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William Simons Papers

 Collection
Identifier: LP001761
The William H. Simons Collection consists of correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, studies, surveys, flyers, ballots, campaign literature, newspaper clippings and other material documenting Mr. Simons's career with the Washington Teachers' Union, the history of public education in the District of Columbia and the union's efforts through collective bargaining and legislative lobbying to improve salaries and working conditions for teachers in the District of Columbia.

Important subjects in the collection: Afrocentric curriculum AFT United Action Caucus Barry, Marion, 1936- Clark, Kenneth Bancroft, 1914- Clark Plan Collective bargaining -- Education -- Washington (D.C.) Community and school -- Washington (D.C.) Hobson, et al. v. Hansen, et al. Home rule -- Washington (D.C.) Local 6, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 8, AFT Local 27, AFT Merit pay More Effective Schools Program Morgan Community School Project National Black Political Convention National Education Association -- Washington (D.C.) Public schools -- Washington (D.C.) School integration -- Washington (D.C.) School violence -- Washington (D.C.) School-based management Schools -- Decentralization -- Washington (D.C.) Segregation in education -- Washington (D.C.) Sizemore, Barbara Teachers -- Salaries, etc. Track system (Education) -- Washington (D.C.) Tuition tax credits -- Washington (D.C.) Washington Teachers' Union

Important correspondents: Charles W. Cheng Paul Cooke Harold Fisher, Jr. Carl F. Hansen Julius W. Hobson Marion V. Magruder Carol V. McCamman Carl J. Megel Robert G. Porter James D. Ricks Herrick Roth David Selden John A. Sessions

Series Description: Series I, Personal Files, 1937-1995, Box 1: Correspondence, event programs, newspaper clippings, flyers, election campaign literature, ballots, D. C. public schools employment records, speeches and other material related to Mr. Simons's civic and professional affiliations and his numerous speaking engagements.

Series II, Washington Teachers' Union, 1906-1993, Boxes 2-10: Correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, financial records, contracts, press releases, flyers, brochures, newspaper clippings and union publications relating to the business of the WTU and its predecessor unions. Particularly well-documented are the 1979 strike and contract negotiations; Mr. Simons's campaigns for the WTU presidency, including James Ricks's challenge of the 1981 election; and WTU's relationship with rival teacher union, NEA-DC.

Series III, Washington, D. C. Public Schools, 1912-1990, Boxes 9, 11-13: Correspondence, reports, legal briefs, press releases, studies and voluminous newspaper clippings documenting conditions in Washington's public schools and various programs intended to improve them. Important topics covered include Hobson v. Hansen, the first major attack on de facto pupil discrimination in a large American city; Kenneth Clark's controversial plan to improve D. C. students' reading performance; and WTU's successful campaign to defeat the tuition tax credit initiative.

Dates

  • 1906 - 1989
  • Majority of material found within 1950 - 1989

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Use

Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. 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.

Extent

13 Linear Feet (11 SB, 2 OS)

Abstract

William Simons began his career as a high school teacher when he joined the black American Federation of Teachers union in Washington D.C. A year later the local was integrated and Simons served in several positions before assuming the presidency, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1991. He also served as an officer in the national organization as part of the Progressive and United Action caucuses and was involved in Democratic Party politics. His papers document his career with the D.C. teacher's union, public education in D.C., and the union's efforts to improve salaries and working conditions for local teachers.

The William H. Simons Collection consists of correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, studies, surveys, flyers, ballots, campaign literature, newspaper clippings and other material documenting Mr. Simons's career with the Washington Teachers' Union, the history of public education in the District of Columbia and the union's efforts through collective bargaining and legislative lobbying to improve salaries and working conditions for teachers in the District of Columbia.

History

William Henry Simons was born in Washington, D. C. on June 1, 1924, one of eight children of Alfred Edgar Simons, Sr., a U.S. government messenger, and Mattie Garrett. He attended the public schools of the District of Columbia, graduating from Dunbar High School in 1940. He saw military service in Europe during World War II, reaching the rank of sergeant major in the 262nd Quartermaster Battalion and receiving the Bronze Star and the Croix de Guerre. After earning a B.S. degree from the historically black Miner Teachers College (later the District of Columbia Teachers College) in 1947, he began teaching social studies at Banneker Junior High School in Washington. In 1949 he acquired a master's degree from New York University and later held fellowships from Howard University and the City University of New York.

The early District of Columbia teacher unions, one of which was part of the founding group of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in 1916, were racially segregated. Simons joined the black teachers union, Local 27, AFT, in 1952. The following year Local 27 merged with the white teachers union, Local 8, and the attendance officers local, 867, to form the integrated Local 6, AFT, Teachers' Union of Washington, D. C. (later, the Washington Teachers' Union—WTU). He served Local 6 as building representative, parliamentarian and financial secretary until his election as president in May of 1964. In November of 1965 Simons left his teaching position at Banneker to serve as full-time WTU president and continued to serve in that capacity, with a two-year hiatus from 1985 to 1987, until his retirement in 1991.

As president, Simons orchestrated WTU's victory over the much larger District of Columbia Education Association in the April, 1967 election to determine who would represent employees in collective bargaining negotiations with the Board of Education. He presided over the 1968 march on the Capitol by District teachers — their first walkout — to demand a pay raise from Congress, which set teacher salaries prior to the advent of Home Rule in 1973. He conducted two successful strikes in 1972 and 1979 and defused another in 1975. During the 1972 strike the union was fined $50,000 which, on Simons's suggestion, was used to set up a scholarship fund for D. C. graduating seniors that continues to this day. Under his leadership the WTU played a major role in the defeat of the tuition tax credit initiative in 1981.

In August of 1965 Simons was elected Vice President and member of the Executive Council of the American Federation of Teachers, where he served until internal disputes within the Progressive Caucus caused his defeat in the 1972 election. He subsequently became chair of the AFT's United Action Caucus, but ran again in 1976 at the invitation of the Progressive Caucus, winning more votes than any other candidate, and served until 1986.

Simons was a member of the D. C. Unemployment Compensation Board and the Democratic Central Committee of the District of Columbia and served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He also held office in the Washington Urban League, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, of which he was a founding member, the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO and the Woodridge Civic Association, among others. He has been a frequent speaker and consultant on school-community relations and collective bargaining in education.

Arrangement

Arranged in 3 series – Series 1 (Box 1), Series 2 (Boxes 2-10) and Series 3 (Boxes 9, 11-13). Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Acquisition

The papers of William H. Simons were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in June of 2001 and October of 2004 by Mr. Simons.

Transfers

A few photographs and items of memorabilia received with the collection have been transferred to the Archives Audiovisual Department.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in August 2007.
Title
Guide to the William Simons Papers
Status
completed
Author
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Date
2007-08
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

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