Theresa El-Amin papers, 1960s-2012

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El-Amin, Theresa
Activist and union organizer who was involved with the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Service Employees International Union, the Black Radical Congress, the Black Workers for Justice, Jobs with Justice, Solidarity, and the Durham NAACP. El-Amin was also a founding member of the Labor Party and the Southern Anti-Racism Network. Collection includes organizational and subject files from El-Amin's years of activism and organizing in the Service Employees International Union, the Black Radical Congress, the Southern Anti-Racism Network, and numerous other groups and causes. Also includes publications, photographs, videotapes, and correspondence. Acquired as part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture.
30.5 Linear Feet
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The Theresa El-Amin Papers have been divided into series: Organizations and Movements, Subject Files, Conferences, Personal Files and Correspondence, Printed Materials, Photographs and Audiovisual, Black Liberation Historical Documents, Realia, and Oversize Materials. The largest series, Organizations and Movements, features materials from El-Amin's long career as an activist and union organizer with groups such as Black Workers for Justice, the Service Employees International Union, Jobs with Justice, the Green Party of the United States, the NAACP, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Black Radical Congress, Solidarity, and the Southern Anti-Racism Network. Other highlights of the Organizations and Movements series include the Black Liberation movement and the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal movement. There are also numerous other groups and movements represented within this series. Contents typically include handouts and fliers from various events; email correspondence; reports and publications from different groups, including some newsletters; and clippings with coverage of different campaigns and activities.

The Subject Files series was largely created by El-Amin, with additional subjects added in processing to account for loose pages in the collection. Topics heavily represented include Muhammad Ahmad, community organizing and its many components, healthcare, South Africa and apartheid, North Carolina, and workplace safety. There are also subject files for several countries, as well as materials about Hurricane Katrina.

The Printed Materials series includes newsletters, magazines, journals, fliers, handouts, and other miscellaneous materials from a wide variety of sources. The first box contains runs of various periodicals, including Forward Motion, In Defense of Marxism, and Labor Notes. These runs are incomplete and represent only a sampling of the publication. The second box of printed materials relates largely to El-Amin's union involvement, and features miscellaneous union publications from the 1980s-2000s. There is a small amount of earlier material, mainly in the Historical Pamphlets folder, which includes publications on desegregation and its impact on unions. The remainder of the series is also largely miscellaneous, with one or two issues of a wide range of newsletters, magazines, or organizational reports.

The small Conferences series contains conference books, fliers, correspondence, and handouts from various conferences El-Amin attended between 1985 and 2010. There is some overlap between this series and the Organizations and Movements series. Another small series is El-Amin's Personal Files and Correspondence, which consists largely of certificates and other remnants of her professional organizing education and career. This series also includes copies of her resumes and a 1997 oral history transcript.

The Photographs and Audiovisual Materials series includes large amounts of loose photographs, labeled by El-Amin, documenting many of the organizations, activities, and events referenced in earlier portions of the collection. It also includes some personal photographs of El-Amin's family and friends. The VHS tapes in this series document a range of protests and issues important to the BWFJ and El-Amin's union organizing.

Articles and pamphlets acquired by El-Amin relating to the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation movement of the 1960s are included in the Black Liberation Historical Documents series. Highlights include a transcript of Stokely Carmichael, Chairman of SNCC, speaking at the 1966 Berkeley conference on "Black Power and its Challenges." Includes articles on the condition of African Americans by Bayard Rustin, as well as coverage of the Watts riot and recovery of the Watts area. Also includes several issues of Commentary Reports from the 1960s.

The Realia series is largely unsorted, but includes three boxes of t-shirts and one box of buttons and other ephemera collected by El-Amin in her years as an activist.

Finally, the Oversize Materials contains objects withdrawn from their respective series due to their large size. These include Jobs with Justice foam boards and posters.

Biographical / historical:

Theresa El-Amin started her career as a civil rights activist when she joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1965 as a student at Tuskegee University. On her return to Atlanta in summer of 1966, she took a job at the phone company and became active in the Communications Workers of America (CWA). During the 1980s and through the 1990s, she became involved with the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Black Workers for Justice (BWFJ). She continued her labor organizing with Jobs from Justice from 1993-2006 and by serving on the Labor Notes Policy Committee from 2000-2009. She was a founding member of the Labor Party in 1996. Her work with anti-racist organizations has included the Black Radical Congress (1998-2008), the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People (1999-2010), the Durham NAACP (2000-2010), and Solidarity, a socialist, feminist and anti-racist organization (1996-present). In 1998, she helped to found the Southern Anti-Racism Network (SARN), which has worked on local issues like the education gap and passing an anti-sweatshop ordinance in the City of Durham. In December 2010, El-Amin relocated to Georgia to take the role of regional organizer to direct SARN activities in Georgia and Alabama.

Acquisition information:
The Theresa El-Amin Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift from Theresa El-Amin in 2010 and 2014.
Processing information:

Processed by Meghan Lyon and Kelly Wooten, December 2010

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, December 2010

Updated by Leah Tams, March 2023

Materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.

Accessions described in this guide: 2010-0218, 2014-0122.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Access note. Some materials in this collection are fragile audiovisual/photographic formats that may need to be reformatted before use. Contact Research Services for access.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Theresa El-Amin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University