Virtual Program Tonight on Marinship Civil Rights Icon

Joseph James (in dark glasses) protesting outside a union office | photo and post from Sausalito Currents

At a virtual program on January 13, the Sausalito Historical Society and the Sausalito Library will celebrate the life of Joseph James. Among other accomplishments, James became a civil rights icon as a result of his fight against discriminatory hiring practices at the Marinship shipyards.

With the advent of World War II, the 32-year-old James put a professional singing career on hold to study welding at the Samuel Gompers Trade School in San Francisco. In August of 1942, he began work at the recently opened Marinship yards in Sausalito.

Although a skilled tradesman, James and other Black Americans at the shipyards were deprived of the equal pay and promotional rights enjoyed by white members of the boilermakers union. Fired along with 200 fellow workers for refusing to pay full dues to a discriminatory Blacks-only auxiliary union, James led the workers in filing a lawsuit in the Marin County Superior Court.

James vs. Marinship eventually made its way to the California Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in his favor. As a result of the ruling, workplaces requiring employees to be union members could no longer deny full union membership based on race.

The program at 7:00 p.m. on January 13 will be presented by Dana Whitson and Tami Bell of the Sausalito Historical Society. Video clips from an interview conducted with Joseph James before his death in 2002 will be woven throughout. Please RSVP to receive details on accessing the program via Zoom.