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Willoughby Abner Papers

Identifier: UP000545

Scope and Content

Part 1:

Subjects: Automation; Civil Rights; Labor Education; Poverty

Series Description: Series I, Chicago Office Files, 1955-1963: Correspondence, News releases, education materials, reports plus other materials relating to union, political, and civic activities from Mr. Abner's Chicago office files.

Series II, Detroit Office Files, 1963-1964: Office files of Mr. Abner while Assistant Director of the Leadership Studies Center. Includes correspondence, notes, reports, memoranda, and education materials.

Series III, Civil Rights: Clippings, reports, articles, speeches, and statistics concerning Civil Rights.

Series IV, General Subject File: General subject file which includes notes, pamphlets, speeches, and clippings.

Series V, Printed Materials: Miscellaneous pamphlets, articles, newsletters, publications not in subject files.
Part 2: Part 2 of the Willoughby Abner collection contains correspondence, reports, news releases, labor education material, newsletters, clippings, and other printed material, and case pleadings and other files related to his work as a labor mediator. The papers of Mr. Abner also reflect his involvement with the NAACP, the city of Chicago, college campus unrest, prison conditions mediation, and community development activities.

Important subjects in the collection: Affirmative action programs Afro-American labor leaders Arbitration, Industrial--United States Arbitrators, Industrial--United States Civil rights College campus unrest Construction industry Discrimination in employment--Afro-Americans Employee fringe benefits Grievance arbitration--United States J. Edgar Hoover Interest arbitration Landlord-tenant legislation NAACP Prisons--Attica Public employees Race relations--United States Railroads--United States Shipbuilding--Pacific Coast (U.S.) Social security--United States Strikes and lockouts--Aircraft industry United States--Labor Management Relations Act, 1947

Important correspondents in the collection: Thomas Colosi Robert Coulson Roger E. Dahl Hugh McKenna A. H. Raskin William Simkin


  • 1940 - 1973


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


Mr. Abner, a native of Chicago, was born December 6, 1920. He spent a few years in Detroit as a child bu spent most of his life in his native city. After graduating from Wilson College, Mr. Abner obtained a law degree from the John Marshall Law school in 1947 bu chose not to take the bar examination.

Mr. Abner served as President of Amalgamated Local Union 734 in Chicago. He joined the staff of the International Union, UAW as an International Representative in September 1949, served as Citizenship and Education Director, Region 4 UAW and was President of the Chicago Area UAW Citizenship Council 1952-1956. In March, 1963 Abner became Assistant Director for the UAW Labor Studies Center at Solidarity House in Detroit.

In addition to his work with the UAW, Mr. Abner played an active role in the leadership of the Chicago NAACP.

At the time he placed his papers in the Archives, Mr. Abner was National Director of the National Center for Dispute Settlement of the American Arbitration Association, Washington, D.C. He was serving in that post at the time of his death, December 3, 1972.


18 Linear Feet (8 MB, 14 SB)


The papers of Mr. Abner reflect his work with the UAW, and to a lesser extent, his involvement in civil rights and community activities.

Part I consists of correspondence, reports, newsletters, and miscellaneous publications reflecting Mr. Abner's positions with the UAW and his social concerns. Until 1963 Mr. Abner was with the Education and Citizenship Department of UAW Region 4, located in Chicago. In 1963 he moved to Detroit to become the assistant director of the Leadership Study Center of the UAW. Subjects include the labor movement on local, state, and international levels; urban affairs and social problems.

Part II reflects Mr. Abner's involvement with the NAACP, the city of Chicago, college campus unrest, prison conditions mediation, and community development activities. Subjects include: Affirmative action; labor mediation; civil rights; employment discrimination.


Part 1: Arranged in 5 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-3), Series 2 (Boxes 4-5), Series 3 (Box 6), Series 4 (Box 7), and Series 5 (Box 8). Folders are arranged alphabetically or chronologically, depending upon the series.
Part 2: Folders are listed in the order in which they appear.


The papers of Willoughby Abner were placed in the ARchives of Labor History and Urban Affairs in April of 1972 by Mr. Abner.


Part 1: Eight photographs, five of participants in UAW Region 4 Summer School 1961 and three of participants in a UAW Leadership Studies Seminar, were placed in the ARchives' Audiovisual Collections. A Few union newspapers were placed in the Archives' Library.
Part 2: A few books, contracts and proceedings have been placed in the Archives Library and some film and audio recordings may be found in the Archives Audiovisual Department.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in December 1972.
Part 2 processed and finding aid added later.
Guide to the Willoughby Abner Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA