Addie Wyatt

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Addie Wyatt

Rev. Addie L. Wyatt was a Chicago activist. She died, aged 88 in late March 2012.

At her funeral, hundreds, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, packed the South Side church the legendary Rev. Addie Wyatt founded "to bid goodbye to the trailblazing labor leader and civil rights activist".[1]


Born in Mississippi, she first lived on a quiet residential street near gardens, fields, chickens, hogs, and fruit trees. Her father was a tailor and her mother a teacher.

The Depression hit when Wyatt was still a small child and her parents the family moved to Chicago, where Addie grew up in Bronzeville.

Known as a trailblazer and one of the nation’s first African American union leaders, the Rev. Addie L. Wyatt, 88, died March 2012.

One of Rev. Wyatt’s best friends, Rev. Willie Taplin Barrow. The two were inseparable and together worked on both labor and civil rights issues for decades.

Rev. Wyatt’s husband, the late Rev. Dr. Claude Wyatt whom she married on My 12, 1940, passed in April of 2010. They had founded and both were co-pastors of the Vernon Park Church of God, 9011 South Stony Island Avenue in Chicago. They were married for 69-years and had two sons, Claude S. Wyatt and Renaldo Wyatt.

Rev. Wyatt, who was born on March 28, 1924 in Brookhaven, MS to Ambrose and Maggie Cameron, was a personal friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and. Rev. Addie Wyatt came to Chicago in 1930 when she was 6-years-old. When her mother died, Rev. Wyatt raised her siblings.

Wyatt began working at a meat packing company in 1941 to 1953. However, once there, Rev. Wyatt was elected vice president of Local 56. She was the first African American to hold such a high labor union position.

She went on to become the director of the Women’s Affairs and Human Rights Departments of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and in the 1960’s, Eleanor Roosevelt honored her leadership skills by appointing her to a position on the Labor Legislation Committee of the United States Commission on the Status of Women.

In the 1970’s Wyatt held a powerful position in the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and in 1974 she founded the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Wyatt became the international vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers in 1976. Again she was the first African American woman to hold a high union leadership position in an international union.

Dr. Addie Wyatt was ordained in 1955 as a Church of God minister. Her husband was also ordained in the same faith. Together they worked with Dr King including marching with him in the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and other civil rights events.

Like her husband, Rev. Wyatt was one of the founders of Operation Breadbasket and a board member. She also worked very closely with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as an adviser. Wyatt and her husband founded the Wyatt Choral Ensemble in 1944.[2]

Tapped by Communist Charles Hayes

The Rev. Wyatt’s labor activities began in the early 1950s, eventually being elected vice president of her local, UPWA Local 56, in 1953. She was soon tapped by Communist Party USA member Charles A. Hayes, director of UPWA’s District 1, to serve as an international representative. In 1976, she became the first female international vice president in the history of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America.[3]

Negro American Labor Council

Wyatt was a founding member of the Chicago Chapter of the Negro American Labor Council in 1960.[4]


The original 1972 leaders of Coalition of Black Trade Unionists included Addie Wyatt, UFCW[5].

CLUW founder

In 1973, seven women activists from seven different unions put out the idea of a union women's coalition. The seven included m Addie Wyatt, a packinghouse workers' leader; Clara Day, a Teamsters Union leader; and Florence Criley, an electrical workers' leader. Soon they were joined by Barbara Merrill, a welfare worker and a founder of Black Labor Leaders of Chicago. Their work culminated in a national convention to form a "Coalition of Labor Union Women" . The convention opened in Chicago on March 22, 1974.

Eight hundred women were expected but 3,200 came. Many were young; some like participant Bea Lumpkin, not so young. Almost all had come at their own expense. Some thought it was a near miracle that so many women participated. It was no miracle. The mass sentiment was there. Union women were fired up and "not taking it anymore." The ground work had been laid in well-attended regional conferences. Lumpkin got into the action earlier in 1973, at the Midwest Regional Conference of Union Women. It was attended by 200 women from 20 different national unions and from 18 states. Men were invited to join too, to help fight for women's rights. Frank Lumpkin , was one of the first to join CLUW. [6]


Chicago activist Mark S. Allen revealed many of the connections in Chicago politics in an article in a March 29, 2012 article in Chicago Now.[7]

Rev. Addie Wyatt was a legendary leader whose life and legacy in the religious, labor and civil rights movement are historic, and I want to add my personal thanks for the role she played in my life as a young student and next generation leader who grew up under her leadership in the organizations led by the The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr, from Operation Breadbasket, Operation PUSH, now Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. I and other youth leaders like Barack Obama were counseled and supported by Rev. Addie Wyatt as we worked at local and national community organizing and direct action activities. She was up close and personal with me along with the Rev. Willie T. Barrow (another former aide to Dr. King) as I worked as a national staff member to Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr and during the historic political campaigns of Harold Washington For Mayor, Jesse Jackson, Jr. for Congress, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. For President and of course the campaign of Barack Obama for President Of The United States. I will forever be humbled and blessed by the input Rev. Wyatt has had in my life and her legacy lives on! (Mark S. Allen, veteran political activist/community organizer, Chicago Chairman of Black Wall Street Chicago)

Harold Washington campaign committee


In i983, Addie Wyatt served on the Harold Washington Campaign Steering Committee.

