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Ohio Historical Society / The African American Experience in Ohio, 1850-1920







Lykes-Youngstown Corporation Collection

African-Americans had largely been excluded from jobs in the iron and steel industry prior to the First World War. During the War, however, a severe labor shortage led many steel companies to actively recruit African-Americans for employment. As a result, thousands of African-Americans migrated from the South to take new jobs in the industrial North.

Walter Black was born in 1895 in Knoxville, Tennessee. During World War I, Black moved to Youngstown. Like many other African-Americans, he sought employment at the steel mins. In 1915, Black found a job at Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company's Hubbard blast furnaces.

Starting as a common laborer, Black worked his way up to cinder snapper, scrapman, stove tender, and assistant blower. Eventually, Black became a blast furnace foreman. He was one of the first African-Americans to be promoted to foreman in the Youngstown District.

On August 16, 1920, A.S. Morris was overcome by poisonous gas while working at the top of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company's #2 Hubbard Blast Furnace. Black climbed to the top of the furnace and carried Morris to ground level. Morris, who had stopped breathing, was revived when Black applied mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. This Photograph of Black was taken shortly after he saved Morris's life.

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Walter Black (1895- )
Walter Black (1895- )


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