ILWU Dispatcher

and the People’s World.

and Marc Brodine.


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