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Courage under fire: African American firefighters and the struggle for racial equality

David A Goldberg, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation examines the struggle for racial equality in urban fire departments from the late 19th century to the present. The first half contains extensive case studies of Black experiences in the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and Baltimore City Fire Department (BFD). Particular emphasis is given to the process of Black inclusion, day-to-day and institutional race relations, and the backgrounds and experiences of Black firefighters in each fire department. The activities of local branches of national civil rights organizations such as the National Urban League and the NAACP, as well as the involvement of local Black political leaders in the struggle for Black inclusion and equal opportunity are chronicled, as are the activities of the Vulcan Society in New York and the Social Association of Fire Fighters in Baltimore. The second half of the dissertation explores the nationalization of the struggle for equal employment opportunity within the urban fire service. The 1970 formation of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF), its relationship to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), and the struggle for "community control" and Black representation within urban fire departments as well as the impact of Title VII, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Caucus and Black Power movements, and urban rebellions on the organization's formation and objectives are examined. The evolution, implementation, limitations, and strengths of equal opportunity litigation and remedial relief programs as applied to urban fire departments, the activities of Black firefighters' organizations, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), municipal governments, the Department of Justice, and the federal courts during the course of fire department litigation are also documented and analyzed.

Subject Area

Black history|Labor relations|American history|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Goldberg, David A, "Courage under fire: African American firefighters and the struggle for racial equality" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3212729.