Obama connection

According to the United States Department of Labor, Chicago activist Rev. Addie Wyatt worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to support the Montgomery Bus Boycott and later counseled a young community organizer named Barack Obama as he came up the ranks in Chicago. [8]

According to Chicago Attorney and broadcaster Lonna Saunders The Rev. Addie Wyatt, was a mentor to President Barack Obama in his community organizing as a young man. [9]

Wyatt's home was used to carry out meetings with public figures such as Rev. Jesse Jackson, President Barack Obama, and US Rep. Bobby Rush.[10]

In a letter, read at her funeral in April 2004, from President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, Wyatt was called a “champion of equality and a fierce advocate for working Americans.”[11]

World Peace Council

In the late 1970s, the Information Centre of the Soviet front World Peace Council, Helsinki Finland, published a booklet naming members of the organization, worldwide.[12]

We publish in this booklet a list of members of the World Peace Council elected at the Council's Session in Warsaw in 1977.

U.S. members listed, included; Addie Wyatt , Vice-President, Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butcher Workmen's Union of North America AFLCIO; Vice-President, Coalition of Labor Union Women ; Leader, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) .

DSOC award

Chicago Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee's 1979 Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Dinner was held on Sunday, May 6, at the Midland Hotel, Chicago. Addie Wyatt, at that time a Vice-President of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen, was the honoree. Irving Howe was the featured speaker.[13]

Supporting Harold Washington

Several Black labor leaders were important allies for Harold Washington in the run up to his 1983 election as Mayor of Chicago..

One was Charles Hayes, vice president of the United Packinghouse Workers Union, who won Washington’s Congressional seat after Washington was elected mayor.

Other important allies included Addie Wyatt, who was vice president of the Packinghouse Workers and Jim Wright, who was the first Black director of United Auto Workers Region 4. Jackie Vaughn, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union was also instrumental in Washington’s administration. All were leading members of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists[14].

Harold Washington for Mayor of Chicago

Circa late 1982, members of the Citizens Committee/Harold Washington for Mayor of Chicago (in formation) included Addie Wyatt.[15]

Wyatt served in 1983 as co-chair of the Women’s Network for Washington.[16]

Consulate invasion

In January 1985 Alice Palmer helped organize an invasion of the South African Consulate in Chicago. Among those arrested were Bob Lucas, Heather Booth, Addie Wyatt, and Buzz Palmer. The next day Buzz Palmer went to see mayor Harold Washington to see that the defendants went to trial, to make political capital.[17]

Interfaith Worker Justice

Interfaith Worker Justice was founded in 1996 with the mission of "engaging the religious community in low-wage worker campaigns and rebuilding partnerships with the labor movement."

Kim Bobo, IWJ Executive Director, founded the organization using her bedroom as an office and a $5,000 bequest left to her by her grandmother as the initial budget. Despite these humble origins, she had mighty helpers as part of her original Board of Directors. This founding group included Rabbi Robert Marx, Bishop Jesse DeWitt, Monsignor George Higgins, Monsignor Jack Egan, Rev. James Lawson, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Michael Rouse, Rev. Addie Wyatt, Rev. Dr. Paul Sherry, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Monsignor Phil Murnion, Rev. Wayne Stumme, Bishop James Malone, Sr. Nancy Sylvester, Rev. Jim Sessions, Ms. Evely Laser-Shlensky, Mr. Thomas Shellabarger and Mr. J. Chris Sanders.

In just eleven years, IWJ has organized a national network of more than 70 interfaith committees, workers' centers and student groups, making it the leading national organization working to strengthen the religious community's involvement in issues of workplace justice.[18]


  1. DOL Hall of Honor Inductee,Rev. Addie Hyatt
  2. Rev. Addie Wyatt, Legendary Labor, Religious and Civil Rights Icon Dies at 88 In Chicago, By Marksallen, March 29, 2012
  3. Chicago Sun-Times, Rev. Addie Wyatt, 88, labor leader fought for rights of all, BY STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporter March 29, 2012
  4. Labor and Working-Class History Association, Remembering Colleagues and Compatriots, Addie Wyatt, 1924 – 2012
  6. [Joy in the Struggle, My Life and Love, Bea Lumpkin, page 163]
  7. Rev. Addie Wyatt, Legendary Labor, Religious and Civil Rights Icon Dies at 88 In Chicago, By Marksallen, March 29, 2012
  8. DOL Hall of Honor Inductee,Rev. Addie Hyatt
  9. HuffPost Chicago, Lonna Saunders, Remembering Rev. Addie Wyatt: Chicago's Little Engine Who Could, Posted: 04/ 4/2012 1:06 pm
  10. [, NBC Chicago, Rev. Addie Wyatt Memorialized, By Glenn Marshall, Saturday, Apr 7, 2012]
  11. Chicago Sun-Times, Hundreds gather to pay respects to the Rev. Addie Wyatt,BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporter April 7, 2012
  12. WORLD PEACE COUNCIL LIST OF MEMBERS 1977-1980, Information Centre of the World Peace Council Lönnrotinkatu 25 A 5 krs 00180 Helsinki 18 Finland
  13. Chicago DSA website, 1979 Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Dinner
  15. Undated circa late 1982, HWAC Mayoral Campaign Records, Box 5, Folder 1
  16. Labor and Working-Class History Association, Remembering Colleagues and Compatriots, Addie Wyatt, 1924 – 2012
  17. Interview with Alice Palmer, Katherine Elizabeth McAuliff, Columbia College - Chicago, Spring 2010,