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Maida Springer Kemp papers


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Correspondence and other materials

Labor and Trade Union files


Ephemera, news clippings and publications


Contact us about this collection

Maida Springer Kemp papers, 1934-1998 | Amistad Research Center

By Laura J. Thomson

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Collection Overview

Title: Maida Springer Kemp papers, 1934-1998Add to your cart.View associated digital content.

Predominant Dates:1956-1981

Primary Creator: Springer Kemp, Maida (1910-2005)

Extent: 6.0 Linear Feet

Date Acquired: 10/01/1989. More info below under Accruals.

Subjects: African American labor leaders, Labor leaders, Labor movement, Labor movement - Africa, Labor unions, Black, Women labor union members

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The papers of labor activist Maida Springer Kemp consist of correspondence and reports written or collected by Springer-Kemp along with photographs and ephemera organized into five series: correspondence; labor and trade union files; speeches; ephemera, news clippings, and publications; and photographs. The bulk of the papers cover her professional life as a representative and consultant with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) from 1956 to 1981, including her work with AFL-CIO-affiliated organizations, such as the African American Labor Center (AALC) and the Asian-American Free Labor Institute (AAFLI). Also represented within the papers are materials documenting Springer Kemp’s membership and work with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), from 1944 to 1969. There is also a small amount of material related to labor activist Pauli Murray.

Springer Kemp’s papers document the development of labor and trade unions in Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika), Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). African trade unions represented within the papers include the East Africa Federation of Building and Construction Workers Union, the Kenya Federation of Labor, the African Mineworker’s Trade Union (Northern Rhodesia), the South Rhodesia Tailors and Garment Workers Union, the Tanganyika African National Union, the Uganda Trade Union Congress,  the United Labor Congress of Nigeria, and many others. Also represented in the papers is the Turk-Is (Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions).

Another highlight of Springer Kemp’s papers includes information in the subject area of women’s labor activities in the United States, Turkey, and Indonesia. A significant aspect of the Springer Kemp Papers centers on the integration of labor unions in the United States during the modern Civil Rights Movement.

Main correspondents include Lester B. Granger, National Urban League; Jomo Kenyatta, Kenyan leader; P. Patrick Mandawa, Tanganyika Federation of Labor; Golda Meir, Foreign Minister of Israel; Tom Mboya, Kenya Federation of Labor; Julius K. Nyerere, Tanganyika Africa National Union; Arthur Aggrey Ochwada, Kenya Federation of Labor; William F. Schnitzler, AFL-CIO; and Roy Wilkins, NAACP.

This collection was processed with funding from the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation.

Biographical Note

Maida Springer Kemp, American and African labor and trade union activist. Springer-Kemp traveled throughout Africa, lending her technical assistance to the emergence of trade unions through her work with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

Springer Kemp was born on May 12, 1910, in Panama to Harold and Adina Stewart. Harold Stewart, a black migrant from Barbados, arrived as one of many migrant workers from the Caribbean to work on the Panama Canal. Adina Stewart identified herself as a Spanish-speaking Panamanian. The family immigrated to New York in August 1917, where the Stewarts divorced soon afterwards.  Adina Stewart, a struggling single parent working in low-paying jobs, raised Maida in Harlem.

Springer Kemp graduated from Bordentown in 1926 and during her school years often held summer jobs in the garment industry, one of the limited jobs available to black females.  Her marriage to Owen Springer, an immigrant from Barbados, temporarily ended her participation in the workforce, but she soon returned to the garment industry in 1932 due to increased financial burdens incurred during the Great Depression.  In May 1933, she joined the Dressmaker’s Union, Local 22 of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU.)

After a successful strike in August 1933, Springer Kemp began to take on more assignments from the union. Her increased devotion led to her rising status within the ILGWU, resulting in her serving on the executive board by 1938 and becoming the chair of its education committee in 1940. In 1945, the AFL and CIO made Springer-Kemp its representative as a delegate for a trip sponsored by the United States Army’s Office of Psychological Warfare to observe wartime conditions for workers in Great Britain.

After the war, Springer Kemp’s activism turned towards the international arena, particularly in the new labor unions emerging in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda, and other African nations. In 1957, she assisted the AFL-CIO in their African projects, where she helped coordinate a scholarship program for African trade unionists. She served as the International Representative for Africa, Department of International Affairs, AFL-CIO (1959-1965) and continued her activism as a general organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (1966-1969).

