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

How To

Classroom setup

Activity 1 

Homework assignment before the lesson:

  • Interview an adult in your household or school about their workplace. Does the racial and ethnic background of the workers in their workplace match that of your town, the state, the country? How does your interviewee interpret that? What factors do they think have an impact on the racial and ethnic background of employees in their workplace?

Activity 2

Have students share what they found out from their interview. On the board, write down the factors which they think had an impact on the racial and ethnic background of employees in their workplace. Have students think about which of those factors are the most important in determining the demographics of the workplace.

Read Documents 1 (“Federal Fair Employment Law”) and 2 (“Connecticut Fair Employment Law”) about the racial situation in employment in the United States and in Hartford in the 1940s. Remember that World War II (1941-5) brought many migrants to cities to work in the war industries. What questions do you have from reading these sources?  Write them in your notebook under the heading. Was their fair employment in Connecticut and the United States in the 1940s?

Activity 3

Read Document 3 (“Beatrice Fox Auerbach and the G. Fox Department Store, 1940s and 1950s”). Use this information as background/context for document 4, the 1947 article in the Urban League Magazine, Opportunity, which describes how Auerbach integrated African Americans into her workforce at G. Fox.

  • How do these two articles fit with the two you just read? 
  • According to the article, how did integration work at G. Fox? What factors led to the success they describe?
  • Is there anything in the article that would make you question the source? Why might others follow Auerbach?
  • Why might some continue to refuse to hire Blacks in anything but menial jobs?
  • What questions do you still have?