Virginia Federation of Labor Convention Badge. Bristol, Va., April 3, 4, 5, 1922


VMHC_VLF Badge.2002.148.6 rsz.jpg


Virginia Federation of Labor Convention Badge. Bristol, Va., April 3, 4, 5, 1922


Virginia Federation of Labor delegate's convention badge. Delegates represented local unions at the state gathering. 

The Virginia Federation of Labor was aligned with the American Federation of Labor, the powerful organization of unions led by Samuel Gompers. Although southern workers struggled to organize successfully in large numbers, unions nonetheless became a force. Between 1885 and 1890, according to one historian, twenty-three national or international unions organized locals in Virginia. Another scholar estimates that by the turn of the twentieth century, about 10% of Richmond’s industrial workers were represented by unions. That success was tempered, however, by the pervasive racism of the period.

When the Knights of Labor held a national convention in Richmond in 1886, the New York delegation was refused accommodations because one of their members was an African American. By 1919 progress in racial cooperation had been made at the national level. That progress was reflected at the Virginia State Federation of Labor’s annual convention, in the same year, in Alexandria. W.H. Page, of Newport News, became the first African American to be appointed to the Virginia group’s executive council. Black labor leaders, and black newspapers, praised the move, but it also prompted angry backlash. Some two thousand white unionists, of Richmond, left the Federation of Labor in protest of Page’s appointment. Those episodes evoke the racial tensions of the Jim Crow South.

Image Description: 
This round badge has blue lettering on a white background with a multi-color coat of arms of Virginia in the center.

Inscribed in blue: "27TH ANNUAL CONVENTION / VA. FEDERATION OF LABOR" above the seal and "APRIL 3.4.5, 1922, BRISTOL, VA." below.

Suspended from oval badge inscribed : "DELEGATE". 
The back of the badge reads "The Whitehead and Hoag Co. Buttons, Badges, Novelties and Signs. Newark, N.J."


2002.148.6, Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Virginia Historical Society




Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Virginia Historical Society



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Learn more: 
Love, R. Labor in Virginia during the twentieth century. Encyclopedia Virginia 
Virginia Federation of Labor proceedings of the 27th annual session held at Bristol, Virginia, April Third and Fourth, 1922. 
Harold, C. N. (2016). New Negro politics in the Jim Crow south. (Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press).
Kimball, G. (1991, April). The working people of Richmond: life and labor in an industrial city, 1865-1920. Labor's Heritage, 3(2). 
Woman's Work. Sixteenth Annual Session of the Virginia Federation of Labor, Richmond, Virginia. June 6-7-8, 1911, 25-26. 
Note of Thanks to Miss Johnston. The Times Dispatch. (Richmond, Va.), 10 June 1911, p. 5. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.


“Virginia Federation of Labor Convention Badge. Bristol, Va., April 3, 4, 5, 1922,” Social Welfare History Image Portal, accessed July 24, 2024,