Springer Kemp worked in the fields of voter registration and education as the Midwest Director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (1970 to 1973). In conjunction with her work at the institute, when the Sahel Drought in western and central Africa struck in 1970, she began coordinating relief programs for the African American Labor Center (AALC).  She became a staff member of the AFL-CIO affiliated AALC (1973-1976) and was the liaison for the American labor movement in Africa during the period.

Springer Kemp became a consultant with the Asian-American Free Labor Institute, another AFL-CIO-affiliated organization. Her work at the institute focused on the development of women’s labor activities in Turkey and Indonesia, including special seminars held in those countries in 1980. During this time, she also remained an independent labor consultant, attending conferences and seminars throughout the African continent. Springer Kemp was involved in special assignments and events with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Task Force in Africa and the National Council of Negro Women. Following her retirement in 1981, Springer Kemp became involved in the American women’s labor movement, including the promotion of equality for women in professional life.

In 1965, Maida Springer married James Kemp. She died in Pittsburgh on March 29, 2005.

Subject/Index Terms

African American labor leaders
Labor leaders
Labor movement
Labor movement - Africa
Labor unions, Black
Women labor union members

Administrative Information

Repository: Amistad Research Center

Accruals: An addition to the Maida Springer-Kemp papers was received via historian, Yevette Richards in 1999.

Access Restrictions: The Maida Springer-Kemp papers are open and available for research use.

Use Restrictions: Copyright to these papers has not been assigned to the Amistad Research Center. It is the responsibility of an author to secure permission for publication from the holder of the copyright to any material contained in this collection.

Acquisition Source: Maida Springer-Kemp

Acquisition Method: Gift

Related Materials: Additional papers of Maida Springer-Kemp can be located at the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For more information please see http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~sch00289.

Preferred Citation: Maida Springer-Kemp papers, Amistad Research Center, New Orleans, Louisiana

Processing Information: The Maida Springer-Kemp papers were processed from April to July 2014.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence and other materials, 1945-1998],
[Series 2: Labor and Trade Union files, 1944-1997],
[Series 3: Speeches, 1950-1996],
[Series 4: Ephemera, news clippings and publications, 1934-1997],
[Series 5: Photographs, 1945-1980],

Series 5: Photographs, 1945-1980Add to your cart.

The papers contain a small amount of photographs consisting mainly of images of Springer-Kemp’s travels abroad as a labor activist. The images consist of individuals and groups of trade unionists in the countries of Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Turkey with the bulk dating 1964-1974. African trade unions represented include the Kenya Garment and Textile Workers Union, the Maritime and Seaman’s Union of Liberia, the Mali Confederation Trade Unions, and the School Meals’ Caterers Union of Nigeria. Of interest are snapshots documenting the Sahel Drought in 1974 and formal images of the Guinea Trade Unionist delegation at the March on Washington in 1963.

Of note are images of Springer-Kemp’s trip as a trade union delegate of the Office of Psychological Warfare Mission to Great Britain in 1945, as well as the 1947 convention of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’s Union (Cleveland, Ohio).

Box 12Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Photograph; 8 x 10 inches; black and white: AFL-CIO International Department, 1964Add to your cart.
Verso reads: Trade union representatives from Antigua, Maida Springer - AFL-CIO International Department, AFL-CIO bldg D.C. - 1961.
Folder 2: Photographs: Ghana, 1955, undatedAdd to your cart.

Includes images of a girls boarding school, I.C.F.T.U. Seminar ACCRA-Ghana, and reception honoring Ghana Trade Unions Congress Leaders at A. Philip Randolph Institute, Midwest Office.

Individuals represented: J.R. Baiden, Secretary-General of Maritime and DockWorkers' Union and Ben Edjah, Secretary-General of Industrial and Commercial Workers,

Folder 3: Photographs: Guinea Trade Unionists Delegation at the March on Washington, 1963Add to your cart.
Individuals represented: George L. P. Weaver, Denka Mansare and Ansoumane Oulare.
Item 1: Photograph; 8 x 10 inches; black and white: Guinean Trade Unionists, 1963 August 29Add to your cart.

Verso reads:

Assistant Secretary of Labor George L-P Weaver's Luncheon in honor of the Guinean Trade Unionists, Occidental Restaurant - Statesman's Room, Washington, D.C. - August 29, 1963.

