Employment for African Americans in the 1940s and 1950s: Hartford's G. Fox Department Store


Lesson plan contents:

Compelling Questions:
How do employers decide whom to hire? What makes a good place to work? 


Beatrice Fox Auerbach served as President of the G. Fox Department Store in downtown Hartford from 1938 to 1965.  During that time, the store became the sixth largest department store and the largest privately owned store in the country.

Auerbach was known for her innovative business practices including scheduling workers, her health department, and her cafeteria for workers.  She was a hands-on manager, knowing many of her employees’ names and visiting different departments in the 11-story department store building on a daily basis.

Auerbach’s hiring of African American workers on the selling floor was something new in department stores.  Even during World War II, African Americans were not hired as full time teachers in the Hartford Public Schools because of discrimination.  One of Auerbach’s proudest moments was receiving the NAACP’s highest award together with Jackie Robinson in 1958.

Supporting Questions

  • What makes a good employer?
  • How do employers build community?

Connecticut State Standards

Page numbers refer to the Connecticut Social Studies Frameworks.

  • What types of economic, social, and political opportunities were available — or denied — to different groups of people such as African Americans, Latinos, indigenous peoples, and women in the 1950s? HIST 9-12.2  p. 137
  • How do people use and challenge local, state, national, and international laws to address a variety of public issues?  CIV 9–12.5, p. 127
  • How do historical, contemporary, and emerging means of changing societies, promoting the common good, and protecting rights?  CIV 9–12.7, p 127


Students will think about the connections between government policy and workplaces; to understand how loyalty was built at a department store; to evaluate whether African American workers in Hartford felt like they had choices for employment; to understand how one company can buck the trend on racial issues