Item no. 30175
circa 1940s
Occupation: Transportation - air, rail, auto, shipping
Collection: Other

Ted Rolfs, probably addressing a meeting of the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union, circa 1940s.

Merchant seaman Ted Rolfs recalls being outraged at how his shipping line treated African American activist and singer Paul Robeson on a trans-Atlantic voyage in the 1930s, several years before the National Maritime Union’s founding. Rakishly nicknamed “Riff-Raff” Rolfs by shipmates (because he was always the opposite—immaculately groomed and dressed), he helped organize the National Maritime Union.

Listen to Ted Rolfs tell his story about Paul Robeson in the exhibit Paul Robeson and the NMU, one of four exhibits honoring the 75th anniversary of the NMU.

Courtesy of the Allan Berube Collection of the GLBTHS, San Francisco. 

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