Engaging with the 400 Years timeline, you may have noticed that great moments of positive social change were brought about by the work of coalitions.  A coalition is built when diverse organizations and communities agree to work together toward a common goal, often political. 

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A "moral fusion coalition" comes from the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina

Below, Molly Rose Kaufman reads a story about coalition building from “Homeboy Came to Orange: A Story of People’s Power,” a book written by her mother and her grandfather, union organizer Ernest Thompson.

From University of Orange’s Placemaking 10 event, celebrating the re-release of “Homeboy Came to Orange” in Orange, NJ.

A black and white photo of Ernest Thompson smiling, leaning back in a chair reading.

Ernest Thompson, Union Organizer and Co-Author of "Homeboy Came to Orange"

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Moral Mondays

Marchers at Raleigh's first Moral Mondays march of 2014, February 8. Photo Courtesy of United Workers/Flickr.

In a 2014 interview with the Nation, Reverend William Barber, who you will hear more from in the next chapter, describes “transformative fusion coalition” as a coalition in which members commit to fighting for one another’s demands, not just their own.  “It’s about fundamental change, not incremental change. Victory on one issue does not mean you leave the coalition.”


The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival picked up the 1968 call for a “revolution of values” by Dr King and others.  This coalition, grew out of Moral Monday actions in North Carolina. These powerful mobilizations encourage each of us to align with others, in line with our morals and values.  In chapter 3 we offer some activities you can do to get clear about what you’re FOR.

A black and white photo of Ernest Thompson at a table leaning forward in conversation with a man, in front of a union poster.

Ernest

"Big Train"

Thompson

Thompson in conversation with Union President Fitzgerald at UE Women's Conference. Courtesy of UE Archive.

The book cover of Homeboy Came to Orange with a portrait of a young Ernest Thompson.

Ernest Thompson (1906-1971) grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, on a farm that had been given to his family at the end of the Civil War. The family was very poor and oppressed by racist practices. Thompson was determined to get away and to obtain power. He migrated to Jersey City, where he became part of the union organizing movement that built the Congress of Industrial Unions (CIO). He became the first African American to hold a full-time organizing position with his union, the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). He eventually headed UE’s innovative Fair Employment Practices program and fought for equal rights and pay for women and minority workers. Thompson also helped build the National Negro Labor Council, 1951-1956, and served as its director of organizing. In 1956, under the onslaught of the McCarthy era, UE was split in two, and Thompson lost his job. His wife, Margaret Thompson, brought the local school segregation to his attention. Ernie "Home" Thompson organized to desegregate the regional schools, building strong coalitions and political power for the black community that ultimately served all the people of Orange.