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Tue, 01.13.1835

Isaac Myers, Labor Union Administrator born

Isaac Myers

*Isaac Myers was born on this date in 1835. He was a pioneering Black trade unionist, a cooperative organizer, and a caulker.

Myers was born free in Baltimore, though Maryland was a slave state. Since the state of Maryland did not offer public education for Black youth, Myers had to acquire his early education from a private day school run by Rev. John Fortie. At 16, he began work as a caulker, sealing seams in ships. In the 1850s, Myers married Emma V. Morgan, who died in 1868. With her, they had three children, including political activist George A. Myers. He later married Sarah E. Deaver.

In 1860, Myers left caulking to work in a grocery business leading him to set up a short-lived cooperative grocery in 1864. He returned to caulking in 1865. After the American Civil War, white workers' competition for jobs led to strikes and protests, forcing over 1000 black caulkers to lose their jobs. Myers proposed the workers collectively pool resources and form a cooperative shipyard and railway, the Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company, to provide themselves with employment. The cooperative, opening in February 1866, was initially a great success, employing over 300 black workers.

Myers and others also established the Colored Caulkers Trade Union Society in 1868, to which he was elected president. The National Labor Union took interest, inviting the Colored Caulkers Trade Union Society to their annual convention. The move was significant for what had previously been an all-white union, but black workers continued to face opposition to membership. In response, the Colored National Labor Union was established in 1869, with Myers as president.

He was succeeded in 1872 as President by Frederick Douglass. Following his departure from the CFNL, Myer's continued working and contributing to the labor movement. He became increasingly involved in the Republican Party during the 1870s. Myers worked as both a Customs Service agent and a postal service agent under President Ulysses S. Grant's abolitionist Postmaster General John Creswell. He was the first known African American postal inspector, serving from 1870 until 1879, after which he returned to operate a coal yard in Baltimore. Myers also organized and became President of the Maryland Colored State Industrial Fair Association, the Colored Businessmen's Association of Baltimore, the Colored Building and Loan Association, and the Aged Ministers Home of the A.M.E. Church.

Isaac Myers died on January 26, 1891. The Frederick Douglass Isaac Myers Maritime Park in Baltimore was named after Myers.

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