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Reverend Addie Wyatt Papers

Finding Aid: Reverend Addie Wyatt Papers
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature

Reverend Addie Wyatt PapersThe papers of Rev. Addie Wyatt and Rev. Claude Wyatt document important aspects of African American life in Chicago and the course of mid-twentieth century movements for racial, gender, economic and political justice. The couple met at DuSable High School in the late 1930s and were married in 1940. The Wyatts struggled as a young couple to make ends meet while taking care of their two young boys and Addie Wyatt's five younger siblings whom the couple took in after the death of Wyatt's mother. Addie Wyatt eventually found steady employment in Chicago's meatpacking district and joined the United Packinghouse Workers of America union (later Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen, then United Food and Commercial Workers) where she would embark upon a forty year career in the organized labor movement as one of its most outspoken proponents for social justice and the rights of working people, women and people of color.

Rev. Addie Wyatt was a founder of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the Coalition of Labor Union Women as well as numerous other labor, black, women's and religious organizations, some of which her husband, Rev. Claude Wyatt also participated in. Rev. Claude Wyatt Jr., worked for the United States Postal Service for nearly twenty years before retiring to assume full-time, the pastorate of the Vernon Park Church of God which he and Rev. Addie Wyatt founded in 1955 and led as co-pastors for over forty years. Though their decades of activism and leadership on behalf of civil rights and black political empowerment in the city of Chicago and beyond, the Wyatts made a lasting local and national impact.

The Rev. Addie Wyatt and Rev. Claude Wyatt Papers at the Chicago Public Library, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature consist of 345 containers of rich organizational records, manuscripts, audiovisual material, sermon texts and the institutional records of the Vernon Park Church of God. Rev. Addie Wyatt donated the papers to the Harsh Collection in 2007.

Selected Artifacts

Rev. Claude Wyatt and Rev. Addie Wyatt at a United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) Political Dinner in Chicago, IL, 1955. One of Addie Wyatt's first campaigns as a field representative for the UPWA-CIO was organizing the predominantly African American and female workforce in Curtis Candy Company's Chicago plants in 1954. Aided by her mentors, Sam Parks and Charles Hayes, Director of District One of the UPWA-CIO, Wyatt would serve as international representative for the next twenty years. The collection includes hundreds of Rev. Claude Wyatt's handwritten and typed-written annotated sermons.  This sermon, 'The Birth of a Miracle,' was delivered at the Vernon Park Church of God's Christmas service in 1959. Pictured here is a delegation of UPWA-CIO staff and officers who traveled to Washington, D.C. in 1955 to lobby for the enforcement of Executive Order 10557 which would prohibit government contracting with businesses and corporations with discriminatory employment practices.  Standing left to right: Sam Parks, Director of the UPWA's Anti-Discrimination Committee; Leon Beverly, President of Armour Local 347; and Russell Lasley, International Vice-President of the UPWA.  Seated left to right:  Addie Wyatt, Field Representative; Cathie Drosnan, International Office; Charles A. Hayes, District One Director; Joseph Benzenhoffer, Grievance Committee of Local 347; and a member of the Black press. In 1962, Wyatt was invited to serve on President Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt. Charged with advising the Kennedy Administration on issues concerning the status of women in American society ranging from workplace discrimination to adequate child care, the PCSW completed its work in 1963. SCLC's Operation Breadbasket formed in Chicago in 1966. Operation Breadbasket waged protracted struggles with companies like A & P which operated in predominantly African American communities but employed and contracted with little or no African Americans. The collection illustrates the roles of the Wyatts in Breadbasket and holds invaluable information about the organization. This program is from the Second Annual Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, formed in Chicago in 1972. Addie Wyatt was a founding member and key supporter of the CBTU, which provides a voice for African Americans in the labor movement and beyond. In 1974, the Coalition of Labor Union Women was formed to provide a space for women's concerns and women's leadership development within the labor movement.  Addie Wyatt, a founding member and conference chairman, played a major role in the organization, serving as its first Executive Vice President. Wyatt hosts here a group of African women trade union leaders at her home in 1978. As director of Human Rights and later Civil Rights and Women's Affairs, Wyatt frequently hosted international figures and traveled overseas to study and promote the advancement and fair treatment of women in the workforce. The Vernon Park Church of God, founded by Rev. Claude Wyatt and Rev.  Addie Wyatt in 1955, boasted a dynamic choir and music ministry.  Pictured is the program from the 23rd Anniversary Musical Concert. Rev. Addie Wyatt served as Minister of Music and the Wyatts' youngest son, Claude 'DeDe' Wyatt, III, served as director of the choir. Though initially against the Equal Rights Amendment which stated that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied on the account of sex, Addie Wyatt became one of its most tireless and vocal supporters.  The collection includes hundreds of Wyatt's speeches and manuscripts, many of which take up the cause of women's rights and the Equal Rights Amendment, among other subjects. The Wyatts were key figures in Chicago politics, especially in supporting black candidates for office. Addie Wyatt served as co-chair of the Women's Network for Washington. This picture was taken at a 1987 rally for Mayor Harold Washington near the end of his first term as Mayor of the City of Chicago. From left to right: Nancy Jefferson, Mayor Harold Washington, Addie Wyatt, and Heather Booth.

Images and credits.