Left to Right (front)

H.E. Karim Bangoura, Guinea Ambassador; Mr. Ansoumane oulare, President, National Confederation of Workers of Guinea (CNTG)

Left to Right (back)

Mrs. Maida Springer, Member, International Department, AFL-CIO; (partially hidden) Mr. Denka Mansare, Local Union Member at Siguiri, Guinea.

Folder 4: Photographs: Indonesia (Tobacco and Highway Workers), 1979 FebruaryAdd to your cart.
Folder 5: Photographs: International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, 1947Add to your cart.

Individuals include: Dabrunsky (sic), Maida Springer, and Arthur A. Elder.

Two images: 26th Convention of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (Cleveland, Ohio), 1947 June 16-27.

Folder 6: Photographs: Kenya, 1955-1957, 1962Add to your cart.
Item 1: Photograph; 4 x 6 inches; black and white: Jomo Kenyetta, shortly after release from jailAdd to your cart.
Item 2: Photograph; 4.5 x 6.5 inches; black and white: Nairoby, KenyaAdd to your cart.
Verso reads: Last (sic) their smiling faces, are brothers and sisters, friends and relatives of Mr. Arthur Aggrey Ochwada, during his departure to United States to attend the American Trade Union Scholarship Program for Africa. This picture was taken on 1st Dec. 1957 by Adam O. Uatahi (sic). Nairobi, Kenya.
Item 3: Photograph; 6 x 8.25 inches; black and white: First Wages Council in Kenya, 1955 SeptemberAdd to your cart.
Verso reads: First Wages Council in Kenya. Tailoring Garment Making and Associated Trade Wages Council from September 1952 to September 1955. 3. Independent Members. 7 Employee's Representatives. 7 Employers Representatives.
Item 4: Photograph; 6 x 8 inches; black and white: Instructor and Maida Springer at Kenya Trade Union Center Class for Women, 1962 January 16Add to your cart.
Item 5: Photograph; 6.5 x 8.5 inches; black and white: Executive Board of the Kenya Federation Labor, A. Philip Randolph, 1956Add to your cart.
Item 6: Photograph: 8 x 10 inches; black and white: Tailors Tentsailmakers and Garment Workers Union Head Office, 1957 February 18Add to your cart.
Verso reads: Feb. 2, 1957 - Maida Springer, AFL-CIO Special Representative (U.S.A.) meetig with Excutive Board of Kenya Garment and Textile Workers Union - Nairobi.
Folder 7: Photograph; 8 x 10 inches; black and white: Liberia, Maritime and Seamen's Union of Liberia, 1964 May 5Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Photographs: Mali, 1974Add to your cart.
Images of the Sahel Program, Mali Conferations Trade Unions.
Item 1: Photograph; 8 x 10 inches; black and white: Timbuctu, Mali, 1974Add to your cart.
Verso reads: 1974 Maida Springer-Kemp, repr. of African American Labor Center meeting with officer of Women's Bureau, Mali Confederation of Labor (left) and Regional Commander of Timbuctu (rt.) re drought conditions.
Folder 9: Photographs: Mauretania, Nomad Center, circa 1974Add to your cart.
Folder 10: Photographs: Niger, Drougt Victims Center and Nomad Center, 1974Add to your cart.
Folder 11: Photographs: Nigeria, 1964-1965Add to your cart.
Includes images: Motor Divers' Union and Nigerian Motor Drivers' College.
Folder 12: Photographs: Nigeria, 1964-1965Add to your cart.

Includes images of members of the School Meals' Caterers Union of Nigeria and the United Labour Congress Secretarit.

Images of James Farmer (Director of C.O.R.E.) and others.

Folder 13: Photographs: Office of Psychologial Warfare Mission to Great Britain, 1945Add to your cart.
Folder 14: Photographs: Senegal, Nutrition Lecture, 1974Add to your cart.
Folder 15: Photographs: Turkey, 1980Add to your cart.
Includes images regarding: Women's Bureau and Turkisk Garment Workers Union.
Folder 16: Photographs: various unidentified, undatedAdd to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence and other materials, 1945-1998],
[Series 2: Labor and Trade Union files, 1944-1997],
[Series 3: Speeches, 1950-1996],
[Series 4: Ephemera, news clippings and publications, 1934-1997],
[Series 5: Photographs, 1945-1980],

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