Digital Exhibitions

Timeline: Philadelphia Transit Strike of 1944

Leading Up to the Strike


June 25: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 8802 prohibiting racial discrimination within the national defense industry.

December 7: The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, prompting the United States to abandon its non-interventionist attitude, enter World War II, and engage in full scale warfare.

December 8: The United States declares war on the Axis powers.


May 27: President Roosevelt signs Executive order 9346, establishing the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) to ensure that discrimination based on, "race, creed, color, national origin did not occur in war industries."

June 25: Congress enacts the Smith-Connally Act (also referred to ask the War Labor Disputes Act) despite President Roosevelt's veto. The act gave the President power to seize control of war industries disrupted by the threat of strikes to prevent interference with war production.

November 17: The Fair Employment Practices Committee orders the Philadelphia Transit Company to end discriminatory practices.

December 29: FEPC again orders PTC to end discriminatory practices, and PTC again refuses.


March 14: The PTC selects the Transport Workers Union (TWU) as their official representative. The TWU promised fair employment practices for all employees and racial equality.

July 7: The PTC posts notices in all car barns stating that it would follow nondiscriminatory employment practices.

July 18: 100 disgruntled PTC employees gather at one of the depots and agree to 'become sick' the first day that blacks drive the street cars.

July 27: PTC promotes eight male African American employees to the positions of trolley car drivers.

The Strike (Day by Day)

Tuesday, August 1: The strike begins at *4 AM*

Hitch-Hiking Nurses find Old Dobbin is Best Bet, Evening Bulletin, August 1, 1944.

James McMenamin, a leader of the walkout, confirms that the protest is against the black street car workers.

The TWU opposes the strike.

With 4,500 PTC workers on strike, all transit vehicles are fully stopped by noon.

The War Labor Board orders strikers to get back to work but the request is ignored.

By nightfall, production of war materials in Philadelphia is cut in half, Navy production is down by 70%.

Wednesday, August 2:

The War Labor Board does not take action because TWU opposed the strike, and the union is therefore not in violation of the Smith-Connally Act.

The issue is immediately deferred to the President.

Racial tensions peak, and the highest amounts of racially-motivated violence occur throughout the city.

Thursday, August 3:

At 7PM, President Roosevelt appoints Major General Philip Hayes to take control of the Philadelphia Transportation Company.

Hayes broadcasts a statement on radio to appeal to strikers, asking them to support their country in a time of war and to return to work.

Racial violence continues as a thirteen year old African American boy is shot in the chest by two white men speeding by in a car.

The United States Army Seizes control of the transit system by nightfall.

Friday, August 4:

6,000 out of 11,000 PTC workers are now on strike.

Strikers approve continuation of the strike unless the eight African Americans' promotions were revoked.

Saturday, August 5:

5,000 heavily armed soldiers arrive in Philadelphia.

Limited subway service resumes after troops arrive, but it is quickly halted when physical threats are made to PTC workers who reported to work.

The War Manpower Commission issues a statement stating that any PTC worker who did not return to work on Monday morning would lose their job, and they would also not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

General Hayes posts an ultimatum in all PTC car barns: Workers who refused to work would be taken off the payroll, would not be given the "availability certificates" required to find other employment, and if they were between the ages of eighteen and thirty-seven, workers would also lose their selective service deferments.

Leaders of the strike James McMenamin, James Dixon, and Frank Thompson are fired.

Leaders of the strike James McMenamin, James Dixon, Frank Thompson, and Frank Carney are arrested and charged with violation of the Smith Connally Act.


Sunday, August 6:

Workers sign cards stating that they will return to work on Monday.

Monday, August 7:

The strike ends; transit operations resume at normal levels.

Army personnel ride on every PTC vehicle to protect drivers and passengers.


August 9, 1944

Seven of the eight black trainees return to duty.

TWU signs [a new contract] with PTC.

August 17

Federal Army leaves Philadelphia and returns control of Philadelphia Transit System to PTC.


The number of African American drivers doubles by October.