Oral history interview with Frank Jenkins, 1972

Overview of the Collection

Jenkins, Frank,  -1973
Oral history interview with Frank Jenkins
1972 (inclusive)
2 sound cassettes (ca. 90 min.)
1 transcript (13 p.)
Collection Number
1964 (Accession No. 1964-001)
Interview of International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) official discussing education and his early experience with discrimination, his parents and the union
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2065431929
Fax: 2065431931
Access Restrictions

Open to all users.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) official.

Jenkins was born at the Presidio Army Base in San Francisco, CA. His father, an African American born in Texas, was a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army; a professional soldier who fought in the Spanish American War. Jenkins' mother was a native of the Philippines. In 1909 he moved to Seattle when his father was transferred to Fort Lawton. Initially, the family lived there in base housing. Later they moved to Ballard. Jenkins attended the Fort Lawton grade school and Queen Anne High School, but did not finish. Except for a brief time spent in Alaska, he worked on the Seattle docks his entire adult life. He began as a riveter then became a longshoreman. He joined the longshoremen's union in 1934 and served as one of its officers from 1936 to 1940(?), and from 1943(?) until his retirement in 1967. He died in 1973.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Interview conducted by R. C. Berner on 7 and 28 Jun 1972; transcript; ILWU constitutions; ephemera.

Jenkins discusses his education and his early experience with discrimination, and mentions several black families who were his neighbors in Ballard. He briefly describes the backgrounds of his parents who were not hightly educated, the reasons for leaving Queen Anne High School, his early employment on the Seattle waterfront and his union involvement. Jenkins details the history of the unions' exclusionary practices in the Puget Sound area and explains the issue of blacks as strikebreakers. He discusses discriminatory hiring policies which limited employment opportunities for black longshoremen in Seattle, the 1921 and 1934 strikes, and the changed employment practices resulting from the latter strike. The structure of the longshoremen's union (ILWU) is discussed, as well as some contract negotiations that occurred during Jenkins' tenure as a union official. Military oversight of the Seattle Port during World War II is mentioned, including the discriminatory recruitment practices used by both the Army and the Navy. Jenkins illustrates the consequences of his union activism during the war and afterwards during the McCarthy era by recounting several episodes in which his port security pass was revoked and subsequently reissued. He chronicles the turbulent post-war history of the longshoremen's union in the Puget Sound area and explains the reason for the union's expulsion from the CIO in 1948.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

Listen to the audio recording and view the transcript of this interview on the Libraries Digital Collections site.

Restrictions on Use

Informant's/creator's rights dedicated to the public. May be used for research, instruction, publication or similar purposes.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Donated by Frank Jenkins, 7/6/1972

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • African American labor union members--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • African American stevedores--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Stevedores--Labor unions--Washington (State)--Seattle

Personal Names

  • Bridges, Harry, 1901-1990
  • Jenkins, Frank, d. 1973--Archives

Corporate Names

  • International Longshoremen's Association
  • International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union
  • Jenkins, Andrew

Other Creators

  • Personal Names
    • Berner, Richard C (creator)

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Personal Papers/Corporate Records (University of Washington)