News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. Feb. 7, 2023: Today we spotlight on another black Caribbean immigrant who was a trade union organizer in New York City and later founded and chaired the Negro Labor Committee.
Frank R. Crosswaith was born on July 16, 1892, in Frederiksted, St. Croix, Danish West Indies, today part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. He emigrated to the United States in his teens. While finishing high school, he worked as an elevator operator, porter and garment worker. He joined the elevator operators’ union and when he finished high school, he won a scholarship from the socialist The Jewish Daily Forward to attend the Rand School of Social Science, an educational institute in New York City associated with the Socialist Party of America.
Crosswaith founded an organization called the Trade Union Committee for Organizing Negro Workers in 1925 and later accepted a position as an organizer for the fledgling Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
In 1924, he ran on the Socialist ticket for Secretary of State of New York, and in 1936 for Congressman-at-large. He ran also for the New York City Council in 1939 on the American Labor ticket.
Crosswaith, who became known as the “Negro Debs,” was elected to the governing executive committee of the American Labor Party in New York in 1924. In 1934, Crosswaith co-founded and chaired the Harlem Labor Committee (HLC), which he tried to align with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), then seeking African American members.
Crosswaith maintained a long association with union head A. Philip Randolph, serving with him as officers of the Negro Labor Committee in the 1930s and 1940s.
Crosswaith also worked with A. Philip Randolph during World War II in organizing the March on Washington Movement, which was called off when President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to sign Executive Order 8802, which prohibited racial discrimination in defense industries.
He died in 1965.