Volume 30

Contesting Racial Wages

by Pamela A. Izvănariu

This Article uses archival research to recover the important work of John P. Davis, the Negro Industrial League (NIL), and the Joint Committee on National Recovery (JCNR) as they fought for a racially just New Deal and substantive equality in the Jim Crow era. Specifically, it analyzes the battle between southern industrialists mobilized against Black labor and liberation; John P. Davis and his anti-racist, labor-focused organizations; and the National Recovery Administration (NRA) in the contest over racial exclusions and wage differentials in the codes of fair competition. The Article shows how Davis exposed and challenged the racism and discrimination that shaped New Deal labor and employment law and examines an unexplored archival source to collaborate Davis’ original claims. Finally, the Article reveals that Davis not only criticized the New Deal, but championed its promise in the name of democracy and underscored the constitutional necessity of federal intervention to combat oligarchy and racial inequality. It recovers Davis’ alternative vision of New Deal reform and considers its significance today.

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