On 13th January 1869, 214 African Americans assembled in Washington D.C. where they founded their own workers’ association, the Colored National Labor Union (CNLU), in pursuit of equal representation in the workplace. The foundation of the CNLU soon had an effect: the NLU invited its first president, Isaac Myers, to speak at their conference later that year, which was also attended by eight other black delegates. Under Myers the CNLU also successively petitioned Congress to give some southern public lands to African Americans.
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The end of the American Civil War and the resultant emancipation of slaves produced economic changes, which brought about a growth in interest in trade unions. In 1866 Andrew Cameron founded the National Labor Union (NLU) to provide a national organisation for local worker associations. The NLU proved ineffective when it came to defending the rights of black workers, who were not even permitted to attend NLU conferences.
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